We have a new volunteer at the Archives. Her name is Anne Krohn and she is going to be digitizing all of the film that we have at the archive. She is a sophomore Art and Design major with a concentration in Digital Cinema. She is from Merill, Wisconsin. An interesting fact about her is that she plays saxophone. She volunteered because she wanted to work with actual film and she is interested in history.
Here at the Archives, we have a large collection of film that we have divided into two series: one contains video pertinent to Northern Michigan University and the other contains film documenting the history of the central Upper Peninsula. The NMU film dates from the 1950s through the 1980s. It includes videos of sporting events such as football and basketball, commencement ceremonies, guest speakers, Homecoming events, campus buildings, and videos of the everyday life of NMU students. The regional film has yet to be fully inventoried so we are all excited about what we may find! This collection of film contains valuable documentation of regional history but, until now, has been too large a task for one student assistant to complete. We are extremely lucky and grateful to have Anne working with our digitization specialist, Kacey Lewis, to complete this project.
Kacey has been working for several months to inventory and digitize this collection. The work that they will be doing serves a twofold purpose: preservation and access. As the film ages, it becomes more brittle and more easily breakable and the images fade every time the film is subjected to any kind of light. The film will also begin to off-gas as it ages and breaks down (some of the film has already begun to do this), and the chemicals that are released during this process are harmful to both the film, and the materials stored next to the film. This project will help to preserve these videos so that the information and view of the past that they provide will not be lost.
The second purpose of this project is to make the videos more accessible. In order to view the sixteen millimeter film, a special projector is required. Not only is it difficult to provide access to this project for patrons, but it is also difficult to keep a projector in working condition because the technology is already considered antiquated so the projectors and their parts are no longer manufactured. In a digital format, access becomes much easier but, contrary to popular belief, digitization is not a tool for preservation. When one considers the software and hardware required to access digital information and how quickly they become obsolete, it is clear that digital material is an unstable format for archival purposes. For example, how many people still have the means to access information on a floppy disk? CDs and DVDs as a technology have lasted longer but even they only last for about 10-15 years, depending on how often they are used.
Prepared by Annika Peterson and Jaime Ganzel