Danny Kuchuck, PRO-TEK Nitrate Team Lead, submits his thoughts on the recent Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference:
AMIA 2013, just concluded, was held in beautiful downtown Richmond, Virginia. While there were various case studies and papers presented, I think it’s fair to say the theme was, if not intentional, the divergence between analog and digital and all the confusion (and opportunities) in between.
Wayne Martin from Kodak explained that they will continue to manufacture and sell film and are very sensitive to the fact that there is a perception out there that they will not continue to serve the film community. They clearly still make money, particularly from archiving related stocks and as long as there is demand, they will supply. Rick Utley, PRO-TEK VP, points out that way back in 1996, at the AMIA conference in Atlanta, he put together a panel with Kodak execs, to address a common fear / rumor: that Kodak was going to discontinue black and white preservation stocks. This wasn’t true, but it still needed to be addressed and debunked. That was almost 20 years ago, but it’s relevant for keeping things in perspective now. As for film itself, the medium, as archivists, we have to be format agnostic, but it’s still good to know the truth versus the perception.
Speaking to that, David Walsh, the Head of Digital Collections from the Imperial War Museum presented some interesting numbers. In the recent period between 2011-2012, over 22,300 (2000’) rolls of new film stock was bought by various archives, preservationists and institutions. Again – we know the numbers of digital materials continue to grow, but analog and other mediums still exist and need attention and innovation.
Pat Loughney from the Library of Congress spoke about some of the other stable analog mediums of the world, noting that parchment documents continue to survive after hundreds of years (and new animal skin parchments are still made!) and that sales of vinyl audio recordings have recently risen to $171 million (in 2012) after hitting a low of $37 million in 2006. So, while the digital revolution continues, analog remains an important part of the consumer, professional and archiving communities. We love both.
The conference also spoke to some other ‘best practices’ and ways in which a storage or archiving facility can go the extra mile in serving its clients. Duart Labs was a beloved lab and processing facility in New York City. After announcing they were closing most of their operations, they began searching for the owners of the nearly 60,000 pieces of material they had in storage. These were all sorts of elements, mostly pre-print, for a total of nearly 2,000 titles. Some of these are quite important to our collective film history – student films by Spike Lee, the original elements for Susan Seidelman’s “Smithereens” and early film by James Ivory. This serves as a great reminder to keep constantly updating contact info – many of these elements were stored under production company names – whomever paid the bills, not who ‘made’ the movie. Rick Utley personally witnessed this when he was involved with the closing of MGM’s labs and has spoken about the difficulties the lab had in contacting rights holders and owners of elements. That’s one of the reasons we have a pretty lengthy chain of ownership and access practices for elements we store.
This years AMIA conference was held in Virginia and that allowed us to get a tour of the state-of-the-art archiving and preservation facilities of The Library of Congress. These folks are passionate and dedicated and take the job of protecting Americas cultural history very seriously. Besides admiring their workflows and practices, it was also a glimpse of the larger coming trends in our business. The LOC is on the frontline of all change and in visiting the Library of Congress Packard campus, it’s clear that vaulting DCPs will continue to accelerate in our business. Typically, DCPs are encrypted. These encryption codes can be easily lost – they are specific to each DCP. When the code is lost – the data is lost. Unencrypted DCPs are safer sources for archival storage and even better than that – unencrypted DCDM files.