In the media preservation world, a battle is raging between an evil twin-headed monster named “degralescence” and the institutions that hold audio and video recordings with long-term research and instructional value.
I wrote about this destructive combination of degradation and obsolescence in an article recently published in the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives Journal.
Active deterioration of analog recordings plus rapidly advancing obsolescence issues, including increasing scarcity of legacy playback machines as well as human technical expertise, will severely limit our ability to digitally preserve large holdings of audio and video in the coming decade.
I am happy to report that Indiana University is taking strong action and a leading role in combating these issues through its Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI). Announced by President McRobbie in his state of the university address in 2013, MDPI is led by co-chairs Brad Wheeler (IU CIO and vice president for IT) and Carolyn Walters (IU Libraries dean) along with executive director Laurie Antolovic’ (IU deputy CIO and associate vice president for IT).
Central to our strategy is a partnership with Memnon Archiving Services, a private company that will digitize the bulk of our significant audio and video recordings using parallel transfer workflows where one operator digitizes multiple objects at a time.
IU will also operate a smaller digitization facility charged with preserving fragile items that must be handled within a 1:1 workflow by an audio or video engineer. These digitization facilities are co-located on the first floor of the Innovation Center at 10th and the bypass.
As of this writing, renovation of the Innovation Center is 80 percent complete. Memnon is installing equipment on the south side of the floor even as construction workers put the finishing touches on this part of the facility. On the north side, the IU rooms are well underway with completion set for early April.
Digitization on both sides will begin after installation, testing, and verification are finished. Later in the spring we will see a veritable blizzard of digital files as both sides ramp up production. We expect to digitally preserve more than 250,000 audio and video recordings over the next four years.
Digitization is only one part of the preservation process.
Both the IU Libraries and UITS are allocating significant resources to the pre-digitization and post-digitization stages, which are necessary to package digitization outputs for long-term preservation, provide for researcher access, and keep the Memnon pipeline full of recordings to be digitized.
Patrick Feaster, MDPI media preservation specialist, describes the pre-digitization workflow in a separate post.
Post-digitization work is focused on storage of the multiple petabytes (equivalent to 1,000,000 gigabytes) that will be generated, creation of a quality control workflow and infrastructure for the digitization products, and the creation of derivative files for preservation and access.
Additional work is underway on the Avalon Media System, which will provide access to MDPI content. This application is developed by IU Libraries and Northwestern University Libraries with funding from both IMLS and the Mellon Foundation.
With the coming of spring and the opening of the digitization facility, we hope that the work of Degralescence on IU’s audio and video collections will melt away with the winter’s snow.