[Table of Contents]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

RE: [AV Media Matters] Let's just get rid of tape and optical media entirely

After reading your most recent post about storage, media and the associated
problems we all now face I thought that it would be an appropriate time to
express my opinion about the topic too.  At the National Air & Space Museum
the Aeronautics Dept. in cooperation with the Archives Dept. decided to
begin copying a specially selected collection of analog cassette tapes onto
CD-R's 3 years ago, it is slowly and steadily moving ahead.  The basic
concept was to migrate the analog material on these tapes to a digital
format.  This was decided for a variety of reasons.  It was understood that
by doing so we would be creating at best a transitional archival format,
nothing more.  By no means is CD-R or for that matter even CD technology
the long term solution we all are seeking.  Even if the media lasts for 20,
50 or even 100 years the nascent question is how long will the playback
devices be around?  Personally I do not know of any audio or video media
that is currently available, which can be described as robust en
ough to be considered truly archival.  Aside from engraved information on
granite blocks what really is and even that media is problematic (chuckle).
This interim move to CD-R was intended to provide the most reasonable and
cost effective means of securing the information from possible future loss
and at the same time making the material readily available.   It is of
course far easier and quicker to use when it comes to search and index
functions.  The real importance here is enabling researchers and staff to
have access to the information and that is a central part of the whole
equation.  Concurrent with the production of the CD-R's analog cassette
copies are also being made, eventually there will be a clone copy of the CD
made for daily use.  All the relevant is being catalogued in a data base
file (FileMaker-Pro).  The dbase eventually will be used to generate the
finding aid for the collection.

For the moment lets put the complex issue of CD-R longevity aside.  It was
determined that the reel to reel format would not be a cost effective means
to archive the material, nor would it be a viable playback format in the
not to distant future.  Certainly I realize we can go round and round on
this topic so here is the "off ramp" if you will.  It is not the format of
the digital media that matters as much as the fact that analog information
needs to be migrated to the digital domain while it is still practicable.
Yes it is true that there are several manufactures who are still producing
good reel to reel and cassette machines and of course there are number of
very good "used" pieces still available, Ampex, Studer, Nagra, Tascam,
Otari etc... but eventually the 'well' will run dry.  Just as importantly
the rubber parts, belts idles, pinch rollers will need to be replaced not
to mention alignment tapes, heads, motors, gears, etc... and then what.  So
being prepared for that eventuality by implementing a move
 to the digital domain makes sense. The next step as I have already
suggested is not to focus too long on which media format to migrate to but
rather when to make the move to do it.  The NASM collection I am referring
to is not a very large one, we are working with a small budget and a small
staff but the point is it is getting done.  But what will happen to all the
other museums, archives, libraries and collections nationwide, no make that
world wide, if they are not prepared or equipped for this eventuality?
Seemingly it appears that there will be a significant loss of these
particular assets and information at least from my perspective, but who can
say for sure.  The idea of moving from the analog domain to the digital
might not seem practical or cost effective but there is little else that
can be done with these formats and the information stored on them.

What I propose is the following, shared Meta Data storage servers.  Media
in general need not be kept on site, as a matter of fact many archival
holdings are currently being stored in this manner already, so why not this
format.   It does not seem practical to build a special facility for this
purpose or does it?  With the ready availability of commercial operations
that can facilitate such storage of data it seems that there maybe a cost
effective solution available.  If a co-operative venture were to be
initiated with the plan of cost sharing then it seems that there is a good
possibility that even a small organization could effectively store and
retrieve their information inexpensively.  Most importantly the information
could be made readily available, much in the same way the the digital files
are currently available at the Library of Congress National Digital
Library.  Additionally when it came time for the information to be migrated
to even a highly sophisticated "quantum" storage device or holographic
matrix or what ever the "next best thing" will be the information would be
readily available for just such a move.  Such a plan could assure the
viability of preserving just about any collection, regardless if it is
audio or moving image.  In the meantime the original material need not be
disposed of only stored safely.  These ideas need to be explored and
developed but what I think I propose here is tenable, economically viable
and of general interest to many if not all of us.  I welcome comments,
criticisms and of course any and all possibilities.


[Subject index] [Index for current month] [Table of Contents]