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Internet Archive Catches Fire, Reminds Us Why Digital Archives are so Important

A fire broke out at 3:30 this morning in the Internet Archive’s scanning center, destroying equipment and temporarily knocking the IA servers offline. According to Mashable the fire did not spread to any other IA buildings, although it did damage a church, business and residence and eight people were displaced as of this morning.


The scanning center damaged in the fire was located in a commercial storefront around the corner from the main Internet Archive facility, which is housed in beautiful old converted church. The church structure was largely undamaged by the fire but there was some damage to one electrical run, and it caused the IA to lose power to some servers for a brief period today.

The IA reports that the fire destroyed some physical documents that were waiting to be scanned, and that a significant amount of equipment needs to be replaced:

An early estimate shows we may have lost about $600,000 worth of high end digitization equipment, and we will need to repair or rebuild the scanning building.   It is in difficult times like these that we turn to our community.

They are asking for donations to replace the damaged equipment. Contributions can be made here.

Luckily for us they don’t have to replace the digital documents; those were backed up in other locations. This fire stands as a stark reminder why digitization is so important. Natural disasters, whether it is a fire, tornado, or the 2011 earthquake which struck Northern Virginia, have the potential to destroy countless documents. That almost happened in the earthquake 2 years ago, and it could have happened today.

Richmond SF Blog

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Chris Meadows November 6, 2013 um 8:29 pm

Indignation is important. Fortunately, I can usually find plenty of it here every day. You seem to have a limitless supply. 🙂

Nate Hoffelder November 6, 2013 um 8:39 pm


I don’t know how auto-correct got indignation from a misspelling of digitization. May be it is simply tired of cleaning up after me?

Common Sense November 7, 2013 um 1:33 am

They didn’t have insurance?

Nate Hoffelder November 7, 2013 um 6:19 am

Good point. I didn’t think to ask about it.

Dave November 9, 2013 um 10:16 pm

I disagree with the term "backups" if you’re trying to preserve digital information for a long time. You need multiple primary archival preservation masters in different locations. Digital archiving and "backups" are very different.

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