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A New Guide for Archiving Digital Video

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The human rights organization,, — who gave a presentation at Digital Preservation 2013 — just published The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video. Though this guide is intended for human rights activists, it covers all aspects of digital video archiving so thoroughly that it is of value to anyone and everyone, from individuals archiving their personal videos to organizations developing digital video archives.

Witness’s staff of professional archivists and video technologists structured the guide in a sequential workflow under the headings Create, Transfer, Acquire, Organize, Store, Catalog, Preserve and Share. Each step in the workflow includes  an example scenario and graphics; details the advantages and disadvantages of certain practices; and provides tips with basic and advanced levels of technical information. The website is displayed in a clean, easily readable layout and each section is filled with links to tools and resources.

From the start, the video-creation process itself, the guide explains metadata, emphasizes its importance and details what metadata to capture, how to capture it (by either embedding it into the video file or describing it on camera visually and verbally) and how to display it. They even alert readers to technological snags, such as the possibility of metadata getting stripped out when transcoding files.

They examine the process of transferring files –- offloading from a camera, over the network or off a storage device –- and stress how crucial it is to constantly verify the integrity of the files by means of checksums/hashes, virus checking and spot checking.  Acquisition steps include content evaluation and deciding what to keep. Organizing emphasizes the need for a logical system of organization, which is equally important for individuals and organizations; links in this section include tools for media management.

The section on storage media and hardware examines storage strategies and compares hardware devices, from simple hard drives to network storage to RAID arrays. Cataloging covers indexing, types of metadata and inventory tools.

Preserve gets to the heart of digital preservation: ensuring long-term accessibility. Since the guide is aimed primarily at human rights organizations, the Preserve section leans toward partnering with institutional archiving. If that is not an option, there is detailed information for building your own professional archive.

Finally, Share looks at issues in providing access to your videos: posting videos online, creating finding aids, controlling levels of access, copyrights and — given the dangerous climate that human rights organizations may operate in — security and identity.

Witness may have written the guide for human rights organizations but the digital-preservation information contained in the guide has been gleaned from the digital archive, library and video technology practices. The authors have managed to extract the nucleus from each issue in digital preservation, combine and organize them all  in a logical flow and explain them in a manner so direct and clear that the guide could be easily understood by most people.


Comments (2)

  1. This is awesome and super-useful — it would be great to see more online resources like this specifically for artists looking to archive their work. This is a great resource – thank you for posting it and thanks to for developing it. Though some of it is specific for their interests – a lot of it crosses over for other people interested in archiving moving images.

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