Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moonwalk, and this morning's NPR story "Houston, We Erased The Apollo 11 Tapes" is a classic tale of tagging, search, and records retention policies (or lack thereof). The article and broadcast are really worth a read/listen, but to sum up:
The original recording of the moonwalk was not in a format that was compatible with television, so the recording was converted for the TV broadcast in 1969 - and degraded in the process. Engineers knew there was a better-quality recording from the camera on the moon, but for years they couldn't find it. They had to search a vast repository of content using much-used terms like "Apollo" and "tape." It turns out that the recording was most likely recorded-over due to NASA's increased need for magnetic tapes in the 1980s.
This scenario makes me think of my clients - many of whom have expressed to me, in the process of converting to a SharePoint implementation, the notion that "any content over five (or three, or six, etc.) years old is worthless." I understand the concept - policy and regulation changes, business and market trends, and fresh research and information all change the relevance of older content. But as the NASA story shows, you may not realize now what's going to be gold in 40 years.
If you're managing content (and who isn't, whether on an organizational or individual level?), do you have record retention policies in place to expire content after a certain time, and if so, are you notified to check the content first, or is it automatically deleted? Are you at risk of having files erased due to exigencies like lack of storage space? Are files backed up on a regular basis, and if they are, could you restore those backups successfully? Have "delete" permissions been given to those who may not fully understand the importance of the content? In your search results, are the "gold" files getting buried under layers of more recent sediment?
NASA invested time and resources to restore and improve the quality of the recordings they did have, since they couldn't access the original. While you're pondering these questions, you can see the video here. (Personally, I'm a fan of the grainier original look; by removing noise they've flattened out some of the detail, a metaphor to explore another time...)
And a nod to you conspiracy theorists out there - pretty convenient that they "lost" those tapes, eh?