I spent last week in Savannah, Georgia as part of the annual Association for Moving Image Archivists Conference. As part of the conference, I represented the XFR Collective on “Click Capture, Press Play,” a panel on regional archival digitization organizations with co-presenters Hannah Palin from the Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoP), and Pamela Jean Vadekan from the California Audiovisual Preservation Program (CAVPP). While all of us have similar missions to preserve at-risk media, especially within a regional context, there were striking differences. In our early discussions in preparation for the conference, however, it was great to talk with other archivists recognizing and addressing this clear need in the community.
In our presentations we each screened a brief sampling of our work and updated the community on the status of our organization and work. One of my takeaways from the presentations of my fellow panelists is that CAVPP was recently actually in a very similar place from us! In 2011, the first full year of their preservation work, they digitized 50 items and worked with about 20 organizations. We are still completing our first year of digitization work and have been able to dive in relatively quickly to digitize about 40 items.
I also noticed that our regional differences determined organizational structures. For example, Hannah Palin is the only full-time audiovisual archivist in the state of Washington! This is shocking, but also quite a contrast: New York City is full of audiovisual archivists. This is fundamental to XFR Collective: we have a lot of skilled volunteers able to handle digitization equipment and obsolete media. We also have been able, mostly through bartering, borrowing, and to only a small degree buying, to put a rack together at under $1000. It’s interesting to note that if these items were purchases outright, as in the case of MIPoP, the equipment amounts to about $15,000.
Some other major differences are that while we do almost all the work on premise, we do not hold on to the digital files. CAVPP works with cultural institutions throughout the state of California, but it outsources digitization to 3rd party vendors while hosting the resultant digitized files. This is something we, as a very new organization without initial grant funding, cannot contemplate. Maintaining large digital files on behalf of organizations would limit our ability to work with organizations and, in some part, this has influenced our decisions to push our educational non-profit mission further. This not only entails educating the content creators on best practices for their analog and digitized materials, but reaching a larger audience through participating in community events and publicizing our mission through conferences and panels like AMIA.
While it is too much to discuss the conference presentations in full, Kristin’s next post will talk a little more about the conference panel and her experience as an audience member and the panel organizer. Rebecca, the panel moderator, prepared some great questions for us. We, unfortunately, ran short of time before we could answer them, but I’m going to take advantage of this space to address them here as a way to finish up this post. I’ve also made the AMIA presentation available here.
2. How are you facing the problems of selection?
3. What are some of the most frustrating challenges you’ve faced?