Last Friday, May 31, the UCLA Library welcomed collector, artist and archivist Rick Prelinger. Rick discussed his work and proposed provocative alternatives to existing modes of archival collection and access. His hour-long illustrated lecture was followed by a lengthy Q&A and was free and open to the public. It was presented by the UCLA Library in partnership with UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies program and Association of Moving Image Archivists Student Chapter, along with support from the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities, the Department of Ethnomusicology and the Ethnomusicology Archive, Melnitz Movies and the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. The presentation was captured on video and will be posted on the Internet in a few weeks. In the meantime, the following are some highlights.
6 stages of Rick’s archival consciousness:
1. Every film is precious
2. Seduced by style
4. Peripheral evidence
5. An egg is just an egg
1. Why do we do what we do? Why do we keep what we keep? Are we collecting in the domain that we should? Is “collecting by chance” potentially a good collecting policy?
2. Do physical objects have the right to exist? Like video tape and newspapers, archivists tend towards preserving the content rather than the object (video is reformatted to digital files, newspapers to microfilm)
3. Personal records are a new frontier. How can we incorporate records of everyday people in collections?
4. Could we do archives like scientists do science? Test hypotheses against reality and use the scientific method! For example, perhaps complete preservation impact statements much like environmental impact statements.
5. How can we bring archival materials into common spaces?
6. What needs to happen remotely and what needs to happen on campus/at the library/archive?
7. How can we encourage users’ exploration?
Challenges and ideas:
1. Let users help us to see our collections in new ways and deepen our codependency on users to transform ourselves.
2. Reward projects that step outside of the box.
3. Permaculture principles thinking can aid the archival workflow to obtain yield and to “use edges and value the marginal”, like regional archives.
4. Make archives DIY, local, open source, relational artworks, a social practice: not just to archive but to try to create a sense of community. With participatory spaces, workshops, archival research commons, etc.
5. Encourage transformative use. Rick showed an artist’s transformative use of AMERICAN THRIFT (1962) as a case study.
6. Home movie ethics: viewing is committing a sense of trespass.
7. Loss can be formative.
8. Diversify the inputs that inform appraisal policy. For example, assemble a random panel of people who have a baseline of reading and writing skills and compare and contrast what they think we should we be saving. And make sure that these appraisal systems can learn over time.
For more documentation of the event, also check out #aaaUCLA13 on Twitter for a record of attendees’ live tweets.
Also last Friday, UCLA’s Melnitz Movies through the Graduate Student Association had a free and open to the public evening event featuring Rick Prelinger. It was a feature-length screening of footage from the Prelinger Archives, curated and contextualized live by Rick as well as audience members. He showed several home movies of Los Angeles, including beautiful color home movies of the UCLA campus in the 1940s and 1950s. The city of Los Angeles was also represented in several rear projection plates, which are films that were projected as the background of moving vehicles in Hollywood feature films. Lastly, Rick shared clips that he has screened at LOST LANDSCAPES: SAN FRANCISCO and LOST LANDSCAPES: DETROIT events, plus the full-length of Redbook Magazine’s IN THE SUBURBS (1957)and the beginning and end of LONG DISTANCE (1941).
Please note: much of the below is taken from the UCLA Library Special Collection’s finding aid, which was vetted by June Wayne herself.
Wayne at an exhibition in the 1950s.
Visual artist June Claire Wayne was born on March 7, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, where she was raised by her divorced mother, Dorothy Alice Kline. At age 15, Wayne dropped out of high school to pursue a career as an artist. By 1938 she had achieved prominence among world-famous writers, actors, artists, and scientists in an international milieu.
When WWII ended, Wayne left Chicago to settle in Los Angeles, where she became an integral part of the California art scene. Inspired by her training in production illustration, Wayne began to produce seminal works of optical art, including The Tunnel and the Kafka series, in the mid 1940s. She continued to expand her artistic horizons, taking up lithography at Lynton Kistler’s facility in 1947. Ten years later, she began collaborating with master printer Marcel Durassier in Paris. In their groundbreaking work on the John Donne suite, Wayne invented many of lithography’s current techniques, vastly expanding the aesthetic potential of the medium. In order to restore the art of lithography in the United States, she founded the Tamarind Lithography Workshop with the support of the Ford Foundation in 1960. Now known as the Tamarind Institute of the University of New Mexico, this organization continues to thrive and help artists become free enterprise workers in the print world.
The collection at the UCLA Library consists of June Wayne’s personal and professional correspondence and documents pertaining to her career as a painter, lithographer, weaver, writer and political and civil activist. Through the Arcadia fund, UCLA Library Preservation Unit has recently undertaken the digitization of many of the rare audiovisual materials in the collection. The contents of these vary, including audio recordings of the Joan of Art seminar series, audio “letters” from June Wayne to Mary Baskett (author of The Art of June Wayne in 1969), home movies, documentation of exhibitions, and many other lectures and interviews of Wayne throughout her career. There is still much work to be done, but eventually the digitized files will be available to researchers through the UCLA Library Digital Collections program.
June Wayne passed away on August 23, 2011 in Los Angeles.
