AMIA Symposium 2019

By Nicole Gauvreau

On February 18, 2019, the McGill student chapter of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) held their annual symposium. This year the symposium featured four student presentations, three presentations from current professionals, and a Q&A with a panel of professionals.

The Student Presentations

First Paige Stewart, MISt II, presented on the ongoing digitization project for CKUT 90.3’s collection of small batch release, Canadiana, and Montreal music cassettes, some of which are now unique. While previous digitization and transfer projects have been carried out, they were done in collaboration with ArcMTL; Stewart has developed a new workflow for the current project that is suitable for implementation by CKUT 90.3’s 8 staff and 250 volunteers. All volunteers will undergo a training in the digitization process to empower them to carry out the process on their own, with the guidance of a workflow document or wiki.

Next, Laura Jacyna, MISt II, presented her “Review of audiovisual archive case studies in Africa.” Jacyna’s compared audiovisual archives in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Botswana, and Namibia and presented on the contents and common problems face by the archives, including a lack of trained professionals, a variety of obsolete formats, and funding that most often comes from foreign sources.

The third presenter, Pamela Smofsky, MISt II, shared her ongoing home movie digitization process. Smofsky’s family has a large collection of home movies from 1991 to 2008 on VHS, Hi8, and DV tapes. Due to previous conversion of VHS to DVD, Smofsky is currently working on the Hi8 tapes. Smofsky’s workflow includes digitizing in real time (around 2 hours per tape), editing multi-event videos into individual events and adding metadata, and saving the videos to two separate external hard drives.

Finally, Emma Wilson, MISt II, presented on the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City, which accepts everything from self-identified lesbians, including ephemera, gossip, and rumour. The Herstory Archives also maintains a fabricated history archive of photos and a mockumentary about the fictitious Fae Richards in order to represent women who lived but whose lives were not recorded. Wilson’s final takeaway on the archives was that institutions should privilege ephemera, gossip, and even fabricated evidence to reconstruct marginalized narratives.

The Professional Presentations

The first of the professional presentations came from Alexandra Mills, Special Collections Archivist for Concordia University. As part of her work, Mills has assessed the digital special collections at Concordia to identify A/V formats, ultimately identifying over 6,200 original recordings and an unknown number of copies in analogue and digital formats across 51 fonds on a variety of carriers. In the collections, originals have been saved, often in multiple identical copies, with inconsistent metadata that leads to a risk of inauthenticity or dubious quality. Thus, a need to make metadata consistent and find multiples for version control is needed and being implemented.

Next, Louis Rastrelli, director and co-founder of ArcMTL, presented on ArcMTL’s collection generally, and more specifically the digitization of VHS tapes documenting the 1980s Montreal hardcore punk scene. ArcMTL’s collections focus on small press, printed and poster art, and A/V material from the 1960s to today, which means they have many legacy formats from the 1960s to the 1990s. In 2017, hundreds of tapes related to the 1980s punk scene were donated. As ArcMTL does not use legacy formats for access, it is necessary to perform a physical evaluation and then digitize all the tapes and their labels and inserts. At ArcMTL this process means using machines from the era in which the carrier was made and using as high of a sampling rate as possible, but that isn’t higher than the resolution of the carrier for the best results.

Finally, Alexandra Jokinen, Digital Processing Archivist for the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), presented on complex digital objects in archives. As an architecture institution, the CAA’s archives contain many complex digital objects, especially CAD files, on a variety of carriers, including 5.5-inch floppies and 8 mm data cartridges. Accessing and maintaining these files often requires specialized hardware and software. At the CAA, this has led to using BitCurrator, disk imaging tools (such as Kryoflux), write blockers to ensure data can’t be modified, Nimbi (a disk imaging robot), specialized programs to summarize and analyze data, and manual file normalization. Presently there is no public access to digitized material, but a plan is in development so that people can directly access DIPs.

From the panel:

Finding jobs in archives: Listservs, ArchivesGig and the SAA jobsite.

Organizations to join: AMIA, IASA, ARSC

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