Ground Zero Photo Archive Reveals Limits of CD-Rs for Photo Storage


One of the largest historical events of the past twenty years, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC was also one of the most photographed.

Now, photos of the destruction at Ground Zero that were stored on CD-Rs – then one of the best, most efficient ways to catalog massive collections of photos and other files – are showing the limitations of CD-Rs as a storage medium as well as serving as a friendly reminder to have multiple back-up formats.

Noel Sch

All of this comes on the heels of comedian Jon Stewart’s impassioned testimony on part of 9/11 victims in the US Congress. Inspired by this moment, Jason Scott from the Internet Archive told the world about a recently discovered cache of Ground Zero photos stored on CD-R. Unfortunately for all of us, “The CDRs were absolutely falling apart. Some of the photos are already lost because the CDRs just tend to rot over time, and here, about 18 years later, that was asking a lot. Back up your old CDRs please.””

As for the original photographer, he can’t be consulted about the stored photos because he is deceased. The archive consists of some 2,400 photos taken on a Canon Powershot G1 and shows the destruction of the aftermath of the attacks as well as the heroic efforts to rescue and clean up the former World Trade Center site. You can view them by clicking here for the Twitter thread.

Have you had any photo archival snafus in your past? Tell us your story in the comments below. Also, if you have a backup system you like to use share your process with us. After all, every day is another opportunity to learn something new.

[The Verge]

About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

Yet another example of why one should be extremely wary of the words ‘lifetime’, such as lifetime warranty or will last a lifetime.

I saved many things on junky low end “bulk pack” CD-R’s. I was only about 16 at the time and didn’t realize how delicate they were, even as some degraded in my car after a year or two. Thankfully it’s nothing important, but I’m sure there’s a lot of work out there that is, waiting to be discovered. If these CD’s degrade just from being used and stored in a living space, I’m sure they’ll be totally rotted if pulled from a damp musty basement. At least paper photographs survived unless burned or physically rotted.

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