For Artists / Resources

Emergency Preparedness & Assistance

ARTICLE: Safekeeping of Business & Artistic Records

Miguel Guillen, Program Manager

(Excerpt from an article written for the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF); updated December 2010)

Good Recordkeeping + Safe Storage = Peace of Mind

No one, no space, no area is immune from disaster. Be it natural or otherwise, disaster can and will happen. After surviving a disaster, recovery can be difficult, yet possible, since to varying degrees most things such as artwork and work space can be replaced or recreated — most things, that is, save one: important original career-related records. Loss of exhibition or performance documentation, slides, digital images and historical data is permanent if precautions to safeguard these data are not taken.

Be prepared by developing strategies that help minimize career disruption in the event of a disaster. Consider this rule of thumb: In the event of a disaster, what records would you need to assure continuity of your business if you had to suddenly set up shop somewhere new?

Start by identifying these things:



  • Paper and/or Digital: Anything vital to your art career (that isn’t the art itself ) that will allow you to continue doing business or help you seek assistance. (Remember that many relief programs that provide assistance for artists will require documentation of your career!)

  • Career-related documents: résumé; artist statement and bios; work samples (slides, digital images, recordings, tapes, DVDs, CDs, scores)

  • Business-related documents: contracts; receipts; invoices

  • Current working documents: budgets; applications; image files

  • Correspondence (electronic and hardcopy)

  • Archival materials: correspondence; press; flyers, postcards, catalogs, chapbooks, one-of-a-kind or last-of; portfolios

  • In your workspace:

    Store documents, discs, and removable data storage devices safely in fireproof, waterproof, portable storage containers (Googling “fireproof container” will produce examples). Something that you can easily pick up and take with you in an emergency is optimal. Staying organized and having criteria for what is important or not is paramount to creating a functional archive of crucial data that is easily manageable during a crisis. Keeping this information updated is best done by scheduling a monthly inventory on the items contained and their relevance. Store your most up-to-date information and rotate items out of this “quick grab archive” as they become obsolete to your recovery strategy.

    On your computer:

    Two removable hard drives: Buy two removable hard drives each with enough data storage space for projects you’re currently working on as well as data important to your career. Clearly label the drives as “Drive One” and “Drive Two.” Backup your files to Drive One and store it somewhere safe and away from your workspace. Develop a backup schedule that reflects the frequency with which you alter your work and/or create new records. Put that schedule into effect and the next time you back up use Drive Two: copy everything you did before plus any new work and documentation. Take Drive Two to your storage place and swap out the drives. Follow this procedure of swapping out the drives so that the one in safe storage is always your most current information.

    CD/DVD backup or removable hard drive: If purchasing two removable hard drives is cost prohibitive, consider purchasing one that you either take home with you, store remotely or that is stored in your “quick grab archive.” At a minimum, purchase CDs or DVDs to copy your latest information. Label them and take them home or store them in your “quick grab archive.” Replace these according to the guidelines previously outlined.


    Remote storage or backup is an option for backing up your records. Remote storage is the transfer of data directly from your computer to a remote storage facility via a phone line, cable or wireless connection. Remote backup works best if you have a high speed internet connection. Remote storage is different from storing your images and information to a website or online service (registry, gallery, hosting site, social networking site, etc.). One main difference will be in the resolution of images and work samples that you may have uploaded. When storing work samples for archival/recovery purposes, store the highest resolution possible for work samples; in the case of still images, store them in TIFF format if possible. Most uploaded work samples to the types of sites mentioned above are in low-resolution for quick user download (e.g. 72dpi jpgs are most common for images). Low-resolution work is not suitable for archival/recovery purposes.

    Some companies that provide remote storage:

    SOS Online Backup:

    To quote Edna Mode from the movie The Incredibles, quoting Louis Pasteur, “Luck favors the prepared, darling.”