This audio clip is of June Wayne speaking at one of the Joan of Art Seminars in 1972. The original item is held by the UCLA Library’s Special Collections and was reformatted for preservation through the Arcadia fund. Click the following: JoanofArtClip72
My name is Amanda Smith and I graduated this Spring with a master’s degree from UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) program. During the quarter before I graduated, I was an intern in the Preservation Unit of the UCLA Library working with Siobhan Hagan on audiovisual materials. I had a great time and learned a lot, so I wanted to share a little bit of what I did. » Read the rest of this entry «
Frank Zappa discusses music in libraries! This clip is from an interview with Frank Zappa conducted on October 12, 1988 by Martin Perlich. Perlich, a writer, producer and distinguished broadcaster, hosted and produced the interview series ARF!! (Arts & Roots Forum) which aired daily on Los Angeles public radio. The show featured major cultural figures as well as dozens of arts figures. UCLA Library Special Collections holds the Martin Perlich Interviews 1965- Collection. A recent preservation reformatting project uncovered this aural gem: and there will plenty more to come in the near future!
I wanted to share a video of a presentation that the Preservation Unit gave on February 15, 2012 to the UCLA Library Collections Council. While the video explains what the Preservation Unit does and introduces the major players, there has been a huge change since this presentation was given: our fearless leader Jacob Nadal has left UCLA Library for the Brooklyn Historical Society. While we are very sad about this, we are at least somewhat consoled by the very happy news that as of the beginning of April 2012, Dawn Aveline has joined the Preservation Department as Preservation Specialist. » Read the rest of this entry «
Allow me to introduce myself to the readers of the UCLA Library’s Preservation Blog: my name is Siobhan Hagan, and I am the UCLA Library’s new Audiovisual Preservation Specialist (full disclosure: I started in July of 2011, so I am not as “new” as you might think). In Latin, “audio, video, disco” means “I hear, I see, I learn”. I love obsolete things, like Latin and Umatic videocassettes, so I strive for each and every day in my job to include some element of a Disco: to remember that learning is fun, especially in the light of a darkened room with flickers and strobes of unique moving images and sounds. » Read the rest of this entry «
I gave a talk for the Amigos “Digital Preservation: What’s Now? What’s Next” conference today in which I trotted out what I consider one of my better formulations of (one of) the model(s) I use for thinking about preservation. This model says that preservation consists in sustainable efforts, optimized over time. The change is from thinking of “preservation” and “preserved” as closed efforts or checklists of pre-defined actions to be completed. Instead, the focus is on ranking the “preservation” of things and having a process for “preserving” them.
With that distinction made, it becomes clearer that preservation/preserving is a function of strategy and management and that preserved/preservable is a function of technical knowledge about the specific types of objects in an archives’ care. For the strategic side of the process, I think Snowden and Kurtz’ Cynefin model is the most useful thing going, closely followed by Shenton and the British Library’s work on Life-cycle Collection Mangement.
For the objects themselves, I propose the following model:
Substrate: tangible substance(s) that carries media
Media: material(s) that record information
Transport: means(s) for perceiving media
Language: system(s) for interpretation of media
In this way, digital preservation and artifactual preservation can be dealt with as different instances of the same basic problem. Preservation succeeds when failures in all four factors are eliminated, corrected, or mitigated and there is a sustainable process in place that will support prevention and repair or recovery at appropriate times.
On July 15, I led a workshop for UCLA Library staff and some guests from the Southern UCs. We covered a lot of topics that bear on preserving digital collections: specifics of preservation theory as it plays out in digital libraries, creating digital objects, strategies for future access and risk-assessment of contemporary digital objects, metadata, and digital repositories. Obviously this was a broad but shallow overview. The target audience was non-specialists who nonetheless do a lot of work with digital libraries and need to be aware of the issues that are in play.
In the next few days I’ll update this post with my slides and notes. I’d welcome comments and questions from teh attendees. I think we’ll do a refined version in the fall and develop that as a webinar for the UCs. In addition, the California Preservation Program will work with Infopeople to deliver this as a more generalized webinar for non-UC audiences. So, vote early, vote often, and let me know what you’d like to see in version 2.
This could hearken back to my earlier post about tangible records – the cloud is a set of real, live data centers, filled with drives where your files are written and re-written – but instead, I want to call out two numbers: 99.95% and 99.93%. Those are the levels of uptime promised by Amazon’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) and the percentage that Ars determines that they reached after the outage.
At Amazon’s scale, even .07% amounts to a real problem. We experience this in libraries, too. Only a few percent of the 9 million books in the UCLA Library collection are irreparably brittle or damaged, but that’s still a few hundred thousand books.
I think there are two important lessons from this: one is that we need to take our concerns about digital preservation in context. Digital storage and delivery systems are very reliable. On a percentage basis, there’s a case to be made that they’re more reliable than our print storage and delivery systems. In a recent review within the UC, we saw lost/missing rates of about 1%, more than an order of magnitude greater than Amazon’s .07%. Of course, that comparison is not apples-to-apples, or even fruit-to-fruit. Digital systems and print systems are different and distinctive. But I think we should be cautious about our rhetoric. It’s easy to talk about digital preservation problems, but print has plenty of preservation challenges, too.
This a good reminder about what it means to be a trustworthy digital archive. For day-to-day reliability, a network service like Vimeo, Google Video, or YouTube is a good choice. These services farm out the work of good system administration, so that the work is done in an environment that has a high stake in success and is able to operate systems on a scale that leads to tremendous benefits. These services have remarkable uptime, they’re resilient, and they save individuals the pain of managing backup routines and doing recovery tests and all the other hassle of good system administration. For all these reasons, I think that LOCKSS-like network services have tremendous value and need to be a key piece of our preservation infrastructure.
There is another part of the digital preservation problem that has little do with technology. Reliable technology exists in unreliable organizations. If you’re banking with a provider that doesn’t have the same goals for posterity as your do, then you need an exit strategy. This goes for online video services just as it goes for the real estate of a storage facility. » Read the rest of this entry «