Moving image archives and preservation

Bradley Hall C/D

Tuesday July 10, 2012


Presenters: Adam Jansen, Heather Barnes, Snowden Becker

Adam Jansen

The School of Journalism (J-School) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) approached InterPARES at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC for assistance in preserving the thousands of high definition digital video files — comprising of student coursework, grant projects, theses, and unique, irreplaceable documentary footage — produced annually.  The case study detailed in this paper concerns the high definition digital videotapes and files created by the J-School’s students as part of their course projects and theses; specifically, the study examines the preservation system developed to preserve the students’ finished video documentaries and the raw footage produced in the course of making them.  While the videos are pieces of artistic expression, they also provide evidence of one component of the students’ coursework for which they are graded.  As an academic unit within the UBC Faculty of Arts, the J-School’s mission is to achieve the highest professional standards in journalism through instruction in journalistic practice and the scholarly understanding of journalism, critical thinking, and teaching of ethical responsibility, and therefore the footage accumulated needs to be preserved as evidence of the quality of education each student receives from the program.  Additionally, the J-School conducts an annual International Reporting class where journalism students and Faculty document contemporary global issues, collecting unique footage of historical importance in the process.  The documentaries include such topics as the environmental impact of shrimp farming, pain management around the globe, and the impact of e-waste – for which the team won an Emmy Award for Best Investigative Documentary.
Based on the need for long-term access to the irreplaceable video assets stored at the J-School, the main objectives of the project were: the establishment of a digital video archive of high definition video footage capable of capturing, preserving and providing public access to the material either produced by the J-School or received as a donation; the application of metadata standards to assist in the description, retrieval, copyright protection and preservation of the raw footage of student projects; and the development of policies for the creation, ingestion and access of the footage.  This paper will detail the technological and procedural challenges involved in preserving HD Video that were addressed throughout the course of the project, including: the compromises reached in balancing the archival needs of preserving the video assets against the creative workflow and editing processes used by the journalists; the modification of the asset management software to incorporate elements of the InterPARES Chain-of-Preservation (COP) model; the modification and implementation of the PBCore metadata schema, the metadata standard for audiovisual media developed by the public broadcasting community; the configuration of the hardware and selection of storage media to provide rapid, secure access to extremely large video files; and the backup methodology deployed to safeguard the intellectual and physical assets within the archive.

Heather Barnes

(This is a project being carried out in spring, 2012). A recent report by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences indicates that smaller audiovisual archives, documentary filmmakers, and independent media artists are facing challenges in preserving their digital media. Film festivals are important distribution and exhibition venues for independent filmmakers; however, a pilot study carried out by this author (2011) suggests that festivals typically do not maintain formal archives or partner with institutional archives. Given sufficient resources, partnerships, and expertise, how might film festivals engage in archiving and preserving festival records and/or the films they curate? What materials, records, films, and organizational knowledge would film festivals choose to preserve? Interviews with festival staff will seek to document the perspectives of film festival staff on the concept of the “ideal” film festival archives, and on how festivals could feasibly participate in preservation of their organizational memory and the films they curate.  Many festivals use their websites to offer online “archives” of festival materials. This study also analyzes a sample of festival websites that currently offer access to online archives. Questions to be addressed include: What objects do these archives contain? How are they organized? What materials are preserved, if any?

Snowden Becker

The Crying of Lot 230720778503: A case study in repatriation of historic amateur film

During the Winter quarter of 2012, students in UCLA’s Moving Image Archives Administration class had the option of administering an actual–albeit tiny–collection of moving images purchased on eBay for their term projects. Auction lots were selected with care by the instructor to maximize their experiential-learning potential: All lots consisted entirely of unique original 8mm or 16mm home movie footage, with minimal provenance or descriptive information provided by the seller. Students were asked to perform all the basic tasks of appraisal and management for these “collections,” including initial inventory and documentation, physical inspection and condition reporting, preservation needs assessment, identification and cataloging of content, researching appropriate institutional repositories and their deposit/donation terms, and reaching consensus with their group partners about best options for access, use, and future disposition of the materials.

This presentation will discuss how the concrete objectives of the assignment were serendipitously enhanced by the discoveries one group of students made early on about their project materials’ historical context, offering a framework for productive experiential learning about archival practices and concepts, and outlining a process model for collaborative repatriation of historic materials discovered via the collectors’ market.


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