When comedian and activist Jon Stewart gave an impassioned speech before Congress to seek ongoing aid for 9/11 first responders, it inspired Internet Archive software curator and digital preservationist Jason Scott to share something timely with the world as well: a newly discovered cache of photos from one of the workers who toiled away at Ground Zero, and who’d saved thousands of those photos on CD-R.
In the past week, I was handed a cache of 2,400 photos taken at Ground Zero from the end of September to beginning of October, 2001. They were taken by a worker who was there with a Canon Powershot G1, and who snapped away while toiling through the wreckage. pic.twitter.com/4PHDCJUeB6— Jason Scott (@textfiles) June 11, 2019
But Scott says he wasn’t actually able to preserve all of those photos, because of the way they were stored. And that’s not the only tragedy here:
So, it would probably be useful to interview the worker who took all these photos, who walked around the grounds, who captured these unique images of Ground Zero from all over the space, showing the effort being done to clear the wreckage.— Jason Scott (@textfiles) June 11, 2019
Except we can't.
He's dead. pic.twitter.com/eoNZqr3Ytl
Scott is drawing attention to two plights at the same time — that of those brave men and women who worked to clean up after the towers fell, and that of the memories that they and many, many others believe they may have preserved on recordable discs. Discs which don’t actually last forever, as we’ve learned in recent years.
So now might be a good time to check on your photos, and back them up to something newer, better, and redundant — something that puts them in multiple places in case of failure.
If these photos move you, the family that recovered and archived the photos asks if you might consider donating some money to a charity that supports first responders.
You can browse the whole photo album here.
Correction, June 17: The family that discovered the photos isn’t related to the photographer; I regret the error.