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ARSCLIST  May 2007

ARSCLIST May 2007

Subject:

Re: Mass Digitization

From:

"Schooley, John" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 16 May 2007 13:59:00 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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"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
  

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