Nothing quite strikes fear in our hearts like a deadline and Deadline 2025 is just four short years over the horizon.
Deadline 2025 is the international consensus among audio-visual archives that the contents of magnetic audio and video tapes are at grave risk of being lost forever. This is not only because magnetic tapes deteriorate over time but also because the machines needed to play them are obsolete and running out of parts.
So, what is the State Library of South Australia doing to save the tens of thousands of hours of our State’s precious audio and video collections from this looming deadline?
Our Digitisation and Digital Preservation Team digitise and digitally preserve unique South Australian archival and published audio-visual materials. Digitising the audio collections began in 2004 and video followed a few short years later in 2012.
Magnetic media presents many challenges. These formats require playback on equipment long obsolete. To keep the studios running we buy legacy equipment and stockpile machines and spare parts. Often, we need to buy several machines and piece the best parts together to make one machine operational – what we like to call ‘Frankensteining’. The media itself degrades over time in many ways depending on the original manufacturing process.
Staff with expert knowledge are needed to:
Large-scale digitisation projects will allow us to achieve our deadline targets.
The library has reduced its backlog to 13,193 tapes but continues to receive important donations. For example, film director Scott Hicks’s archival records include 262 videos and audiotapes. We have recently purchased a Cinedeck video ingest digitisation system to aid in reducing this backlog even further. This new two-channel system will run alongside the library's original SAMMA Solo system purchased in 2012. Both old and new systems will be used in the countdown to 2025.
We have been digitising our Audiovisual collections for over 17 years and there is already a lot of our magnetic material digitised. Some notable milestones include the JD Sommerville Oral History collection and South Australian published music on cassette. Both groups consist of thousands of hours of audio and consequently terabytes of data ready to be ingested into our Digital Preservation system, Preservica.
We still have a lot of work to do to reach our goal of digitising our magnetic media by the 2025 deadline. However, we celebrate World Day of Audiovisual Heritage #WDAH and the work already completed and share some of the priceless gems within our collection like this video excerpt from 1986.
Written by the Digitisation and Digital Preservation Team