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Making Choices: IU Bloomington’s Media Preservation Prioritization Process

…we cannot save every recording. What, then, do we save?

The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age  -CLIR/Library of Congress

The Media Preservation Initiative (MPI) at IU Bloomington is embarking upon a campus-wide media preservation prioritization process beginning spring semester 2012. See the previous post (Why Prioritize?) for a discussion of why prioritization is important within our context.

Indiana Media Preservation Prioritization Plan

We are currently developing and testing a prioritization process and plan to begin work with campus units early in the spring semester. Our charge is to deliver by June 30 a prioritization plan for the first five years of media preservation work. This project will be carried out by MPI Director of Media Preservation Services, Mike Casey, and MPI assistant, Patrick Feaster, assisted by the SMART team (see the blog post Get SMART).

The prioritization process relies upon a combination of software tools and curatorial expertise to assess preservation condition/risk and research/instructional value. The tools assist with structuring the analysis and provide a measure of objectivity as well as transparency to what is unavoidably, in part, subjective work. However, we do not believe that prioritization decisions can be left to software applications alone. Many parts of this process will be guided by the expertise and experience of unit curators and collection managers as well as media technical and format experts.

Here is an overview of the process:

1. Meeting with MPI team and unit staff

One purpose of this meeting is to select collections or other groupings of media recordings to evaluate during this stage of prioritization. Since our goal is a five-year plan, this is just the first of several rounds of prioritization, and we will not be able to evaluate all holdings. We will rely upon unit staff to identify high-value collections. We will also assist in determining which collections are most at risk or in the poorest condition.

2. Analysis of risk, preservation condition, and obsolescence

The MPI team will use a software application to score collections for risk, condition, and obsolescence. This will involve gathering and analyzing data from a visual inspection of the collections under consideration.

3. Analysis of research and instructional value

The MPI team will assist curators and collection managers in using a software application to score collections for research and instructional value. The MPI team will also help units research their collections, gathering data as needed to feed into this process. This step will be driven by unit curators based on their judgment of the value of their holdings.

4. Curatorial review

In this step, curators and/or collection managers will examine the rankings of their collections and make adjustments as necessary. They may also take into account other considerations that impact value including such things as timeliness (upcoming events or anniversaries), publicity opportunities, and others.

5. Validity

The final rankings for any given unit will be valid within the context of that unit only. It is difficult to rank collections with consistency and integrity across units, not to mention reaching agreement across campus on the relative value of the various and diverse media collections. For these reasons, we will try to achieve consistent rankings within each unit only. MPI will then highlight each unit’s top priorities as campus preservation priorities. This enables unit curatorial staff to maintain significant control over the prioritization process for their content.

The Indiana Media Preservation and Access Center, when built, will have the capacity and operating efficiency to guarantee that top priorities will be preserved within its defined 15 year preservation period. And in the end, that is our goal: long-term preservation of high value media content from the Bloomington campus.

We will continue to report on this project as it unfolds next year.

// Mike Casey



  1. Pingback: The “Value” of Obscurity « atmintern - 04/25/2012

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