Internship Report: Lyudmyla Bua

November 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

As a pre-program art conservation student, the prospect of traveling across the country to be under the tutelage of Kristen St. John at the UCLA Library Conservation Center [LCC] was thrilling. Before starting any projects, I was able to have a conversation with Kristen regarding what I was hoping to achieve from this internship. My objective was to further enhance my understanding of treatments of ephemeral materials, as well as to learn basic treatments for book conservation. Outside of treatments, I also wanted to learn how to make various enclosures for future storage of objects. Kristen made sure I fulfilled my goals and so much more. Before starting treatment, I read articles, wrote condition reports, and photo-documented to get to know the object.

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Halloween with Frederik Ruysch by Amanda Burr

October 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


 My work as a conservation technician for the UCLA Libraries Conservation Center exposes me to a broad range of materials from special collections.  I relish the surprises that come my way and love to tell friends about what I learn from these objects.  I am very pleased, then, to have the chance to share with you a book which, just in time for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, teems with macabre images of skeletons, disembodied organs, and fetuses preserved in jars.

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Internship Report: Ashleigh Russell

October 23rd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink


July 2013 saw me begin an eight week internship at UCLA Libraries Conservation Center, under the skilled supervision of collections conservator Kristen St. John. These past 8 weeks have sadly flown by and my time at UCLA Libraries Conservation Center (LCC) has been inspiring, challenging, rewarding and incredibly valuable to me in terms of my continued development as a conservator looking towards graduate level study.

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Never Judge A Tape By Its Shell, Part II (The Song That Never Ends)

September 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

My last blog post introduced some tricky video formats that could potentially store audio information in their depths. As promised, here is the continuation of that story. We left off pondering the differences between Betamax and Betacam. Betamax was released in 1975 with a horizontal resolution of approximately 250 lines. In 1983 Sony introduced BetaHi-Fi, where your Betamax tape recorded FM audio tracks with separate audio heads. There was also a VHS competitor for this known as VHS Hi-Fi. These formats were attractive as they provided noticeably higher quality audio than the popular compact cassettes. The bandwidth allocated to Betamax Hi-Fi was 500 kHz as opposed to VHS Hi-Fi’s 150 kHz. Eventually with the addition of PCM units Betamax could record full CD quality digital audio information on a video tape. There was a SuperBetamax format with approximately 300 lines of horizontal resolution and an “Extended Definition” or ED Betamax with 500 lines of horizontal resolution. Alas, their introduction came too late and JVC and its VHS tape won the format war. The last Betamax machine was manufactured in America in 1993.

 Betcam came on the scene in 1982, modeled after Betamax but using component video rather than composite and with a much higher tape speed. It also had 300 lines of horizontal resolution and a much higher chrominance resolution than Betamax. With Betacam SP came 340 lines of horizontal resolution and  two tape sizes: cameras used the small size and tape editing and playback decks could use either the large or the small size. Betacam SP also used a totally different magnetic tape formula than any previous iteration (Metal-formulated versus ferric oxide). A feature of Betacam SP decks is that they can play back regular Betacam tapes as well. Technically they could also potentially play back Betamax tapes, but since the newer decks travel at faster speeds, it is not recommended. Digital Betacam and Betacam SX cross over into the digital realm of recording video signals to tape—and frankly, I don’t even want to go there right now.

Lastly, I would like to introduce the format known as Fischer-Price’s PixelVision (or PXL-2000). Released in 1987, this was a format marketed specifically for children and young adults to record low resolution video signals onto their mounds of cheap, already purchased audio compact cassette tapes. In order to do this, PixelVision camera’s recorded bandwidths remarkably lower than a standard TV video signal, while at the same time utilizing a higher speed than audio requires in order to increase the bandwidth of the tape. There was also a special accompanying display monitor for playback. Each tape recorded approximately 10 minutes of footage.

The moral of the story is: you can find a collection of “mixed tapes” lovingly recorded onto VHS; a live professional musical performance’s PCM audio stored on Betamax (which you could theoretically play in a Betacam SP deck); and some 12-year-old aspiring filmmaker’s remake of GODZILLA on a compact cassette tape. All bets are off with magnetic tape. Happy hunting, my archivist friends!

<<Siobhan Hagan

Resources for this article:;; and

Never Judge A Tape By Its Shell: Part I (Beta)

September 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I recently taught a two day workshop in processing archival AV collections. The main objective of this workshop was to teach a handful of professionals how to identify key information from a collection full of audiovisual materials: information that can help them to understand what their organizations need to do to preserve these items. The first day of the workshop involved my lecturing and showing pictures of format examples that we would more than likely run into at a university archive. I was teaching up a storm how to ID the most basic of AV formats: and this is no easy feat as there are a ton of them! By the end of the first day I was feeling very confident indeed.

