The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: What Gets Saved
Collaboration. It's the one word that during almost every conference and pan-institutional discussion, everyone says, and hears, a lot. In fact, it's the theme of this year's Archives Month! But why is it so important to collaborate? Because collaboration allows for people with different knowledge and skill sets to come together to solve a common problem. At the Archives, we often work with other Smithsonian divisions and outside groups to solve complex problems in the field of audiovisual (AV) digitization and preservation.
A perfect example of collaborative work at its best is the AV Hack Day from this year's Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) annual conference in Savannah, Georgia. During Hack Day, programmers and archivists came together to create open source tools that tackle common preservation problems that have been identified in the field of AV archiving. Some of the tools created include Hack Day Capture, a tool that works with a Blackmagic capture card and ffmpeg to digitize analog video, Video-Sprites, which eases the process of making web video more accessible, and Characterization Compare, which allows the user to see the outputs from EXIFtool, MediaInfo, and ffmpeg side by side. These tools and all of the others created during Hack Day are available on the AMIA Open Source Github page.
For the past several years, members of the Archives have worked with other government agencies to form a group called the FADGI (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative). The primary goal of this group is to create guidance for the digitization of still image and audiovisual materials that other archives, public or private, can use when making decisions on how to best preserve their materials. Last month, FADGI released file format comparison charts for still images and analog videos, as well as a set of case histories contributed from eight different units that detail how they are dealing with born digital audio and video content within their collections. The comparison chart for analog audiovisual materials provides information on sustainability, cost, and system implementation for the various codecs and wrappers that are currently being used to create preservation files.
Smithsonian divisions often collaborate with each other as well. Since the majority of the equipment in analog AV archiving can be hard to find, the AV archivists group (AVAIL) here at the Smithsonian created an internal registry of the different equipment owned by each of the divisions, so that we can work together to share resources. The list includes information on the number of decks of a particular type owned by a given division, as well as whether or not they are currently in working condition. This makes it so that when I come across a Hi8 tape in our collections, a format that we do not have a deck for, I can simply consult the registry and contact the appropriate division to see if their deck might be available for me to use. Through the AVAIL listserv, we have also shared our knowledge of different migration errors to help each other solve unusual problems.
Ultimately, it's important to collaborate with others in and outside your field because the knowledge of the many is often more comprehensive than the knowledge of few. Additionally, we are all working towards the same goal of preserving our collections in the best possible way, so working together allows us to optimize our resources and our time. How has collaboration helped you in your field of work?
- Smithsonian AV Archivists Tumblr
- The End of the Beginning: A Born Digital Survey at the Smithsonian Institution, The Bigger PIcture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Audiovisual conservation resources, Library of Congress
- Archives Month across the Smithsonian
- A bold plan from the National Archives - Digitize their analog records, all 12 billion pages of them. [via AOTUS blog, NARA]
- An epic road trip - Collecting on the road with Jason Stieber, National Collector, Archives of American Art. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Now availble - DigDC, a new online archive of Washington D.C. history created by the D.C. Public Library’s Special Collections department. [via Washington Post]
- Documenting events as the are happening - A conversation with Howard Besser and the efforts of Activist Archivists in saving the records of the "Occupy" movement. [via The Signal: Digital Perservation, LOC]
- From the stacks - Exhibits writer-editor, David Romanowski, talks about his adventures in doing research in the National Air and Space Museum Archives' Technical Files for the Hawaii by Air exhibition. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Some thoughts on archival appraisal in the age of distant reading and computational analysis of large sets of electronic records. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Gale/Library Journal 2014 Library of the Year - Edmonton Public Libary - presents this cool video timeline of their 101 year history. [via InfoDocket]
- Wanting to increase library card ownership, the Nashville Public Library decided to help promote and celebrate library cards with a little song. [via Nora Lockshin, SIA]
- As we come to the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some tips for experiencing Latino History at the National Museum of American History. [via O say can you see? blog, NMAH]
- Poop Sleuth - Sarah Putman gives us a great look into the variety of work one can find at the National Zoo. [via Smithsonian Science]
- For all of those who practice digital preservation, The National Digital Stewardship Alliance Standards and Practices and Infrastructure working groups has published Checking Your Digital Content: What is Fixity and When Should I Be Checking It? [via The Signal Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Book love - Elizabeth Broman, Reference Librarian, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Library, talks about her experience attending the annual conference of the Moveable Book Society (think pop-up books) in Philadelphia. [via Unbound blog, Smithsonian Libraries]
- Even more book love - 800 year old doodles found in medieval books. [via Colossal]
- Thinking about being a digital archivist? Here's some great advice from Peter Chan, Digital Archivist, Standford University Libraries. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Digital images are such a common part of life, but it was not so long ago that Polaroid and instant film provided that immediate gratification of seeing what an image looks like instantaneouly. Here's a look at the Impossible Project and the beauty of instant film. [via PetaPixel]
- October is American Archives Month and archives across the Smithsonian are planning a variety of activities to highlight their collections and what they do. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- A new poison dart frog discovered in Panama. [via Smithsonian Science]
- Now online - The National Library of Medicine joins The Commons on Flickr and a collection of women's movement ephemera at Europeana. [via InfoDocket and Europeana Blog]
- To Do or Not to Do - The Shakespeare Theatre Company, in collaboration with the U.S. Botanic Garden, presents An Escape to the Forest of Arden. An examination of nature through the lens of William Shakespeare's writing. [via Marcel LaFollette, SIA]
- Take a look at the New York Public Library's map collection which was established in 1898, and includes more than 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 15th and 21st centuries. [via InfoDocket]
- I've read about trying out historic recipes, but historic deordorant recipes? [via O say can you see? blog, NMAH]
- The recognition of the importance and need for improvements to disaster preparedness and art conservation and historic preservation got a boost after the 1966 flood of the Arno River in Florence, Italy. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- Collaborations towards tools to access and preserve email. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Have a little one? Here is some great advice for getting kids to really explore museum exhibitions. [via O say can you see? blog, NMAH]
- Photographic inspiration - 7-year old gets deep in the mud to get the shot at a cyclocross race in Colorado. [via PetaPixel]
- From Europenana - #OpenCollections - highlights of some of the most interesting and high quality collections from around Europe. [via Euopeana blog]
- A look at what it means when one inherits a collection, particularly one which may have significant monetary value. [via The New York Times]
- Is Pluto a planet? A discussion and vote on the definition of a "planet." [via Smithsonian Science]