Media Preservation with Kim Tarr

Kim Tarr from the Media Preservation Unit of the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department at NYU visited our department on July 21 to discuss her department’s role in the Libraries’ overall preservation efforts. You can see the slides from her presentation here (NYU only).

The Media Preservation Department is responsible for preserving video, audio and film objects held by the library in non-digital formats. Most of their work is done with the various special collections, but recently they have begun a new initiative with the Avery Fisher Center (AFC) to preserve circulating media as well.

There are two reasons that media objects need to be preserved in persistent, high-quality digital formats: Degradation and Obsolescence. A variety of problems develop over time and cause formats like magnetic tape and film to physically degrade – compromising their content (see slides). Obsolescence further threatens the usefulness of old media formats as playback equipment, parts, and repair expertise become unavailable.

The Media Preservation Unit works with these physical formats to keep them in functioning order as long as possible (removing mold, repairing broken casings, creating appropriate micro-environments) and also creates preservation-quality digital copies of the content on these objects so they can still be accessed after the formats have degraded beyond use. Some of these digital copies will be available to library users through a new interface in development by DLTS (See previous post). Once that is up and running, access will depend on the copyright details of individual items.

Another service the Unit offers is film identification; attempting to identify the time period and content of 16mm film by deciphering the edge code on the film and also taking clues from the images themselves (clothing, etc.).

In addition to working with the library’s collections, the department also reaches out to provide training (mostly to area artists) in creating personal digital libraries).

In terms of our SocHum digital project, it’s great to know about the activities of the Media Preservation Unit in case anyone will be using non-digital media objects that have not already been preserved. It’s also important to keep in mind issues of obsolescence and even degradation for digital-born objects (as was alluded to in our meeting with Melitte Buchman earlier this summer).

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