The second day we divided up into four groups, each with their own laptop, inventorying what turned out to be a collection of 4,000+ items. An hour into this, and my confidence deflated: we quickly ran into a lot of format recognition issues. Which honestly is typical with collections from the latter half of the 20th Century, but as an AV geek I took that for granted. Basic AV ID is not really so basic at all. From the 1920s to the 1950s, you will find acetate 8mm or 16mm film, 35mm film as acetate or nitrate. Once video came around in the late 1950s and Super 8mm in the 1960s, things started to get a lot more complicated. I love this complication because with numerous amateur moving image formats came competitive pricing, which brought movie making to the masses. The moving image method of communication no longer was only for the upper middle class due to expense and expertise needed. However much I love this fact (and realize that I would never know what I sounded like as a 3 year old without cheap home video), it sure can make life as an archivist really confusing. There were several formats we ran into that I did not cover in my previous day-long lecture: SoundScriber, an audio dictation format that looks like green 45’s; an MII video cassette tape; the difference between diacetate decomposition versus triacetate decomposition; and then, amongst boxes and boxes of Betacam tapes, we found this:

Two things stood out to me about this format: 1.) I had no idea Eastman Kodak got into the video cassette business, and 2.) despite this having the Betamax logo on it (the Greek symbol for “beta”) nowhere did it say “Betamax” or “Betacam”. Considering these tapes were recorded by the Athletics Department of a university, and it was stored with a bunch of other Betacams (and Betacam SPs), then this is probably a Betacam. I don’t think they would’ve switched recording technology, especially since Betacam SP is so much higher in quality (and therefore expense) than Betamax. But I wanted to supply some sort of definitive answer for the workshop attendees, not just a day full of maybe’s and probably’s. Turns out that Betacam and Betamax are mostly interchangeable, so the only way to tell the difference is by popping these questionable tapes into a machine—which we didn’t have on hand and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing if it was a very unique recording (which it did seem to be).  Oh, and just to trip you up a little bit more, it could also just be audio, because you can record audio-only on Betamax tapes which people occasionally did (probably more often than I would like to think). I would make an assumption that since this was once again recorded by the Athletics Department, they wanted visuals and not just audio, as the visuals are the most important aspect in studying game film (my Dad was a football coach). The solution turned out to be that there is no solution! What is the exact different between Betamax and Betacam? Oh, and then what about Betacam SP, SX or Digital Betacam? Tune in to the next UCLA Library Preservation Unit blog to find out, as well as more about another tricky AV format you might have hiding in your attic or your archive: Fischer-Price’s PixelVision!


<<Siobhan Hagan

Lots of labels (pt. 2)

August 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

This second blog post focuses on paper labels that have been cut into patterns before being adhered to the bookbindings. For pictures of other types of labels (ownership, library, etc), see my post from last week.

I find these cut paper labels completely charming. They record a title and sometimes composers name. The labels are adhered on to the front board of a binding. The bindings themselves are not luxurious and usually have paper covered boards or sometimes green vellum. I’ve seen marbled paper, paste papers, block printed paper, and solid-colored paper. As with the previous post click on an image for a larger view of the label. And again apologies for the poor quality cellphone photos taken in a dim basement!

The label below comes from Ferdinand Cortez: Oper in 3 Acten by Gaspare Spontini  (M1503.S77feG 1832):









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Lots of labels (pt.1)

August 20th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink


As I’m finishing up surveying our Performing Arts Antiquarian Collection, I’ve started to go through the cellphone photos I’ve taken in terrible light of delightful collections. This is the first blog post of two on labels I’ve seen over many months. In this post I will share a broad range of label types, while a second post will examine more closely the cut pattern type of label at the top of this post  (the one above is from Abraham auf Moria by Johann Rolle M2003.R74A27 1785).

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New Preservation Unit Head announced!

August 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Yesterday University Librarian Virginia Steel announced our new unit head, Dawn Aveline. Here’s an excerpt from her message:

I am pleased to announce the appointment of our new Head of Preservation, Dawn Aveline, effective today, Thursday, August 1, 2013.

