For June the DC Section met at the offices of the Smithsonian Institution Archives to hear a presentation on preservation and migration of videotape content. The SI Archives was a particularly appropriate venue as they had just purchased a SAMMA Solo migration workstation from SAMMA Systems, whose VP of Product Development, Bland McCartha, came to town for the presentation.
Mr. McCartha began with a general explanation of the philosophy behind digital migration and some statistics on the challenges of migrating large archives. The underlying concept is that conventional tape formats (both analog and
digital) have a limited lifespan in terms of media degradation and access to playback equipment. The current view of many archivists is that the long-term solution to preserving valuable content is to migrate from tape to digital files. By removing the need for special equipment and large climate-adjusted libraries the file-based material can be handled in the same way as the huge volume of data in other industries (banking, insurance, etc.) rather than specifically as "video" data.
SAMMA Systems founder, Jim Lindner, developed a particular philosophy for making this migration feasible when faced with the immense time requirements needed to individually check tapes for degradation, capture the content, QC the files, deal with metadata associated with each tape and also produce "proxy" files for viewing. SAMMA's large-scale systems include robotics which automatically perform all of the above functions with little operator intervention. The smaller-scale Solo provides the same capture and data management functions without the robotics.
After an enlightening (and sobering) presentation about an issue that affects virtually everyone at the meeting, attendees were able to view demos of the SAMMA Solo and tour the SI Archives media preservation lab.
The DC Section would like to thank Sarah Stauderman and her SI staff for graciously hosting the meeting, and Bland McCartha and SAMMA Systems for a valuable and timely presentation!
-- Eric Wenocur, Section Manager and Program Chair
Meeting attendees at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Bland McCartha of SAMMA Systems and Sarah Stauderman of the SI Archives