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HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

“Today digital technology is pervasive. It is mandatory that museums, libraries, and archives join with educational institutions in embracing it.”

  • Wayne Clough, Author, Best of Both Worlds

Museums and cultural institutions are leaving no stone unturned to digitize history. Archiving photos form an integral part of documenting history. Continuing with our previous post on how cultural institutions are leveraging photo archiving, in this post, we will detail why museums and cultural institutions should leverage photo archiving.

Easy Sharing and Distribution

Unlike physical copies, scanned photos can be easily shared across multiple locations with multiple users. Easier to track electronically, it is also cost effective for researchers and curators as it eliminates the need for physical reproduction and mailing.

Prepare for Disasters

Museums and cultural institutions are not free from the risk of losing valuable content. Natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, heavy rains, or hurricanes and tsunamis have destroyed museums and libraries over the centuries, resulting in the loss of valuable content. Digitization will curb the risk of loss of valuable photographs.

Save Cost and Clutter

Maintaining physical copies of photo prints requires physical storage space and involves cost. Digitizing photos can save institutions cost that is involved in keeping physical copies and make it easier to share and reproduce.

Source of Revenue

Owners of photos of rare events and occurrences can generate a revenue stream in terms of royalty or licensing fee. Different types of models can be adopted like selling prints through your own website, third-party portals, exhibiting in galleries etc.

Tip for Successful Photo Digitization – Prioritizing Which Items to Digitize

Depending on the priority and goals, every institution shortlists the photos that need to be digitized.  Some questions that organizations need to ask before selecting the images for digitization are:

  1. Are the records unique?
  2. Do the photos appeal visually?
  3. Who will be the prospective consumer of the digitized images?
  4. Does the demand justify the cost that will be incurred to digitize the photos?
  5. Will digitization add any value to the picture?
  6. How will the institution control access to the digitized images? Will, there be any restriction or can it be accessed openly?
  7. Does the institution have the legal right to scan?
  8. What is the long-term preservation strategy of the photos being digitized?
  9. What is the metadata that will be required?

Once institutions have selected items that need to be digitized, here are some critical considerations while scanning photos.

  1. Once you have a flatbed scanner ready, set the scanner, photoshop, and the printer to the same color space – CMYK or RGB.
  2. To capture many shades of gray (which is essential especially for black and white photos), choose the right DPI. Depending on the size of the picture, DPI should be around 3000 – 4000 pixels along the length of the image.
  3. Choose the format of preservation carefully. For Masterfile, the recommended format is TIFF.
  4. Save a JPEG copy for easy distribution among researchers.
  5. To avoid damage and file loss, keep the Master copy separate from the distributed copy.

Photo/ image archivists should prioritize digitizing susceptible photos like colored photos and cellulose nitrate or films. The context of each of these photos should also be documented, and each item needs to have metatags to make them easily accessible in time of need. To know about the top six mistakes to avoid while digitizing photos, read this blog.

Decoding the Importance of Metadata in Digitization and Preservation of Content

Decoding the Importance of Metadata in Digitization and Preservation of Content

Introduction

Digital media has come a long way over the past decade. The shift from single-screen to multiple-screen and multi-device, from the subscription-based model to OTT service providers is apparent over the years. Keeping in line with the demand, broadcasters are also broadening their distribution channel.

With the audience having a wide variety of choice to consume video across platforms at their preferred time – broadcasters are leaving no stones unturned to digitize video content, even those dating back to decades.

Broadcasters are now focused on aggregation and distribution of highly-targeted content that reaches narrow-interest audiences. As broadcasters develop and store digital content to use and reuse across devices and platforms, the value of good shareable content is increasing.

However, the problem lies elsewhere. An estimated 98% of archived media is not available for digital distribution.[1]

Why?

Migrating hours of media content from tape to digital storage is time-consuming. Though automated migration systems convert tapes to multiple digital formats simultaneously, tagging these files to make them searchable is a challenge.

Have you ever wondered how – when you Google – some videos top the search results? With an average of 300 hours[2] of video content being uploaded to YouTube alone every minute, content producers and owners sweat over making their content optimized for search results.

The solution

The key to ensuring that your content doesn’t get lost in the crowd is tagging it with relevant keywords. While search engines have evolved over the years, they are still not human – hence can’t read/watch your content. They need a hint (or metadata) to understand the content and apply analytics to list them. While filtering, the search engine follows the following order – title, description, and tags. If you optimize these three, half of the battle is won.

In this paper, we will explore:

  • What is metadata?
  • Types of metadata
  • Metadata Schema Models
  • The importance of metadata in content digitization
  • Optimizing metadata for content digitization

What is metadata?

