The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Film/Video
- Talk about time capsule - While undergoing renovations last week, workers at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City uncovered a set of unerased chalkboards hidden in the walls dating back to 1917. [via Colossal]
- Celebrating 100 years - The Coca-Cola bottle. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- In other discovery news - An original Star Wars script was discovered in University of New Brunswick Library. [via InfoDocket]
- Excellent resource - The National Library of Medicine's Directory of History of Medicine Collections. [via Circulating Now, NLM]
- Acquisition of note: The archive of Ben Bradlee (1921-2014), former editor of The Washington Post, has been donated to the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. [via InfoDocket]
- Not expected - Soft tissue was found in 75-million year old dinosaur fossil that was not well preserved. [via The Verge]
- This week Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington announced that he would be retiring as of January 1, 2016. [via InfoDocket]
- Seemingly lost, but now found is KQED's groundbreaking 1961 documentary, The Rejected, which was the first ever nationally-televised documentary about homosexuality. [via KQED News]
- The delights of browsing the National Park Service's B-roll video archive. [via Motherboard]
- Now available online - University of North Carolina archaeologists and librarians produce an online catalog of artifacts. [via InfoDocket]
- Now you don't see that everyday - A CT scan of a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue shows the mummified remains of a monk inside along with rolls of paper scraps with Chinese writing where his organs would be. [via Colossal]
- Accessing the inaccessible - Drones used to create a 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. [via The Verge]
- 40 years in the making - A brief history of the building of the Washington Monument. [via The Libray of Congress blog]
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture published a new book, Through the African American Lens, that offer iconic images of black culture, activism and community in America. [via Time]
- New blog alert - bloggERS! - the new blog of the Society of American Archivists' Electronic Records Section. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, SIA]
- A piece of photography history - a 19th century photo album by Oscar Gustave Rejlander has been sold, but the United Kingdom has put an export ban on it in the hopes of keeping it within the UK. [via PetaPixel]
- For those of you old enough to remember - A look at a technological icon - The fax machine. [via BBC Future]
- That's Awesome! - An entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London is using LEGOs to build a device that holds fragile insect specimens. [via The Atlantic]
The Smithsonian Channel produces award-winning television programming that engages viewers much in the same way as the Smithsonian's museums and galleries do throughout the United States with their visitors. Just as the Smithsonian is working to digitize its collections for greater access and preservation, the Smithsonian Channel and the Smithsonian Institution Archives are also undertaking various efforts to ensure the digital preservation of these television programs.
The reformatting workflow for this project has been dynamic, and it should be. During earlier accessions of Smithsonian Channel programming, the progams were transferred on DVDs, numbering in the hundreds. In order to preserve the files digitally and prepare them for ingest into the Smithsonian's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS), the DVDs undertook a lengthy workflow process to ensure the highest level of playability and playback quality.
As part of the project's workflow, and best practices at the Archives, each disc is individually scanned using virus detection software. While this process is lengthy, it is critical to ensuring the security of the Archives' IT infrastructure. The next step in the workflow is to individually create .ISO images of each disc, which retains each program's DVD menu functionality. After creation of the .ISOs, the individual .vobs are extracted and converted to a single .vob using a command prompt script. This single .vob is then converted to an .mpeg, also using command prompt, to ensure the greatest playability across multiple software programs. This process is individually repeated for every DVD within the collection and can take months to complete.
After creation of the mpegs, the associated metadata must be created for each individual file in preparation for ingest into the DAMs. The metadata is applied to each file using Adobe Bridge; however, the metadata cannot be embedded into the actual video files, thus creating a sidecar .xmp file is necessary to hold the associated video file's metadata. Once this process is complete, the .ISO, .mpg, and .xmp files are entered simultaneously into the DAMs to ensure to proper parent (.iso)/child (.mpg and .xmp) relationships are maintained.
Throughout the entire workflow, upon initial receipt, after each conversion, and after upload to the DAMs, each file has been viewed for quality assurance, furthering adding time to an already lengthy workflow. In total, processing the collection of 136 DVDs within the accession took roughly 300 hours to complete.
In an effort to simplify the workflow, archivists from the Smithsonian Channel and the Archives met to develop a plan to achieve maximum efficiency with the preservation of Smithsonian Channel's programming. During the meeting, it was decided to test a pilot program wherein the Smithsonian Channel would send a number of .mov files through a secure server to the Archives to develop a new workflow based solely on the digital transfer of the Smithsonian Channel's programs. While not eliminating the original DVD transfer yet, this process significantly decreased the workflow and time involved in the entire preservation process.
With the transfer of the .mov files, the conversion process was removed entirely from the workflow. Further, the metadata can be directly embedded into the file header of the .mov files, eliminating the need to create a separate file for the metadata. For DAMs ingest, only the .mov file is needed, as opposed to the .ISO, .mpg, and the .xmp file. In essence, what used to take nearly 300 hours to complete could essentially be completed in as little as a day for a collection of programming.
By making the process of preserving the Smithsonian Channel programs simpler and easier, programs can be preserved more quickly and with less files to work with and a more straightforward workflow there is less likelihood for errors to be made. The collaborative effort between the Smithsonian Channel and the Archives is a prime example of two institutions working together in the effort of digital preservation.
- What are You Watching?, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- And Action: The Ins and Outs of DVD Video Preservation, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Digital Video Preservation: Further Challenges for Preserving Digital Video and Beyond, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Channel records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Thanks IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services)! With a grant from the IMLS, the Norman Rockwell Museum has made available online 50,000 photographs, some of which Rockwell used as studies for his paintings. [via OpenCulture]
- Also available this week are free downloadable files to print 3-D models of items found in the British Museum's collection. [via InfoDocket]
- An excellent question - Why does Netflix send Orange is the New Black to the Library of Congress on videotape? [via The Verge]
- Interested in audiovisual preservation? Here are a two posts on what's going on internationally when it comes to audiovisual preservation and also a look a two pioneers in digitial audio, Dietrich Schüller and Albrecht Häfner. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Check out this new website: Unboxing the Chomsky Archive, which offers a preview of some of the unique materials found in the collection of Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus at MIT, as well as a way to support the archival project. [via MIT Libraries News]
- Need some photographic inspiration? - Check out this video of photographer, Brian Gaberman, and his work with wet plate collodion photography. [via PetaPixel]
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