For the past year, Dawn Aveline has served as the Preservation Specialist in the UCLA Library’s Preservation Department. Prior to that role, Dawn worked closely with Jake Nadal in Preservation as a Library Assistant from November 2010 – March 2012. From September 2006 – October 2010 she was a Business Development Manager for Fluidity Design Consultants in Hollywood, California. In 2002-2006, at Fox Entertainment Group, Dawn assisted the vice president in charge of information technology infrastructure services, where she gained broad expertise and understanding of state of the art digital and information technologies, project management and stewardship of digital assets. Dawn holds a Masters of Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archival Studies from UCLA. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Civilization with a minor in Italian from Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana, and a Baccalauréat in Literature from Lycée Gustave Monod, Enghien-les-Bains, France. Dawn is an active member of Preservation Administrators Group, Co-Chair of the Book and Paper Interest Group in ALA, Steering Committee Member of Los Angeles Preservation Network (LAPNet) and has presented on a wide variety of preservation, stewardship and collection management topics. Dawn is active in the letterpress, typography design, Arduino programming and maker communities. She is also an enthusiastic advocate in the value of collaboration, team-building, planning and stewardship.

 All of us in Preservation are excited to continue our work with Dawn and support her efforts as Head of our Unit.



The MoviePak Blues

June 28th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

MoviePaks are plastic cartridges holding Super 8mm film inside of it, spliced together in a loop to play continuously on a specially made rear projection machine. The MoviePaks we came across were manufactured by Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corporation as well as Dumont Instrumentation, Inc., had magnetic stripe soundtracks, and the color had seriously faded to red. We approximate that these date from the early to mid-1970s. These are also mostly duplicates of films and are not the only copy that we have in our holdings, although you may across something unique on a MoviePak (the only extant copy of an organization’s training film or something).

These cartridges are pretty awful and the film can get snagged, scratched, and the perforations scraped away very easily (despite the film being made from the more durable polyester plastic base). The only choice is to crack it open, cut the loop where its initial splice was made, and slowly and carefully reel it on an appropriately sized reel. Super 8 film is like a wily teenager and will do what it wants to do: just anticipate and be patient. And clear your calendar.

I hope you enjoy our video we made of how best to relieve the Movie from its Pak. Don’t forget the middle screw! Performing this feat is our new intern, Lauren O’Connor. Lauren is not wearing gloves, as suggested by her supervisor, since she thoroughly washed and dried her hands multiple times, and because the “gloves had to come off” for dealing with snot-nosed Super 8mm film. The music in the video was downloaded from the Internet Archive and is a 1922 recording of Ladd’s Black Aces playing “I’ve Got to Have My Daddy Blues” (because MoviePaks can certainly give you the blues).

<<Siobhan Hagan, AV Preservation Specialist

Internship Report: Javier Servin

June 26th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

My name is Javier Servin and I am a recent graduate of the Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) program at UCLA. During my last quarter at UCLA, I had the opportunity to intern in the Library’s Preservation Unit AV Lab working with various audiovisual collections. I had a blast going through the different materials in the collections and learned a great deal from Siobhan Hagan, the Unit’s fearless leader and Audiovisual Preservation Specialist. While all the collections are important and contain infinite research opportunities, two of the collections stood out as my favorites to work with.

The first of my favorites is the Synanon Foundation Records collection, which consists of film, video and audio recordings of the foundation’s events and recruitment material. The Synanon Foundation was originally a drug rehabilitation program founded in Santa Monica in the late 1950s that eventually became an alternative community in the 1960s and ultimately a church in the 1970s before being disbanded in 1989 as a result of various criminal activities allegedly committed by its founder and members. I enjoyed working with this collection because it highlighted a segment of Los Angeles history that I personally had never come across.
In working with the Synanon collection, I updated the inventory of the materials so that it conformed to the newly adopted naming conventions of the Preservation AV Lab. I also inspected and rehoused some of the super 8mm reels and cartridges that contained films documenting and promoting the foundation’s activities. One such film is INSTANT GUIDE TO SYNANON (1973), which contains lots of funky transitions and animations. Loved it.

The second of my favorite collections is the SOUL Publications, Inc. collection, which consists of audio recordings of performances and interviews with different celebrities including Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross. My favorite recording is 1978 phone interview with Mick Jagger that captures a candid moment with his daughter (listen to the full interview). My work on this collection included comparing the documented running time of the clips against their actual running time and checking the links for each clip to ensure that they properly played. I enjoyed working with this collection because I got to listen to some fascinating sound bites from some of my favorite artists.

My time at the UCLA Library’s Preservation Unit was not only fun, but highly instructive. Siobhan strived to tailor the internship to meet my interests. For example, I expressed a desire to work with formats that I had no previous experience with and she made sure that I got plenty of practice handling Super 8mm film. Siobhan rocks and so does the internship at the Preservation Unit.