Audiovisual Materials and Issues with Degradation and Storage: 2017 Annual Conference

This session was directed toward library or museum staff members tasked with responsibilities for audiovisual collections. It provided basic and intermediate level information about these materials and their challenges, and addressed concerns about care and handling. An overarching theme was the relationship of the physical make-up of these materials to the appropriate preservation response to their damage.

Katie Risseeuw, the Preservation Librarian from Northwestern University, opened this meeting by introducing the participants. They were: Siobhan C. Hagan, President and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive (MARMIA); Rachael Stoeltje, Director and Associate Librarian, Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive; and Kristin MacDonough (Digitization Specialist) from the Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Rather than offer a traditional panel, the participants gave sequential presentations that built on each other, providing context for newcomers to the field and continuity for those with more experience.

Siobhan Hagan offered the first segment with an outline of audiovisual materials and their basic preservation challenges. She first discussed moving images, beginning with acetate film. She covered vinegar syndrome, nitrate degradation, biological degradation, i.e., mold or pests, and color fading. She continued by noting preventative and remediating preservation actions that can make a difference in the shelf-lives of these objects. These initiatives included: staff handling and storage at both the macro level (building heat and humidity) and micro level (shelving practices and media housing), as well as keeping areas clean and dust-free.

She then addressed video (magnetic) formats. She talked about binder hydrolysis (sticky shed syndrome). She went on to discuss the ideal storage environment, again in terms of macro environments (low relative humidity and temperature, with few fluctuations) and micro environments (vertical storage preferred/use of enclosures). She discussed audio formats (acetate and magnetic), and noted that their ideal storage is similar to storage for video formats.

Rachel Stoelje covered more specific and more complex territory as she focused on resources for preservation solutions. She referred the audience to the IPI (Image Permanence Institute) Media Storage Quick Reference, as a condensed, thorough reference resource. She also recommended that audience members consult AMIA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives), IULMIA (Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive) and IFFA (International Federation of Film Archives) for media handling and storage procedures. As a preservation planning strategy for photograph collections, she recommended segregating materials by physical type. For instance, she suggested that keeping photographs together would foster quick recovery in a situation where wet photographs required freezing (regarding negatives, she also mentioned the “Critical Moisture Indicator” (CMI) package noting that it creates a “microclimate within a microclimate”). She also mentioned that the National Park Service Publications regarding photo and negative materials, storage and preservation are useful resources:

Kristen MacDonough gave the final segment of the program, and took a more historical approach to the discussion of video. She offered background on the Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as a very brief introduction to the VideoFreex Archive (housed at the Video Data Bank, but explored in a later, in-depth presentation at the conference). She mentioned particular challenges of this format—it can become unplayable (due to damage caused by hydrolysis), and it can become “squeaky” (a sign of lubricant drying out)—and briefly mentioned several conservation treatments that can be utilized for damaged video.

While the session completely filled the allotted time slot, the participants did stay to answer questions.

Reported by Ann C. Kearney