Metadata refers to “data about data.”[3] It represents a detailed description of the underlying data within an object concerning its title, date & time of creation, format, length, language, year of reference, narration describing the object’s identity & purpose, etc.

For long-term digital archiving, metadata refers to the preservation techniques that are applied to the digital objects in the archives. Metadata does the following:

  • Helps in easy identification, location, and retrieval of information by the end-users
  • Provides information about quality aspects or issues of the created object along with its access privileges/rights
  • Ensures smooth data management

Types of metadata

Depending on the nature of data and usability in a real-world scenario, metadata can be categorized as:

  • Descriptive: Helps to identify, locate, and retrieve information related to an object through indexing and navigation to related links. It includes elements such as title, creator, identity, and description
  • Structural: Defines the complexity of an object along with the role of individual data files, ordering of pages to form a chapter, file names, and their organization, etc.
  • Administrative: Helps to manage the resources in terms of its creation, methods, access rights, associated copyright, and the techniques required for preserving it
  • Rights: Defines access permissions and constraint over the stored objects and information contained in them at different levels
  • Preservation: Records activities or methodology opted in the archive for preserving digital data.
  • Technical: Provides technical information embedded with the digital object (content files). It describes attributes of the digital image (not the analog source of the picture) and helps to ensure that the image will be rendered with accuracy, capture process of the data, and their transformation.
  • Provenance: Records object’s origin/nativity and the changes that were performed to these objects for its resolution, format, perspectives, etc.
  • Tracking: Keeps track of the data at different stages of the workflow (data automation processes, digital capturing, transformation, processing filters and toolsets, enhancement, quality control and management, and data archival and deliverables)

For long-term digital preservation, two types of metadata play a crucial role:

  1. Packaging Metadata

Defines three kinds of information packages, which are as follows:

  1. Submission Information Package (SIP) – Contains information delivered to the archive from the content provider
  2. Archival Information Package (AIP) – Related content information stored in the archive
  3. Dissemination Information Package (DIP) – On request delivery of information to the user
  1. Preservation Metadata

Records the process that supports the preservation of digital data

Metadata Schema Models

According to ISO 23081[4], a schema is “a logical plan showing the relationships between metadata elements, normally through establishing rules for the use and management of metadata specifically as regards the semantics, the syntax and the optionality (obligation level) of values.”

The amount of metadata that needs to be stored for an object depends on its functional usage & significance. With a large amount of metadata already there, and more being published regularly for a different purpose by different communities, metadata schema designers need unique experience of using the Semantic Web to consider a metadata schema.

For long term preservation of data, a varying Metadata Schema Models has been developed, which includes the following:

  • MARC: Machine Readable Cataloguing
  • MARCXML: XML version of MARC 21
  • METS: Metadata Encoding & Transmission Standard
  • MODS: Metadata Object Description Schema
  • DCMI: Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
  • CDWA: Categories for the Description of Works of Art
  • CRM: CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model
  • MPEG-7: Moving Picture Coding Experts Group
  • EAD: Encoded Archival Description
  • RDF: Resource Description Framework
  • VRA CORE: Visual Resources Association
  • DDI: Data Documentation Initiative
  • MIX: Metadata for Images in XML Standard
  • IEEE LOM: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association for the description of “learning objects”

The importance of metadata in content digitization

Metadata plays a key role in processing, managing, accessing, and preserving digital content –be it audio, video, or image collections. Metadata has the following key functionalities:

  • Search: To search for data associated with a file like Author, Date Published, Key Words, etc.
  • Distribute: To determine when and where the content will be distributed
  • Access: To determine delivery of targeted content based upon preset rules matching metadata values
  • Retain: To determine which records to archive

Optimizing metadata for content digitization

The importance of metadata lies in the fact that it makes the content searchable – both online and offline. While filtering, the search engine follows the following order – title, description, and tags. Some key points to remember while using metadata for content digitization are:

Optimize the title

Grab the attention with a catchy and compelling title. To make a title search engine (and mobile) friendly, limit it to 120 characters and include your top keywords. Think what the audience would relate to, and make the title informative and relevant.

Optimize the description

Follow and include the keywords, and detail what the content is all about. Limit the most critical information within the first 22 words of your description – as search engine displays it on the list before you click ‘see more’ button.

Optimize the tags

A couple of things to keep in mind while tagging a digital asset are:

  1. Assign keywords that cover the 5 W’s – what, when, who, why, and where – to make it a well-captured asset
  2. Avoid grammatical errors while assigning keywords
  3. Avoid ambiguous words or words with multiple meanings
  4. Be consistent with abbreviations and acronyms
  5. Use a minimum of 8 – 12 tags per asset

Conclusion

Metadata plays a crucial role in keeping track of content right from its inception to its processing and accessibility. It provides a complete description of the purpose and functionality of the data, making it easier for end-users to locate and retrieve the data. Therefore, it is crucial that all contents should have embedded metadata in them.

