You might not know it from all the work we’ve been doing with the new METRO studio, presenting at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting, and preparing to present at the upcoming Association of Moving Image Archivists annual conference, but XFR Collective has been on hiatus since July. What does this mean exactly? It means that as a collective, we voted to take some time off from entering into new partnerships while we tie up loose ends and get our house in order.
In June, we held a mini-retreat at one of our core member’s houses, and decided a 6 month hiatus was necessary, given the changes and opportunities we’ve been presented with over the past year. We’ve been in operation since September 2013, and much of what we’ve done has been the result of opportunity knocking and us opening the door. In that regard, we’ve been so lucky to have participated in amazing partnerships with people and organizations in New York City and all the way up in Maine and down in Baltimore. We’ve done workshops, spoken on panels, and cultivated a sense of community around audio-visual preservation. All of this work, which we’ve volunteered our time and energy for, has resulted in some amazing experiences. However, much of what we’ve done has been external, and we decided it was appropriate to take some time to reflect and look inward at our organization’s infrastructure.
There really isn’t a blueprint or set of guidelines for how to run an all-volunteer non-profit archives collective, and while we’ve made a good go at it so far (if we do say so ourselves), there’s plenty of things that we could improve upon, mistakes that we’ve made that we want to try and not make again, and changes that would improve our workflow and strengthen our organization. We really want to keep doing this work and not burn out or disband. To that end, here’s what we’ve decided our priorities are for the hiatus:
- Wrapping up all past partnerships. This means that we’re making sure that all of the materials we’ve digitized over the past few years are on the Internet Archive with appropriate and complete metadata records, that the files and original videos have been returned to their rightful owners. We want to be able to start fresh when we return from hiatus, and this will help us do so!
- Flesh out transfer partnership workflows from start to finish, and build project management infrastructure. This is fairly self explanatory, but in order to be more accountable to our transfer partners, we need better project management and a more well documented workflow.
- Document our workflow and relationship with the Internet Archive. We use the Internet Archive as a repository and access point for our transfer partnership materials. We’d like to make it more clear to everyone involved, including ourselves, how video files and their resulting metadata end up on the Internet Archive’s pages. In the past we’ve had some problems with this process, so we’d like to fix that going forward, to make sure we avoid doing extra unnecessary work in the future.
- Create a call for proposals for transfer partnerships, and schedule and limit the number of partners we work with simultaneously. In the past, XFR Collective would take on new partnerships when approached, and we would have the goal of completing those partnerships in 6 months. Going forward, we’d like to have individuals and institutions submit proposals for partnerships of all kinds, and schedule them over a set period of time. This would allow us to better plan for the amount of work that we need to do, which in turn would facilitate better project management and project accountability. Right now we’re looking at programs like Bay Area Video Coalition’s Preservation Access Program as models for this process.
- Develop a data backup plan for XFR Collective, as well as a records retention schedule. Archivists are usually their own worst archivist, so we’re hoping to change that with this plan!
- Learn more about non-profit structure variations and then implement a more robust set of systems and structures. We’re grateful that the founding members of XFR Collective did all the work to make us a 501c3 non-profit. Now, we’re interested in learning about structure and governance of non-profits. We’re exploring by-laws, boards of directors, consensus and what to do when we disagree, mission statements, finances, and all the other aspects of running a non-profit. We’re hoping that through formalizing some aspects of our organization, we’ll be able to apply for more grants and pay some of our core collective members for the work that they do, as well as grow in a sustainable way.
- Continuing to improve our ability to bring in and on-board new core members and volunteers. We often get requests from talented individuals to join the collective or volunteer with us, and at the moment we just don’t have the institutional capacity to bring in new members. We’d like to change this and develop more opportunities to have people work with us, and make our processes more clear so that people can be efficiently on-boarded and well-supported.
- Replicating XFR Collective in other places. We’ve received inquiries about people in other places forming their own XFR Collective, which we’re really excited about! Obviously anyone at any time can start their own audio-visual preservation collective, and we would be thrilled to see how other people make it work. However, it might make sense for some people to build off of the structure that we’ve already developed rather than reinventing the wheel. Our goal is to figure out some of the logistical questions in creating “satellite” XFR Collectives.
- Developing and publishing our Code of Conduct. Truthfully, we’ve been working on this long before we went on hiatus, but as anyone who has developed a Code of Conduct knows, it is a very time consuming process that requires thoughtfulness and care, so we didn’t have a product to share for a long time. We’re happy to say that we’ve posted our first version to our website and GitHub, and we’ll be making a few more additions come October 1st. We welcome comments, feedback, and any engagement.
We’ve got a lot to do before our hiatus ends in the new year, but we’re really looking forward to continuing to share our process with you all. Thank you for supporting us as we grow.