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ARSCLIST  June 2007

ARSCLIST June 2007

Subject:

Re: Digitization of Paper Archives

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Thu, 14 Jun 2007 09:24:55 -0700

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Matthew Snyder <[log in to unmask]> wrote:    Karl Miller wrote:

>On the other hand, I do wonder if some of Tom's response came from a reflection of the "old ways," coupled with having to address the basic preservation/conservation needs of an immense collection, with minimal resources.

***"with minimal resources"??? This institution can apparently afford to spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars on collections, but has "minimal resources"? The shame here is that of all places, Austin can afford to do a bit of scanning and associated metadata work, but chooses not to for no actual good reason whatsoever (other than that they can't figure out how to spend the money). At the same time, because of its 
wealth, it makes it less possible for other institutions with fewer 
resources to get collections because everyone now thinks that if they can't get top dollar for their stuff they might as well let it rot.
   
  I find a great deal of truth to what you write, but some clarification is perhaps appropriate. First off, the money. I have found it fascinating to observe how money is spent here and how much money there is. For example, we have the second largest endowment...however, our endowment per student is far from the top. We are a large institution, over 50,000 students. So, yes there is money but not proportional to the size of the student population. 
   
  UT can use its oil money for buildings, but buildings only. The athletics department makes plenty of money...they are currently enlarging what is already one of the largest college stadiums in the country. Recently our relatively new President took over $2M from the athletic department income and gave it to the academic departments. Amazingly he got away with it. 
   
  As for the money spent on acquisitions, it is easier to raise money for a collection than to get the money to preserve it. Happily, some of the recent gifts for acquisitions have been accompanied by funds for preservation. As far as I know the Ranson Center has no full time audio preservation specialist. The last time I worked on a project for them, they didn't even have equipment for the playback of 16 inch discs, let alone the expertise to handle them. There isn't money in their budget for the staff. Do you have enough staff to address all of your preservation needs?
   
  Do I agree with the priorities? No. Do I believe it is tragic that the audio collections on campus, not just at the Ransom Center, are in need of serious attention. Yes. Once it is listed, you will be able to read my perspective in what I submitted for the current study on audio preservation. From where I am sitting, it is not a happy picture. Are other places doing better...not from some of the other submissions that I have read. With less than 4% of the total budgets for ARL libraries being spent on preservation, and with estimates of over 30Million hours of audio in need of reformating, are you suggesting that we are adequately addressing our preservation needs?  
   
  How much paper is in need of scanning? If you are suggesting that we, as a society, are spending enough to preserve our history, I would  disagree with you. 
   
  So if one believes that on some level we are not doing right by our history, who is to blame? That is, for me, a most interesting question.
   
  You also raise the significant point about the marketplace. I find it very sad that the spending has given writers, and their heirs, a sense that they can make so much money from their papers. It can, and to some extent, has become similar to the art market. On the other hand, should not an author be able to make money on having developed a reputation?
  
***I would also add that many, MANY institutions (such as the one I work for) take in collections because of their intellectual and historical importance, not because they provide "visibility and prestige...good press". Sure, they play up collections that are sexy, why shouldn't they, especially if it may inspire some fundraising? But that's truly only a small portion of the materials that most archives take in. It's an insult to hard-working archivists everywhere to continually assert that, on an instiutional level, none of them care about accessioning important historical collections. Don't let the rotten experience you've had with your employers color your attitude towards an entire profession, please.
   
  It was never my intention to suggest that all acquisitions are predicated on their press appeal. Also, I have no statistics to suggest what percentage of materials are acquired for their press appeal.  Further, I am not suggesting that all of the Ransom Center's acquisitions are predicated solely on their press appeal. However, time and time again, I have seen, both here, and at other institutions, collections acquired at great expense, expense that seems clearly disproportionate to the value of other historically significant collections. 
   
  On the subject of acquisitions, who should make the decisions about what to acquire and how much money should be spent. What criteria should be used? Who would be qualified to make those decisions? What sort of background should they have to make those decisions? Where do they get their training? Who should decide the fund raising priorities for acquisitions? How much lattitude should that individual have in making those decisions?
   
  I would also wonder about your library. What are the criteria for your collection to accept the archives of a composer? Would you accept the collection of a composer like John Pozdro? John wonders what will become of his manuscripts. How about the manuscripts of the late Forrest Goodenough? They are sitting in a room in my home. I have my own music compositions, works for orchestra, and ensembles...would your library be interested? Then there are those 8 inch floppies I have of my work on the Fairlight. Would you be able to reformat those? Would you be interested in having them? Or, would you rather have my correspondence with composers like Piston, Schuman, Mathias? Rough questions I would think...
   
  Karl

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