I think that it is fair to say that there is a large disconnect between the library and archive communities and the professional technical communities of sound, video, and film - and there has been for some time. But I do think that it is getting better - not worse.
Many of the collections held in the institutions of which we speak are very large - and not just in The Library of Congress. The University of Maryland as just one example, has a huge and important collection and many other institutions have much larger collections then you might even suspect. Even public libraries can have huge collections - the New York Public Library, for example, has specialized collections in the performing arts (that most ARSC members are aware of), but also collections in local branches that may be community based and are very impressive in their own right. Many years ago I restored a 1/2" reel to reel videorecording that was made at the Brooklyn Public Library - the client said that it was the first recording showing the beginning of Break Dancing and I am sure they are correct. I never would have thought it would be in a community library and from the early 70's - but there it was.
Sometimes as audio or video professionals we forget about the importance of these local recordings, but they are a very important part of our cultural heritage. Sometimes it is the little personal snippets that tell a different side of important historical events that give things some scale on a human level. I think that this has been shown many times by the work of Ken Burns. Whether you like his work or not, what I am referring to is his use of "little" stories to provide a different context to larger events. One of the recent strong areas of interest in the AV Archival community of late is "Home Movies" and as audio professionals we know that these personal audio recordings co-existed with home movies and pre-date them in many instances. These are important, and may now be in collections where the people who are managing them literally do not know what they are content wise, but have no clue as to what they even are physically and I believe that many are in jeopardy because very few 30 somethings would have any idea that the piece of cardboard that is shiny on one side actually has grooves that contain a personal recording from a GI to his sweetheart in the 1940's.
It is important to remember that in almost all cases the libraries and archives did not create the content that they hold, but acquired it through a variety of ways over many years. Particularly in the case of public institutions - they took things when no one else would - and for this reason we owe them all a great deal of thanks. In many cases the collection of AV materials came almost by "accident" as a part of a collection of personal papers or other items that may have belonged to another gift. In some cases the collections at first were not sought out, but ended up in the library because no one else really knew what to do with them. While there are many institutions that have specific collections with specific collection mandates that go back decades, other institutions have recordings almost by mistake and they represent a tiny percentage of the general holdings. Even though the materials represent a tiny portion of the entire collection - tiny becomes huge when dealing with some university libraries (for example) where their collections number in the tens of millions of objects.
As has been pointed out here, it is not without some irony that some of our most precious audio and visual recordings have been left to the care of people who are the least technically capable of caring for them. The "caring" part is a complex matter and has to do not only with the technical craft and equipment but with fundamental funding methods and information storage and handling technologies which are different then that used in general library collection and management. Part of the problem has been the isolation of both "groups" in the past with the library community in general having little knowledge and funds or ability to care for collections which were fundamentally different from the general mandate, and the professional AV practitioner who generally worked in a production environment where they could create - and also make a living.
Libraries and Archives to a large extent are part of the Academic community and as such require certain credentials because it is a part of what they do for every job they fill. I have had battles on more then one occasion with HR departments when a position was available.... to get a Masters degree requirement REMOVED from a job description because the project needed a playback person with good technical skills. While having an advanced degree might be nice - it did not really relate to the job that needed to be performed. Very frankly I have lost those battles far more often then i have won them, and one reason for that is the economic reality that in general there are more applicants who are qualified then there are jobs, and if you were choosing between two applicants who seemingly could perform a given job with more then adequate experience and credentials - then then having a degree will make a difference between who get's it and who doesn't.
One main issue not discussed is not only the lack of technical AV training in the Archival communities, but also the lack of training in the production world for dealing with things archival. There has been more then a bit of progress with training AV Archivists as evidenced by several degree programs that did not even exist only a few years ago. On an international basis there are now several different degree granting programs that train AV Archivists. Unfortunately the same can not be said on the other side of things, for example a fast examination at any bookstore that sells books on Film, Audio, or Video production will show that the proper care and handling of archival materials, or more importantly... materials that MAY BECOME ARCHIVAL is not even mentioned in the index no less given even a chapter in text books. We now know that the survivability of carriers is largely dependent on their care and handling during and after production but this knowledge is still contained in hard to find and esoteric and expensive (for a student) standards and practices that a typical production student is not even exposed to.
There are few class materials by which to train people in the proper handling of AV materials. There are no classes that I have ever heard of that "train the trainers" nor are there classes to train the production community on the proper care of these materials by people who only come into contact with them sporadically. Members of this list all have their own horror stories of seeing some of our fellow technical people handle archival materials in ways that are just inappropriate or worse. So how are we training the young people who are interested in this specialty or are in the larger production community - the sad truth is that for the most part we don't.
So - how can we move this forward? I think that ARSC can have a role here in outreach and in codifying some of the knowledge contained by the membership into readable and coherent materials that can be used for reference and training. As a trainer, I would appreciate (for example) materials that I could use for an introductory class that would explain the historical processes of disk mastering and the best ways of storing and playing back the various kinds of disks. How about training materials on track layout, speed, and why azimuth matters - written in a way that others can understand? The intent of this type of material is not to try to turn anyone into an audio engineer, but to explain (for example) why different styluses must be used for different types of recordings and how you will need to consider these types of issues and thereby pointing out the value of the skill of a well trained audio engineer. The point here is not to try to turn an archivist into an engineer but to provide the understanding and appreciation for what the skill set is, and to encourage their use - instead of going out and buying a cheap usb turntable and thinking that real preservation work is being done.
