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Focus on small AV archives – #StF12 (9)

9 juni 2012 Gepubliceerd door Laat uw gedicht achter

After a Dutch-language interlude (post), I want to share some more from Screening the Future 2012 – especially about the issues of small audiovisual archives. I will also add some (English-language) news about the Dutch Cultural Coalition for Digital Preservation (CCDD, which is related to but distinct from the cross-domain National Coalition NCDD) – in  a post that is to follow soon. – by Inge Angevaare

A moment of musical respite during a jam-packed conference: fragments from Jazz at the Lincoln Center

Kay Niewood of Jazz at the Lincoln Center presented a typical case study for performing arts organizations: “We have collected lots of stuff now, but we have no-one to take care of it.” Conservation is “patchy”, she reported, mostly because of lack of funding. The categories that are most at risk, Niewood stressed, are not the digitized analogue collections, but the early digital stuff.

Pip Laurenson of the Tate Gallery explored the differences between the large AV archives and those organizations with a more “boutique” approach (phrase coined by Howard Besser during the panel discussion):

Source: Pip Laurenson, Tate (click to enlarge)

The Tate collection is a fine arts collection, where the intentions of the artist lead the way and the look and feel of video art is very much part of the preservation challenge. “Media specificity is very much part of preserving digital art,” Laurenson noted, “and how we are going to preserve these objects is far from wrapped up.”

Laurenson quoted Tacita Dean as saying: “… for some reason there is a cultural blindness towards the difference between film and digital – one is light on emulsion and one is light made by pixel, and they are also conceived, made and seen differently.” The systems and work flows of large network archives, such as the BBC archive, are not suitable for media art collections, Laurenson said.

Laurenson presented her system wish list, and I think it is one that many of us will want to copy:

  • Non-proprietary
  • No loss
  • Low risk
  • Simple to use
  • Transparent regarding any processing of data
  • Able to handle uncompressed 10 bit 4:2:2 video in Pal and NTSC and HD from tapes and files
  • Files created as software and hardware independent as possible
  • Easy integration with collection management systems
  • OAIS compliant
  • Efficient workflow
  • Low set-up costs (under US$10,000)

On an optimistic note, Laurenson said that she thinks systems with set-up costs under US$10,000 “are coming.” And over lunch she said something smart about how to convince managers to spend money on digital preservation: “I call it maintenance. People understand that. Statutes need cleaning too.”

At the end of day 3, Kara van Malssen of Audiovisual Preservation Solutions fully agreed that the workflows of large broadcast archives are very different from those of small archives.

Kara van Malssen, second from the left, “There are lots of tools to help small archives.”

If you are a small archive, by all means check out van Malssen’s complete (prezi) presentation. Taking her cue from the OAIS model, she listed the many different tools that can help archives implement the OAIS key functions. And they are “free” in the sense that anyone can use them and adapt them – not necessarily “free” in the sense of “gratis”.

Van Malssen explained that there are two strategies to use these tools. If you use them as they are, your investment will be low, but the reward will be correspondingly low and you will still have to do a lot of work manually. An alternative is adapting the tools to your needs. This will involve a higher investment, but the rewards will also be bigger and you will be able to automate more.

Obviously, you must have resources (knowledgeable people, money) to implement these tools, and that is often a problem for small organizations. Van Malssen suggested a few ways to help with these issues: define your (specific and very concrete) requirements; education (to understand the tools better); partnerships; pool resources. Among other tools, she referred to the wiki of the Open Planets Foundation, where lots of good guidance is to be found.


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