Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why Media Preservation Can’t Wait: the Gathering Storm

Why Media Preservation Can’t Wait: the Gathering Storm. Mike Casey. International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, Journal. January 2015. [Slide presentation]

Media preservation has reached a crisis point for content on physical audio and video
formats. Archival media collections could soon be considered highly endangered. The US National Recording Preservation Board: “ is alarming to realize that nearly all recorded sound is in peril of disappearing or becoming inaccessible within a few generations.” There is a major risk that obsolescence will defeat the efforts of archivists. What is the problem?
  • Large numbers of analog and physical digital recordings
  • Recordings are degrading, some catastrophically
    • For some formats degradation issues are critical
    • Degradation of physical recordings must be addressed before digitization
  • Obsolete audio and video formats
    • All analog and physical digital recordings are now obsolete
    • Playback systems are failing; parts are lacking, and repairs are becoming more difficult.
    • Without functioning systems, digitizing existing recordings is not possible
    • Evolution of obsolescence:
      • End of manufacturing
      • End of availability in the commercial marketplace
      • End of bench technician expertise
      • End of bench technician tools
      • End of calibration and alignment tapes
      • End of parts and supplies
      • End of availability in the used marketplace
      • End of playback expertise
  • There is a relatively short time window to save these recordings
  • The recordings contain content with high research value
The combination of degradation and obsolescence severely undermines preservation efforts. It may still be possible in a few years to digitize audio and video, but digitizing large holdings then may not be affordable. While not every recording is an appropriate candidate for long-term preservation,  many recordings and collections do carry significant value. If these items are to survive they must be digitally preserved "within the next 15 to 20 years - before sound carrier degradation and the challenges of acquiring and maintaining playback equipment make the success of these efforts too expensive or unattainable.” Some institutions are digitizing their recordings now, realizing that they cannot afford to wait until planning is completed or everything is perfectly in place to begin work.

No comments: