This past weekend CBS Sunday Morning ran a piece about film preservation at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation. (If you missed it, I invite you to watch it now.) The Packard Campus is a converted Cold War-era bunker with talented staff, impressive equipment and lots of vault storage – all of which is used for the important work of preserving and maintaining important pieces of our nation’s heritage. For a geek like me, the CBS feature is a glimpse into an archival wonderland.
I already had video and film preservation on my mind, so CBS’s timing was perfect. The University Archives is in the early stages of a project – so early that it probably does not yet qualify as a Work in Progress (discussed here just a couple weeks ago) – to improve access to videos and films in the University Archives collections. The first stage of determining what we have and assessing its condition just kicked off last week.
We have several hundred reels and cassettes of a variety of media formats covering a wide range of subjects: 1960s basketball game footage; Medical School centennial events; promotional videos; commencement and awards ceremonies; and much, much more. Many of these items have degraded, some significantly. The vinegary smell when opening a canister alerted us to a deteriorating reel of film, and some of the magnetic media has already lost bits of content. Once the assessment phase is completed, we will consider the condition as well as the content while developing a digitization priority list and a plan of action. Cost will undoubtedly factor into our decisions, both for choosing which pieces to preserve in digital form and for selecting the method (or vendor) to use.
Hopefully a future Creighton’s Attic post will report on successful efforts to preserve some of these treasures. No promises, but when that happens, I will try to present a clip or two for you.