Mark I believe you are being a bit too modest. I have visited the
AIATSIS facility twice with a few years between the visits and I have
to say that AIATSIS has one of the best equipped preservation
facilities considering the size and age of the collection in the
world. Not only do they have the equipment, but they have trained
staff and they actually get work done... no kidding. It is a model
facility in many ways with all gears turning. Somehow even management
has been able to work with staff and facility and it ALL seems to
work. A model. AIATSIS is extremely well funded compared to virtually
any archive of its size that I have ever seen, and they are focusing
on preservation and access with resources, skill, and dedication.
I was extremely impressed on my visits there. While everyone can use
additional "help", I have to say that this group is in a far better
position to give it then almost any place I have seen anywhere. In
some ways - they could be a model for others to follow in many other
places around the world. In terms of what they have done with the
money they have received - they should share that knowledge with
others, because they have been very efficient and actually turned the
money into functioning preservation and access as opposed to lots of
consulting reports and cold vaults.
Perhaps I may as well say here and now that I differ in my assessment
of the general "window of opportunity" given for digitization and
remastering of these types of materials. It may be because I have
visited far more vaults and collections then most or it may be because
I have been involved in more projects then most. Perhaps it is some
recent personal events in particular that encourage me to be more
outspoken then usual, but I find that this general 15 to 30 year time
period given is just long enough to encourage even more
procrastination. 15 to 30 years from now - well that is just long
enough for the new incoming archivists to consider - well 30 years
from now I will be retiring just like my boss, guess this will fall to
the next person after all - not me. I have tired of seeing
"preservation" in the form of turning money into cold vaults without
those who should have been responsible seeing the obvious outcome of
having lots of cold tape and nothing to play it on and no one who
knows how to even if you did.
The irresponsibility has been incomprehensible. Cold vaults as the
"solution" as opposed to a very temporary way station in a process. It
is now largely too late - and no one really wants to deal with it.
Very few seem to grasp or acknowledge that the content that was made
by hundreds of thousands of machines by millions of people, over
decades of time, simply can not be remastered by a handful of people,
largely academics, interns, and hobbyists using a paltry amount of
unsupportable decks hooked up to absurdly overpriced DAW's and
spending hours of time tweaking the single result so it is "just
right" - as if there were only 5 more to do that year.... in 15 to 30
years. The same 15 to 30 years that we were saying 15 to 30 years ago
- I know because I was there. It doesn't work. It never worked and it
never will work.
No matter how well intentioned the scale of the project is simply far
too large. In a recent project I supervised in Puerto Rico we got a
NEH grant to digitize about 5000 hours of radio content. It took a
couple of years, a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and it got done
- and these tapes were in very bad shape. The shock for me was that we
could not fine a single - not one - young person (under 30) who before
the project even knew what a 1/4" audio tape or tape recorder was - no
less know how to run one. Sure they knew how to run a DAW and station
automation systems, but not one had any experience with Analog tape.
Why would they?
Did we teach them? Sure. But there are no jobs for them now, and I
doubt that they will be able to use that knowledge again anywhere.
They have all moved on to jobs in digital environments.There were much
bigger issues that we ran up against. How do you train someone doing
this work to recognize the difference between line hum that was
"expected" in the recording and line hum that is a problem? How do you
train the operators who are doing this work to recognize Analog print
through when they do not really even understand the concept of analog
noise in a digital recording? Azimuth problems in the audio when you
have only heard MP3? The problems are really much deeper then there
not being any Studer parts around any more. There are layers of issues
that are largely ignored, because as Al Gore might say - it is an
The reality that no one wants to face, is that the scale of the
generation and collection of these materials was so much larger in
scale that the approaches being taken now to digitize them as to make
the process totally and completely impossible. Instead of
concentrating on chilling we need to concentrate on digitizing on
massive scales, and that isnt going to happen using single $80,000
quadrega workstations with single Studer decks in academic labs with
an audio engineer and 2 college interns. The window has largely
closed. A few may survive - but the window has closed for almost all.
So now, considering this concept. What precisely do we choose to do?
Do we continue to try to save "everything" which in my opinion is
clear folly - or do we develop some other selection tools and
methodology and get to work on an entirely different scale then we
have before? Do we raise the white flag and say - ok lets get real -
there are far more of them then us, so we need a different approach.
Let's no longer whimper about 100,000 hours of everything in one
collection to save. AIATSIS may be able to do that, but they are but a
grain of sand. The issue is trying to save 100,000 hours out of the
100 million that will not make it.
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On Oct 29, 2009, at 9:39 PM, Mark Campbell wrote: