If you remember, after the 2000 U.S. Census, in which digital imaging was used for the first time to capture data from the forms, the forms were all transferred to microfilm before being submitted to NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) for long-term storage. This was after the Census Bureau had originally thought the digital images would be good enough for archiving. But, apparently, there was some disagreement over who would be in charge of ensuring that electronic images remained current, so a “human-readable” format – microfilm, was chosen.
Shortly thereafter, the PDF/A – A for “archiving” initiative was undertaken. We’re not saying that NARA and the Census Bureau have agreed that PDF/A will be the long-term electronic format, but it’s at least now an option – and over the past 10 years, people have certainly increased their focus on perserving electronic documents for lengthy periods of time.
Regarding the 2010 Census forms, which were once again captured digitally for data processing, early signs are that they will be archived as electronic images. From the timeline I’ve seen, most of the data extraction should be done by now and the information should be being prepared for submission to the President’s office.
Here’s an e-mail we recently received from the U.S. Census Bureau, “”The DRIS program considers all images used in the Census to be permanent records and has and will maintain them with links to the data throughout the life of the program. The referenced “blog” on the NARA website is a very accurate description of the activities being worked between Census and NARA to prepare the formal records schedule.”
The “referenced blog” attempts to dispel some rumors that no images of the forms are going to be saved – only the data.