Adam Lott is a second year MSI student specializing in Archives and Records Management with an interest in moving-image media. He is also a participant in The Archivists Apprentice series, which follows School of Information students as they complete their internships. You can read his previous posts here and here.
The audio-visual archivist must constantly struggle with the concept of time. We know the numbers: there are millions of assets to be saved, a dozen or so years to save them, and only a handful of professionals who know how to do the saving. Knowing these facts, the field of AV preservation is a harrowing one indeed. And yet, when leaving this year’s International Council on Archives-Section on University Archives and Research Institution Archives (ICA-SUV) conference in Chapel Hill, I did not experience feelings of anxiety or worry. Instead, I felt hopeful and optimistic to be a part of a community that is addressing these problems directly.
This year’s ICA conference focused on the management of audio/visual collections within college/research institutes. I was able to attend this conference due to a bursary, which funded my trip to North Carolina. The conference took place at the University of North Carolina within the Wilson Special Collections Library. Panel presenters represented a variety of institutions, each approaching the “magnetic media crisis” from a unique perspective. Preserving sound and video through digitization is still a new practice with many standards as yet to be established, so it was interesting to see how each institution contributed to the effort. Some presenters focused on the various tools they’ve developed for archives to utilize, such as the AV Preserve’s Cost of Inaction Calculator; a resource that allows archivists to compare the costs of preserving assets to the losses incurred by inaction. Others focused on strategies that challenge the norm, such as Hannah Palin’s “The Magnetic Media Crisis”, which advocates the collaboration between archives so that they may take on similar challenges together. My favorite presentations were the ones outlining the process of building a digitization station. Palin discussed this in great detail, describing who her university (The University of Washington) consulted and how they obtained funding. Christian Lopez of the University of Georgia libraries complemented this presentation by discussing the pitfalls archivists may encounter when attempting to integrate new technology into their systems.
As Richard Szary of the University of North Carolina stated in the closing remarks, “We are faced with reality and we are doing the best we can.” Leaving the conference, I felt privileged to have heard from so many intelligent figures in the field. I was able to approach each attendee casually and learned so much in such a short time. Mostly, I felt humbled to have felt so welcomed within the community, and am excited to soon enter it as a professional.