Inside the Media Archive is an ongoing, occasional behind-the-scenes look at the practices, methodologies, tools, and resources the WITNESS Media Archive has developed and implemented to manage our collection of human rights video documentation.
Cataloging is not exactly the sexiest hook for a blog post, I admit; even in the unglamorous world of archivists, things like digitization, curation and access tend to generate more excitement. Metadata, PBCore, checksums, XML, PREMIS…are you still with me?
Nonetheless: if you are, or have ever been, someone endeavoring to develop a set of principles and protocols for the purpose of managing a collection of complex materials, there’s often nothing more useful than looking at what others have done. While metadata standards and rule sets such as PBCore, METS, AMIM and others are important and useful, how they are deployed to manage a particular collection is a complex problem-solving challenge, especially in the digital audiovisual realm.
Other human rights archives which have publicly shared similar resources include the University of Texas Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative, and the Shoah Visual History Foundation; we’ve benefited from access to these, and we share ours in the same spirit.
I began writing this manual in 2004, not long after coming to WITNESS and implementing our first database. In the years since we’ve transitioned to a fully digital workflow, custom-built a digital asset management system, and installed a 36 TB storage infrastructure. (And please see other Inside the Media Archive blog posts and our website if you’d like to know more.) Managing the collection is an ongoing, never-ending process, as the collection grows, formats evolve, media gets migrated, and problems get solved.
So, getting this manual updated to reflect current practice has taken a lot of time and effort. Most of the credit goes to archivist Yvonne Ng; former interns Michele DeLia and AJ Lawrence also contributed substantially to this document. We love feedback and questions, so please feel free to get in touch with any.
Find it here: