How do I preserve my collection of historic 16mm film, audiotape or videotape?


For a small museum or historical cultural site, a good place to start is the Audiovisual Self-Assessment Program (AvSAP) online resource developed at the University of Illinois (with partners). AvSAP will guide you through a series of assessment tools (downloadable to use with your collections input) to better inform yourself about the breadth, values and condition of your collection and lead you through decision making processes and best practices for your collection.   It is really meant as a tool but is also a hub resource for other programs, so do take a look at the information under Resources and the Forum feature.

Other resources for smaller collections, such as individual private collections include the National Film Preservation Foundation. In their Film Preservation Guide (which is available for free online in chapter form), you will find basic and preservation technician level guidelines for handling, viewing and preparing for reformatting.

  • Home Movie Day is also a very helpful site and organizer for film fans. Their guidelines are more toward small-batch, do-it-yourself, but with a preservation mindset. Note the Film Preservation links.  They also have a directory of labs, but no warranty is expressed or implied. 

In addition, you may look for resources including full bibliographies of works that you can find in libraries and online reports and guides via the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and further information about careers in film preservation at the Society of American Archivists.  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Library of Congress also have useful information on their preservation pages.  NARA explains the basics of film preservation on their YouTube channel in a short film Out of the Dark: Bringing Films to Light at the National Archives (2012), "a behind-the-scenes look at NARA's Motion Picture, Sound and Video Office and The Film Preservation Laboratory." 

See also our blog post on Digital Video Preservation.

12/2015 UPDATE! is a new resource available for the preservation and care of all types and formats of film material. It addresses the requirements for preserving black-and-white and color film and nitrate, acetate, and polyester-based film and provides resources for storage, condition surveys, and the development and implementation of best-fit environment-based strategies. Users have the ability to create a free account to evaluate their own unique collections.

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