[1] https://www.recode.net/2014/4/8/11625358/modernizing-the-entertainment-industry-supply-chain-in-the-age-of

[2] https://merchdope.com/youtube-stats/

[3] https://www.techopedia.com/definition/1938/metadata

[4] https://committee.iso.org/sites/tc46sc11/home/projects/published/iso-23081-metadata-for-records.html

Six Steps For Restoring Your Old Films

Six Steps For Restoring Your Old Films

Did you know that 50% of all full-length features produced before 1950 have vanished? Fewer than 20% of features from the 1920s survive in complete form; survival rates of 1910s is <10%?[i]

While more than 90% of the world cinema produced before 1929 can no more be restored and are lost forever, the major players – from restoration agencies to film production houses – are trying to revive old classics digitally.

Film restoration is an archaeological expedition for curators. Apart from factors like dust, scratches, film grains, shrinkage, and color fade, heritage films are also at-risk due to climate conditions, lack of training in film preservation, and sometimes, unstable political conditions.

Film restoration is crucial for the preservation of films, especially those whose original elements have substantially deteriorated. The critical steps of restoring a film are as follows:

  1. Film identification: Film restoration is a costly and labor-intensive process, sometimes consuming more than 1,000 staff-hours to repair a film. Therefore, it is essential to identify the films that need to be restored.
  2. Film treatment and repair: Curators clean the films using chemicals, cleaning machines. Further, they use splicing tape, film cement, or ultrasonic splicers to repair perforations and tear on a film before using it on projectors, printers, and other sprocket-driven film equipment.
  3. Digitization/ Scanning: Curators scan each frame into a digital file before proceeding with restoration. The back-up copy replicates the video and audio content of the film and ensures the copy can be used in the future to create subsequent viewing copies.
  4. Film comparison: Before proceeding with the restoration, curators compare all the known surviving source materials to ensure the chosen version is the best available version for restoration.
  5. Digital restoration: A widely used restoration format today, the films are restored using digital or hybrid techniques, and the output can be in film or digital form. Digital restoration also incorporates the following:
    • Comparing each frame to its adjacent frames
    • Fixing the frame alignment
    • Restore areas blocked by dirt and dust by using parts of images in other frames
    • Restore scratches by using parts of images in different frames
    • Reducing film grain noise
    • Restoring sound
    • Correcting flickering, lighting, and color changes, even minimal, from one frame to another due to the aging of the film
  1. Digital asset management: It is essential to create a set of database records with metadata and other relevant information that allows end users to identify, locate, and retrieve a film from the archive.

 

From documentaries to fictional narratives, newsreels, industrial films, home movies, political ads, and travelogues, films are a witness of the past. By restoring these works, we can illuminate our heritage with the power and immediacy unique to film. To know more about film restoration, read:

 

[i] http://besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/howard/Talks/cineteca-mexicana.pdf
Five factors that damage audio tapes

Five factors that damage audio tapes

Cassette tapes were first produced at a mass scale in the early 1960s and became popular in the 1980s. Long before DVDs and cloud storage became popular, audio tapes and reels were used to record information. Magnetic tapes have a lifespan between 10 – 30 years and has been used to record and store sound, numeric and textual information, motion, and still images. While magnetic media adds on to the kind of artifacts, we can use to capture and store, their transience and degradability have been a concern for archivists and librarians.

To understand the reason for the degradation of audio tapes/reels, we need to delve into the components that form these tapes. Tapes have three parts – a magnetic layer, binder, and backing – all of which are potential sources of failure.

  1. The magnetic layer has a magnetic pigment suspended within a polymer binder.
  2. The binder holds the magnetic particles together and helps in recording and storing the magnetic signals written to it.
  3. The backing film supports the magnetic recording layer, which is very thin and cannot be a stand-alone layer.

All these components are susceptible to damage in the following ways:

Instabilities in the magnetic particle (top layer): If there is any change in the magnetic properties of the pigment that stores the recorded information, the recorded signals are irretrievable. The magnetic particle can become unstable due to demagnetization by an external factor like a hand-held metal detector, or suffer normal wear and tear.

Loss of lubricant in the binder: Lubricants reduce the friction of the magnetic top coat of the tape, reducing tape wear. With time, the level of lubricant decreases due to normal wear and tear, frequent consumption, degradation, and evaporation.

Substrate deformation (backing film): Polyester that is used as a substrate backing is chemically stable. However, excessive tape pack stresses, aging, and poor wind quality can cause deformation of the polyester in the substrate, thereby distorting the tapes.

