MDOS Mini-Newsletter - April 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for taking the time to read this first of our MDOS Mini-Newsletters! Through these Mini-Newsletters we will gather updates on the achievements, successes, and obstacles tackled by our colleagues, with the aim of highlighting their excellent work and providing points of connection for those of us dealing with similar projects. Our gratitude also goes to our first contributors, Alexandra Dolan-Mescal (Digital Programs Manager) and Chris Nicols (AV Archivist) of the NYC Municipal Archives Digital Projects team, and Wendy Guerra, Digital Initiatives Archivist & Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Please find their updates below.


Digital Projects team, NYC Municipal Archives

The New York City Municipal Archives recently published online 1,345 videos and films from the WNYC-TV collection, the result of years of work by a team of permanent and grant-funded archivists. The collection contains material from the 1940s to the 1990s, mostly 16mm films, u-matic and betacam tapes. 

WNYC-TV, a public broadcaster, began transferring the physical collection in stages to the Municipal Archives in 1996, soon after the station was sold by the city to a private corporation. But this transfer did not include an official inventory. The collection was catalogued from scratch roughly ten years later by a cinema studies doctoral student who did not have the equipment to watch the items or formal archival training in description. Most of the titles in the inventory are direct transcriptions of what was written on the decaying original labels of the cans and cases, and many of the labels were inaccurate or illegible. The current inventory of the collection consists of 2,203 video tapes and 4,366 films, for a total of 6,569 roughly catalogued items.

Physical storage issues also led to a number of challenges in digitizing the collection. Both the tapes and films were stored at roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while the ideal for mixed moving image collections is roughly 40 degrees. Worse, the humidity levels fluctuated during the summer months from 20 to 80% RH. Using A-D test strips, archivists surveyed ¼ of the film collection to determine the level of vinegar syndrome, finding many at or approaching the auto-catalytic range. Sticky shed syndrome in the video tapes necessitated baking on many u-matics from the mid 1980s, while some were too far gone.

Despite these obstacles, the NYCMA is happy to be able to share these unique moving image records of New York City in the Post-War Era. Description and digitization are an ongoing effort, as well as programming around the episodic and themed content of the TV station's output. Stay tuned!

Archives and Special Collections, The University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries

The University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries' Archives and Special Collections is piloting a new approach for the creation and description of their digital collections. With the goal of dramatically increasing the amount of digital collections available online while providing meaningful work and relevant experience for students, the Digital Initiatives Archivist Wendy Guerra is combining the efforts of student employees with those of remote interns. They are currently working on their third collection using the method of an onsite student employee creating digital objects before a remote intern adds descriptive metadata to collection-specific MODS record templates created by Guerra. Digital objects are undergoing limited editing to reflect the truest imaging possible from Epson Expressions XLs and Fujitsu fi-7460s, but metadata is being embedded within each object to ensure that it can be traced back to the digital collection to which it belongs. Coordinating digital object access via SharePoint and the LYRASIS hosted digital asset management system Islandora was initially a little complicated, but the process becomes smoother with each new collection. The same is true in terms of navigating remote interns' limited accessibility to Adobe Acrobat, Bridge, and Photoshop and Oxygen XML editor. Guerra continues to explore how opportunities can be maximized to give students the broadest range of digital collections work.


Our thanks again to our first contributors! If you would like to submit your own update for next month's Mini-Newsletter, please email MDOS Education Coordinator Natalia Gutiérrez-Jones and Social Media Coordinator Christy Bailey-Tomecek by Thursday, May 27th. If interested in becoming involved with the work of the MDOS Steering Committee, please view the Call for Candidates included below.

All the best,

The MDOS Steering Committee