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ARSCLIST  May 2007

ARSCLIST May 2007

Subject:

Re: Mass Digitization

From:

Marcos Sueiro <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 16 May 2007 17:35:32 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (138 lines)

And yet we must remember to keep some perspective. For every Pompeian 
refuse pit, for very Mesopotamian clay tablet, there are uncountable 
artifacts and documents lost forever. Life goes on. That is how the 
world works.

As archivists, we must aim to preserve valuable items indefinitely, 
while also realising that each item has a very small chance of being 
around even 500 years from now. Our schemes will likely crumble; chance, 
weather, the human element will surely play a part. And perhaps it is 
not such a bad thing after all. I would venture that trying to keep 
everything forever is an untenable (and perhaps even environmentally 
wrong) position. Think of the amount of media generated every year. Do 
you really think we can keep up with such an expanding balloon?

Having said that, the safe/practical way is to mass digitise, just in 
case ;-)

Marcos

Schooley, John wrote:
> "The other day I was watching a program on the archaeological work at an
> early fort in the US. I noticed how many people were sifting through the
> layers of soil looking for fragments of pottery, arrowheads, and the
> like. I then thought of the estimates of analog audio in need of
> reformatting...by one estimate, 30Million hours. One can question if all
> that audio really should be reformatted, as the determination of what
> should survive can, even under the best of circumstances, be subjective.
> However, why is it that our society sees it appropriate to devote such
> substantive resources to archaeology while our recorded history crumbles
> on the shelf?"
> 
> I thought the same thing myself recently.  There was a PBS program about
> excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and they were talking to a
> researcher who was involved in unearthing, uh, an "ancient refuse pit"
> shall we say.  Now, I can see how this could lead to gaining some
> knowledge about the diet of the ancient Greeks...whatever that's
> worth...but I couldn't help thinking that this guy probably had a PhD
> and was currently digging through a shitpile!
> 
> And wouldn't most archeologists and anthropologists KILL to have a
> sample of popular songs or stories from these past civilizations?  We've
> got them in spades, but perhaps part of the problem is they date from a
> time period too recent to yet be of interest to scholars.
> Unfortunately, the formats are much more fragile unlike stone or even
> parchment.  Well cared for, a Gutenberg Bible will probably last another
> century.  Many recorded works won't last until some time in the future
> when academia deems them worthy of study or preservation...  
> 
>    
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Karl Miller
> Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 10:52 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
> 
> "Andes, Donald" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:    ***The issue in my
> mind is scale because most in the archival
> industry are seeing a box, or room full of tapes, and have not had the
> opportunity to see over 1 million assets in a single location, nor
> contemplated what to do with them.
> 
> ***If we (the archival industry) can't get a digitization schema to be
> cost effective, we simply won't get the funds to digitize.
> 
>   ***Worse, if someone outside the archival industry, gets "their" plans
> in motion, you can rest assure that it will not be done anywhere near
> correct.
> 
>   ***Unfortunately people don't change, and no matter how many positive
> reasons you give to migrate, those entrenched in analog will want to
> stay there.
> 
> ***I believe there should be communal, parallel thinking in regards to
> mass digitization strategies, metadata collection and so forth. I am
> aware of library groups focusing specifically on metadata, but I have my
> own concern with their focus, and priorities in regards to collecting
> metadata on A/V assets.
> 
>   I appreciate the perspective you bring and I agree with most of what
> you write.
>   
>   The other day I was watching a program on the archaeological work at
> an early fort in the US. I noticed how many people were sifting through
> the layers of soil looking for fragments of pottery, arrowheads, and the
> like. I then thought of the estimates of analog audio in need of
> reformatting...by one estimate, 30Million hours. One can question if all
> that audio really should be reformatted, as the determination of what
> should survive can, even under the best of circumstances, be subjective.
> However, why is it that our society sees it appropriate to devote such
> substantive resources to archaeology while our recorded history crumbles
> on the shelf?
>   
>   My concerns are not necessarily limited to those outside of the
> archival arena. I can only reflect on what I observe at my own
> institution. We recently advertized for an opening for someone to do
> reformatting. They wanted an individual conversant in Final Cut Pro,
> Protools and older analog audio formats. The job was advertized at
> minimum wage...19 hours a week...at 19 hours a week, the University
> would not have to pay benefits like medical, etc. Also, at our
> institution,  it was proposed that a unique collection of orchestral
> performances be digitized by work study employees. Obviously, even
> within the profession at my institution, there is little respect given
> to the skills required to do the work or what it costs to pay them.
> Then, what were the priorities for this project? The relatively stable
> mylar based reel to reel tapes were the priority. Lacquer discs were not
> even discussed as needing reformatting.
>   
>   As to the metadata concerns... I recenty read the document "Best
> Practice Guidelines for Digital Collections at the University of
> Maryland Libraries." For anyone sincerely concerned with these issues, I
> would recommend reading it. It is clearly a very well intentioned
> document, however, it seems to be have been written by those with no
> technical background. Their attempt to provide basic definitions is
> wrought with statements that I found so confusing, I was left with
> little sense of what they were trying to convey. It seems that we cannot
> even agree on definitions. And, with less than 4% of the total budgets
> of the ARL libraries devoted to preservation, I am left to wonder if our
> libraries place much significance to the preservation of our
> intellectual history. I am not encouraged much by what I read and
> observe.
>   
>   While those of us who value this history work hard at changing
> attitudes and priorities, I wonder how we might be able to do a better
> job at convincing those empowered to make changes to realign priorities.
> Maybe our strategy needs to focus not on the inside, but on the outside.
> In short, I wonder, who really does place value on our recorded history.
>   
>   Karl
>   

-- 
Marcos Sueiro Bal
Audio/Moving Image Project Archivist
Preservation Division
Columbia University Libraries

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