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Digital Fragility is Just the Beginning

May 4th, 2011 · No Comments


There has been much written recently about digital fragility. Researchers and archivists have heard dueling longevity and futuristic projections. In trying to push this dire need without appearing like Chicken Little, I have embarked on serious primary research to expose the sheer volume of the problem. The in-depth article will be coming out in a professional journal within the year. Until then, I felt that I needed to speak up a bit about the need for our activism.

Between my teaching digital archiving courses and my work with clients, this issue has been prevalent in each work day. In fact, while re-processing an archives for a client, a case of 5 ¼” floppy discs were found. No one in-house knew exactly if these were of value, what was on them or even if they were created by the organization. When we offered to open them on a computer with a floppy drive, we were told just to throw them out. This is the fear that archivists are living with. Each time an archivist approaches this obsolete media, the questions come: How many others are out there? How many are being thrown out because it is easier? How many are left? How long do I save them? If I am able to find a player/drive/ etc. will I be open the software that the data is formatted in? Will it even be playable? Are we missing decades of human knowledge? How long will this continue? How can archivists slow down the moving train of media change? Can archivists increase re-formatting awareness? Is reformatting my only option? Where does emulation stand? Who do I call? Who do I write? How do I make a difference in this loss that flies in the face of everything my profession holds dear?

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Category: Archiving Challenges · Digital Obsolescence · Media Obsolescence · Preservation

Documenting the Movie Industry’s Paper Promotional Materials

September 27th, 2010 · 2 Comments


Illustrators are often the least known and most quickly forgotten members of the art world and as such, so many of their artistic creations are lost in our disposable society. Illustrators are the creative forces behind the images on everything from greeting cards to cereal boxes to advertising – including movie posters. All too often, the work of illustrators survives only because of the relationships between dealers who sell the ephemera and the collectors who drive the market. Scholarly information tends to be severely lacking, patchy, or extremely incomplete on movie poster ephemera. Often with collectibles, the best reference guides are written and compiled by collectors.

Ed and Susan Poole have been avid collectors of the movie industry’s “paper accessories” beginning with their first purchase in the mid-1970’s – a poster for one of Susan’s favorite movies: Gidget. Because of their decades long interest in the subject, the Pooles are regarded as experts in their field and have published several favorably reviewed books on movie posters. In addition, they maintain a website, Learn About Movie Posters (LAMP), where interested individuals can learn more about movie posters and buyers and sellers can connect to trade their wares. At the beginning of 2010, the Poole’s announced their commitment to developing an online archive of movie ephemera, Movie Poster Data Base. In early April, according to a posting to the Association of Moving Image Archivists listserv by Ed Poole, they already had developed a robust collection of information in their database including:

  • 3,000+ silent studios worldwide
  • 15,000+ NSS trailer numbers for identifying unknown trailers
  • 25,000+ production codes for identifying unknown stills
  • 30,000+ NSS poster and accessory numbers for identifying titles and reissues
  • 81,000 poster images online in our archive and cross referenced


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Category: Friday Fun Site · Preservation

Is Preservation Cost Prohibitive?

September 8th, 2010 · 2 Comments


This is a big question for our AMPed Blog. The topic came up in a staff meeting talking about comments we have heard from local archives. When you talk about the costs for archival supplies, HVAC maintenance, staffing, reformatting, yearly examination for any degradation, rotating films, tapes, etc., the budgets can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, easily. Does this add up to one answer, which is pure migration?

The topic also came up roughly on the AMIA listserv early in 2010. Had we as archivists made a horrible error in judgment by focusing on cool storage instead of migration? Though I mentioned that in an earlier blog post, I have to say that the issue has remained on my mind ever since.

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Category: Archiving Challenges · Preservation

Long-term Website Preservation Uncertainties

October 28th, 2009 · No Comments


Since the advent of the Internet, floodgates have opened with people creating all forms of documents put on the web. And with open source and proprietary software, the proliferation of websites and blogs has been nearly overwhelming. But will all that material be around a year or five from now? What will exist in the future? How will it be archived? Internet content creators cannot be certain that their material will be around for years to come. A lot of people might be OK with that, but if they do want their sites around for posterity, they should be proactive in saving their works.

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Category: Archiving Challenges