Hello, all you media preservation-curious readers! I currently serve as the Audiovisual Conservator in the Preservation Services department at University of Virginia Library. As I am the only staff member in our department who explicitly works with conservation and preservation of legacy audiovisual materials, I find myself moving between film and magnetic media projects as needs dictate.
I came to UVa Library in September 2009, originally working on a post-graduate fellowship funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. My arrival here coincided with a period of very positive development for the Library, with renewed institutional commitment to creating a comprehensive preservation program to care for our collections. The Preservation Services department had also just been awarded a Mellon Foundation grant to bolster its conservation and preservation capabilities. In the last several years, we have made significant advances in our audiovisual preservation infrastructure here, most notably with the creation of in-house reformatting labs for our most commonly held analog audio and video formats. The Library has recently underscored its commitment by creating a permanent, faculty-level position for the post I now hold.
So far, our preservation reformatting workstations have been utilized to facilitate patron access to archival audiovisual materials held in the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, with researchers’ requests spurring the creation of digital preservation masters and access copies. More sweeping, collection-level digitization projects have not yet been undertaken, as we are still working to strictly define how to capture metadata that fully documents the analog originals, newly digitized instantiations, as well as process metadata about the transfer. These metadata decisions have been part of a larger conversation about “submission package” models for audiovisual content created throughout the University, such as concert recordings deposited at the Music Library or videos of guest lectures from the School of Architecture. Indiana’s Media Preservation Initiative has actually been an inspiration, as we have sought to put individual stakeholders with communal problems into conversation with one another with hopes of reaching shared solutions.
So, while plugging along with the more prosaic work of finalizing preservation workflows and digital object models, I’ve also pursued some smaller preservation projects. These have given me the chance to do what I love most, which is to dig in and research the content on the carrier.
One recent project relates to a 16mm film produced by UVa in 1960 about the Virginia-born artist Charles W. Smith, the first chair of the University’s Department of Art. Smith had a diverse career making woodcuts and block prints, with a highly individualized printing technique. We recently secured funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation to carry out photochemical preservation on this title, which contains what is almost certainly the only moving image documentation of this artist at work.
Another (slightly more quixotic) project I’m pursuing involves tapes from the Jefferson Cable Corporation, which ran Charlottesville’s early local origination cable station. These tapes, dating back to the early 1970s, reside on the wildly obsolete 1″ IVC video format. In the the early 1970s 1″ IVC occupied a unique place between the broadcast world of 2″ quadruplex videotape and the accessibility and mobility of 1/2″ EIAJ, both in terms of content and technical possibility. Miraculously for us, the former station employee who donated the tapes to Special Collections also salvaged the station’s original IVC-800 decks, one of which functions.
This deck is currently being cleaned, refurbished, and calibrated, hopefully enabling us to digitize this extremely rare and unique material in-house. These tapes have content that will generate significant local research interest, but could also prove useful in adding geographic diversity to the record of early public access television in the United States.
While there is still much work to be done, there is palpable momentum being felt, both by staff in our department and the researchers with whom we interact.
// Steven Villereal
Preservation Services department
University of Virginia Library