On the other side of the equation, there is a great deal of knowledge in the Archival community and learning some of the guiding principles of Archival practice and the rationale for them is something that too few in this community does. These books are out there, and available, and worth a read. Too few members of the technical community even know the basic precepts of Archival practice as evidenced by the things we all see every day in production. Some of this knowledge does need to be adapted for what we do, but the basic underlying ethical precepts and rational should be understood by all craftspeople who work in production, and sadly this clearly is not the case.
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On May 19, 2010, at 6:23 PM, Scott D. Smith wrote:
> You didn't mention where you work, but it is encouraging to know that there are still institutions who look at more than just academic pursuits when it comes to evaluating applicants for archival positions. While I certainly don't have any issue with those who have sacrificed their time and money to pursue a degree (quite a few whom I have the utmost respect for), it does concern me that the hiring criteria at many institutions over the past decade appears to weigh a formal education over verified practical knowledge and working experience.
> While I personally think there's room for many disciplines within the field of audio archiving and restoration (as can be witnessed by this list!), I worries me that many institutions are becoming increasingly inbred when it comes to their choice of candidates. It's good to know that there's still hope for those who may possess a wealth of knowledge, but not a degree.
> Scott D. Smith C.A.S.
> Chicago Audio Works, Inc.
> (sent after my lunch break!...)
> Jim Sam wrote:
>> Hi Steven,
>> Have you ever applied for one of these jobs you feel you're qualified for?
>> I ask because I am someone that is working professionally in an archives
>> with audio materials, and I do not have a masters degree. My B.S. isn't
>> even in a typical archivist-esque undergrad field; mine is in Audio
>> Technology. As noted by another person when you've complained about this
>> before, high-profile archival institutions have employees and managers that
>> do not have an MLS, etc. It happened in the past, at the least.
>> It would be helpful to know if you've applied and were denied (and how many
>> times), or if this is conjecture on your part. Students and interns read
>> this list, and it would be helpful for them to have an instructive,
>> constructive discussion of employment possibilities with all the relevant
>> (sent during my lunch break)
>> On Wed, May 19, 2010 at 9:41 AM, Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> I had always thought there ought to be a way to apply knowledge acquired as
>>> a collector to an archival job.Why is someone with six years of college, a
>>> library science degree,and questionable real world experience better than
>>> someone with thirty or forty years experience as an advanced collector, and
>>> started as a child, as most of us did,but have no such degree?
>>> From: Steven C. Barr <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Sent: Tue, May 18, 2010 10:19:54 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Audio preservation-was Glass Records
>>> From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Yes, MLS means Master of Library Science. And it's true that very few
>>> library/archival programs provide extensive training in audio preservation.
>>> They focus on text, and rightly so, because that's what the vast majority of
>>> librarians and archivists work with. Very few of us are lucky enough to
>>> work with sound recordings.
>>>> I think it is informative to read David Seubert's well-considered
>>> statement in the ARSC newsletter. He points out, as I have for years, at the
>>> lack of interest in audio on the part of libraries. Central to all of this
>>> is the lack of any regularized funding for audio preservation. Grants are
>>> not the answer.
>>>> Also, here at the University of Texas, our Preservation School was
>>> dissolved, and while a few classes in preservation remain, whatever
>>> specialization there was in preservation has been abandoned. In some ways
>>> the lack of serious training in preservation makes sense...if libraries are
>>> not interested in preservation, why train students in that discipline? As I
>>> pointed out in one of my articles, about 3% of the total budgets of the
>>> member libraries of the Association of Research Libraries is spent on
>>> preservation, with the bulk of that going to things like the binding of
>>> serials...assuming libraries are still getting paper copies...not even
>>> considering the implications of just getting access to publications
>>> electronically=not owning your own copy. Similarly, it is likely that many
>>> music libraries will cease buying CDs in the not too distant future.
>>>> Further, as I would assume all of us would agree, you can't teach audio
>>> preservation in two 3-hour courses, which is what I tried to do for several
>>> years. You can probably teach audio preservation "appreciation" in that
>>> length of time.
>>>> As all of us on this list know, depending on the nature of what needs to
>>> be preserved, audio preservation can require a broad range of knowledge; an
>>> understanding of the digital and analog technologies, acoustics, chemistry,
>>> etc. to knowledge of discography and, in the case of music recordings, music
>>> training. Interestingly, considering the incredible experience many on this
>>> list have, I would be amazed if many libraries would consider hiring any of
>>> you who are practitioners. Perhaps Library of Congress being the one
>>> exception to that perspective.
>>>> Karl (who thinks that much of the future of libraries can be found in the
>>> I used to find it both annoying and frustrating that I would NEVER be
>>> for a position involving archiving sound recordings, since I lacked any
>>> degrees! Meanwhile, I have accumulated and to some extent catalogued some
>>> 57,000 78rpm recordings...as well as created one of the standard reference
>>> works for the keepers of similar archives. To what extent are to-day's
>>> archivists aware of discography and/or its standard reference sources?!
>>> Steven C. Barr