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Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
It seems you've addressing a few points here so I'll respond to each
1) The subject of Audio Archeology:
I don't believe there is a cohesive understanding of the state of our
Recorded History and without this, it is difficult to determine the
scope of the problem. In the business world, a key to understanding
scope and solving problems is to apply metrics to a situation. For
example, calculating what assets are lost or deteriorating, and what
rate we are losing assets.
This is obviously difficult, time consuming, and comes with a lot of
-How are the loss of an intermediaries calculated?
-How much deterioration is considered "deteriorating"?
Most institutions do this internally with their assets, and once
determined, the next step is reviewing the loses (or potential loses)
and determining if they are sustainable (which means: do nothing);
concerning (which means: develop a plan, without a guarantee of
funding), or vital (which means: here's blank check, get it fixed)
I can tell you that in most cases, vital is non-existent, which leaves
sustainable, or concerning.
Developing concerning into actual funding takes a well developed plan
that is fiscally feasible.
It's most likely that our Archeologist friends are better than we at
developing cost effective plans to achieve their goal, which may be
easier when justifying project costs against the collection of
"priceless" artifacts. It is also very possible that we're comparing
apples to oranges, as they most likely have very different funding
2) The under appreciation/underpaying of Library and Archiving staff:
The world today (more than ever) comes down to profitability. Since
libraries don't make profits, it falls in line that there not going to
be handling out high paying jobs working for a Library. High paying jobs
can easily be had in the Finance, Legal, and Medical worlds. This has
been true for years, but for librarians the cold hard facts haven't
sunken in. Do I believe they should be paid more, of course I do. But do
I think they ever will, not in my lifetime.
The fact is that we have massive amounts of history from the 1900's in
every field. Are we missing important stuff, sure we are. But the
unfortunate fact is that not enough people care enough about what's
missing. And more so, not enough profitability can be had from
collecting what was lost, to make it a worthwhile endeavor.
Think of it: That lost treasure of sound, that we thought the world
would never hear again. Suddenly found, in pristine condition....How
many downloads, CD's excetera could you possibly sell? Unless it the
Beatles or Elvis it's most likely a lot LESS than you would think.
3) Metadata concerns:
Here's the white elephant in the room. Everyone wants to
preserve/transfer/digitize, but guess what??? If you don't have a
complete and correct metadata standard in place, you'll probably do more
harm then good. Once things are transferred, the value of storing the
original drops (to the non archivist) and people assume that they'll
never need to go back to it. That is until, we try to understand what
the heck the file is, since your metadata seems spotty, and possibly
4) Formatting/Migration issues:
Yikes. This was hiding being the white elephant called metadata. And
again, unless you figure this out UP FRONT, why bother digitizing?
5) And finally to address your last statement:
I think the archiving world has it's blinders on, and needs to pull
back, rationalize a bit, and find it's place in the modern world of
business, technology, culture, and government. It's not effort or caring
that this industry lacks; it's scope, direction and rational.
Director of Archives
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:ARSCLIST@xxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Karl Miller
Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 8:52 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
"Andes, Donald" <Donald.Andes@xxxxxxxxxx> 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
***Unfortunately people don't change, and no matter how many positive
reasons you give to migrate, those entrenched in analog will want to
***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
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
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.
Music from EMI
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