Conference Notes: International Council on Archives, pt.2

Written by Annie Peterson, Preservation Librarian, Tulane University

Day 2: July 15

The second full day of the conference opened with “Approaches to Preservation,” where three institutions presented their different ways of addressing AV preservation. Hannah Palin, University of Washington Libraries, spoke about “The Magnetic Media Crisis: A Collaborative Approach.” Washington, and the wider Pacific Northwest region, has few professionals whose positions are fully dedicated to AV preservation, so there was a need amongst many institutions to pool resources where possible to preserve content that would otherwise be lost. Palin surveyed institutions in Washington about their AV holdings and then worked across institutions to establish Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoPs), which includes digitization capabilities and is focusing first on regional content on magnetic media, with a pilot project digitizing local public access television. Kim Tarr, New York University, spoke about “Practical Considerations for Outsourcing Video Preservation Projects,” focusing on an outsourced approach to preservation. Tarr talked about NYU’s Video At Risk project’s RFP guide and template for video digitization, a helpful guide for institutions starting the outsourcing process. Erica Titkemeyer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Chris Lacinak, AVPreserve, talked about the Southern Folklife Center’s (SFC) holistic approach to preserving their AV collections in “Planning End to End for Digitization: Paths for Access and Preservation.” SFC is currently working on a project that considers not just the digitization portion of AV preservation, but also processing prior to digitization, digital preservation, and access to digitized content. SFC is currently working on prioritization, developing workflows, and project planning, and over the next 3 years will serve as a testbed for sustainability and scalability of this approach.

In the second morning session, “Access and Use,” Lourdes Loca, Iinstituto Mora, started off with “Documentaries and Research: Documentation and Access,” speaking about the epistemological value of images and the importance of documenting research at a research-focused organization. Sonia Yaco, University of Illinois Chicago, followed with “Collections to Curriculum Crosswalk,” describing a tool that she built to match course content to collections to increase student exposure to special collections. Megan McShea , Archives of American Art, rounded out the program with “Putting Archival AV Media Into Context: Processing Mixed Media Manuscript Collections.” McShea’s Project tackled a problem faced in many archives: AV materials are mixed in with processed collections but remain unprocessed, creating hidden backlogs, or AV-heavy collections are set aside and seen as difficult to process without specific expertise. The project created guidelines for processing mixed collections, available at http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/projects/clir .

In the first of the two post-lunch sessions, “Bless this Mess: Imperfect Solutions for Imperfect Situations in Digital Video Preservation” the three speakers highlighted that perfect is the enemy of good. Christian B. Lopez, University of Georgia Libraries, spoke about challenges faced when working towards established standards for a large amount of content with minimal staff, such as the challenges of LTO tape without IT specifically dedicated to it. Juliana M. Nykolaiszyn and Sarah Milligan, both from Oklahoma State University, spoke about digitizing MiniDV and taking action on your AV content. The discussion in the session was refreshingly open and honest about how institutions are doing what they realistically can now instead of waiting to achieve absolute perfection, which would probably come too late anyways in the face of degralescence, harkening back to Michelle Krasowski’s talk on day 1 about achievable standards.

The final session of day 2, “Project Reports” included two reports of projects at academic institutions, the first from University of Maryland Libraries, “Is This Enough? Digitizing Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Archives” from Bria Parker, Vincent Novara, and Robin Pike. The three presenters spoke about their experience outsourcing a collection of videotapes, detailing the process of prioritization, pilot project, and decisions made about standards and metadata. Michael Moosberger spoke about his success in increasing AV preservation efforts at Dalhousie University in “Action After Years Of Neglect: The Dalhousie University Archives’ Audiovisual Reformatting Project,” which included significant support across administrative levels at the institution.

The different models presented in the final session, combined with the project reports from earlier sessions, gave all of the conference participants a wide range of approaches to consider for their own institutions. Each presenter had a different experience with prioritization, access, digitization, and all of the other components involved in planning and executing an AV preservation project, but there were lessons to be learned from each one. Discussions and Q&A’s on the second day of the conference confirmed that other attendees also found discussions of alternative standards to reach for and ways that institutions are actually completing work, as opposed to seemingly unachievable standards frequently discussed, a refreshing and absolutely necessary conversation to have.

For more info on the 2015 ICA-SUV conference see http://icasuv2015.web.unc.edu/

Editor’s note: Part 1 of this conference report is online.

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