Various factors result in the damage of audio tapes and reels. We have listed five of them below:

  1. Temperature and humidity: High temperatures and humidity can decrease magnetic capability, deteriorate the binder or backing of the magnetic tape, resulting in loss of readable data. Ideally, tapes should be stored at a temperature between 0° C – 23° C and in places with less than 70% humidity to prevent fungal growth and degradation.
  2. Frequent access: Frequent access reduce the life expectancy of tapes due to wear and tear. The more tape is handled, the more it is contaminated with fingerprints and debris, which reduces its life considerably.
  3. Exposure to the strong magnetic field: Strong magnetic fields like luggage screeners in airports, X-ray scanners, and metal detectors – both hand-held and walk-through – can erase information from audio tapes and reels, which uses magnetic particle to store data.
  4. Dust and debris: Dust, tape debris, and smoke particles can affect the tape when it is being played, resulting in loss of signal, and subsequently damaging the tape.
  5. Corrosive gases: Magnetic tapes are susceptible to airborne sulfides, ozone, and nitrous oxides. Bare metal particle (MP) and metal evaporated (ME) tapes, which are contained in cassettes, are affected by corrosive gases.

While storage options are aplenty now, audio tapes and reels are still of sentimental and historical value to librarians, archivists, and old people. While audio reels will degrade with time, some ways in which the decay can be contained are:

  1. Using and storing magnetic tape reels and cassettes in a clean environment.
  2. Avoiding contamination of the tapes by dirt, dust, fingerprints, food, cigarette smoke and ash, and airborne pollutants.
  3. Keeping the tapes away from strong sunlight and water.
  4. Not storing tapes near electronic or magnetic fields.
  5. Ensuring the reels are not laid flat for long periods while storing.

Having said all of that, it is best to create a back-up and copy of the information in modern formats to ensure there is no information lost.

Film Restoration: From Pix to Pixels, Celebrating the Yesteryears in Reels

Film Restoration: From Pix to Pixels, Celebrating the Yesteryears in Reels

As King of Jazz (1930) made its world premiere last month at Universal Pictures: Restorations and Rediscoveries, film enthusiasts were introduced to a genre of films which they thought are lost in time. The event, which celebrated lesser known European works like Broadway (1929) and the Kiss before the Mirror (1933), highlighted the effort production houses are putting to bring Technicolor back to theaters in a new form.

Film curators all over the world are celebrating the yesteryear’s in reels. The recently held San Francisco Silent Film Festival (June 2- 5, 2016) brought five such gems from the silent era into life. Rob Byrne, board president of the Film Festival was quoted saying that he grew up watching Chaplin’s silent films like Modern Times (1936) and City Lights (1931) and wanted to bring them back to the theaters for a larger audience.

Film restoration is more of an archaeological expedition for curators. While finding an old film is like a treasure hunt, the effort that goes behind bringing back the movies to life is overwhelming. Byrne says that sometimes the curators need to go through exhibitor publications to understand the exhaustive details before reconstructing the missing shots.

The amount of effort that has already been put in film restoration is notable. From global film production houses to mid-size restoration agencies, the major players are putting all their efforts to digitally restore old classics – some even in 4K. And what makes the restoration effort noteworthy is some of these films have never even been released on DVD, leave alone Blu-ray.

Film curators hope that the digital restoration will introduce the old works to new eyes, apart from bringing back old favorites to life. From Kurosawa to Chaplin, old classics that were almost once lost has been digitally restored – some even in 4K. The list is varied – from classics of world cinema like The Third Man (1949), The Bicycle Thief (1948), and Notorious (1946) to cult hits like Dracula and Frankenstein. What makes the list more interesting is many among these have never been released for home viewing.

While some classics in the first half of the 20th century – the era of silent movies has been lost forever, curators are experimenting with classics that can be restored. Notable among the effort is John D. Lowry, a Canadian film restoration expert who developed his own technique called the Lowry Process to restore films. The technique reduces visual noise in motion pictures like dirt scratches and flicker, sharpening the quality of existing images, before making it possible to restore the complete film.

Lowry has restored more than five hundred classic films using this process, which includes some popular classics like Sunset Boulevard (1950), Casablanca (1942), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom(1984), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1965), and James Bond Film franchise to name a few.

Taking Lowry Process further, production houses has restored Hollywood classics like the original Star Wars trilogy, North by Northwest (1959) and Gone with the Wind (1939).

To cater to the diverse formats in which millennials consume content, curators are now restoring movies from celluloid to 4K digital where each frame is digitally polished to remove noise, colors and contrast are enhanced so that the film looks as good as new. For example, the Warner Bros Motion Pictures restored Citizen Kane (1941), which was recently premiered at the 68th Cannes Film Festival.

Who said you can’t relive yesteryear’s?