The Future of Preserving Prints

Collecting and recreating images is a practice as old as humanity itself. From cave-wall paintings to Snapchat updates, our species has always found creative ways to preserve moments that would otherwise have faded from memory. As we advance the tools we use to preserve these images, the question arises: How long will a new format last until it must be replaced?

From Print to Pixels

London’s Cambridge University Library is home to some of the most important literary works in the history of the world. One such piece, The Manual of Calligraphy and Painting, is renowned not only for what it contains, but for being something only a few people have seen. The original 17th century Chinese tome, containing over 138 paintings and poems, is a rare book indeed. The Cambridge copy, considered too delicate to open, remains closed within its display. Fortunately, the book has been reprinted many times over the centuries, and those reprints paved the way for the new digital incarnation.

landscape painting
Image via MentalFloss

Since the book holds such historical significance, the library explored several options for making its pages available when the book itself couldn’t be opened. Using one of the older reprints, the library made digital copies of the pages that scholars and the public would be able to view at their leisure. Now everyone can see inside the book that helped revolutionize printing technology.

In a Snap

It may be hard to believe, but most of today’s youth have no idea what it’s like to hold an actual photograph in their hands. These days, posting a photo to a “wall” usually means sharing it on social media. Yet there’s a growing movement looking to bring back printed photographs in the digital age. The company leading the charge is one whose name is synonymous with “point and shoot.”

camera and snapshot
Image via Wired.

The Polaroid camera brought a much-needed simplicity to consumer photography. A camera that took and instantly printed photos, it did away with the need for professional development. Later, with the advent of digital photography, most people went without physical prints altogether.

Yet Polaroid has seen a revival in the Digital Age. Last year saw the introduction of the company’s Cube mini-camera and Zip instant mobile printer. This year will see an addition to their new digital line with the introduction of the Snap (see above). Although the Snap doesn’t have the extensive editing features of smartphone cameras and photo sites like Instagram, it does come with flash, timer, and instant ink-free printing.

The camera is scheduled to hit store shelves this winter for $99.

See what Develops

If the history of technology has taught us anything, it’s that no format is perfect or permanent. Even digital images are subject to degradation. But with each new advance comes the ability to preserve images for generations to come. We’ve come a long way from cave-wall paintings. Now we just need to make sure they're preserved for future tribes!

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