The Terrible Tenets of Video Preservation

By Steve Seid, Video Curator, Pacific Film Archive
1) Video is not a durable good. And was never intended to be.

2) Format obsolescence is the only certainty.

3) If a new storage medium is attractive because it is convenient, do more research.

4) Never allow the linkage between the original materials and the preservation medium to fade: the difference between the two, no matter how minute, should inform all usage.

5) Consider the ephemera, documentation, and recollection surrounding an archived work to be part of it.

6) More resolution than needed is better than almost enough.

7) Understand that in the near future data storage will not be a limitation.

a) Also understand that compression means "gone forever."

8) For every dollar spent in preservation, put aside 25 cents for the next migration.

9) Understanding the context of a work is as important as understanding the physical materials.

10) Always assume that someday you'll return to the original elements.

a) Saving original elements means saving their playback equipment.

11) Assume that the original was better.

12) Never confuse intention with possibility.

  1. Don't assume anything "for" the artist.
  2. Both artist and archivist begin with "ar" but there they part ways.

13) Create a list of works to save, then start at the bottom.

14) The individual components of videotape are dumb, but collectively they are smarter then we are.

15) Remember that rust never sleeps, but archivists do.

16) Save what you can. Don't despair the rest.

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