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The Dutch national audiovisual archive Beeld en Geluid, and its partners in the Images for the Future project are in the process of digitizing 22,500 hours of film, 137,000 hours of television, 124,000 hours of radio recordings, and 2.9 million photos. They have received an investment of 154 million euros from the Dutch government that will be spread out over 7 years.

There are a number of very interesting aspects to this project that others, especially in the U.S., could learn from.

The new Beeld en Geluid building (which is beautiful and dramatic), has apparently inspired some donors of archival material to trust them and to want to contribute. Its museum had 250,000 visitors in its first year, which in a country of 16 million people is huge.

Visitors typically stay for four and half hours; most people get really involved in watching news and entertainment footage from their youth. Visitors are invited to assemble and read the news, or decide about the best programming for saturday night. They have a great promotional film that they show in the museum.

The back story on their funding is instructive. The Images for the Future project was able to obtain funding on a large scale by applying the same style of economic analysis to the archive as is applied to other government funded infrastructure. A study conducted on their behalf by a management consultancy concluded that “The present value of the total user benefits of the plan is approx. E176 million. Compared to these benefits, the costs drawn up in euros in 2006 amount to E148 million…” This kind of thorough, sober, cost benefit analysis of educational infrastructure is something U.S. organizations could emulate. It also forces the project to generate benefits. E 19 million has to be earned by the project partners, an outcome of the cost benefit analysis.

They are also engaging rights holders (and thus mass clearance) in a very interesting way. First, they are committed to ensuring that all rights are completely protected. But they are making their catalog available online, and for right holders that want it, they are linking catalog entries to stills, low res, or hi res moving images.

This seems like an excellent way to satisfy rights holders, and to gradually make most their collection accessible online — it seems a foregone conclusion that sales of the material by right holders will be increased if people can browse it first.

Like everyone, they are grappling with questions related to metadata, from lack of metadata on most tape cases, the habit of some producers to cram tapes full of random segments, and in harmonizing information from 150 (!) different databases that have been built over the years.

They are going with MXF & MPEG-2 at 50 Mbps for most television material, and MXF & MPEG-2 at 30 Mbps for news.

They are launching a project to link their materials to other “trusted,” repositories e.g. maps & newspapers, for educational purposes. On top of these repositories, student will get tools to work wih the materials and teachers will get tools to develop lessons. Sort of like Teachers’ Domain.

As with the PTV Digital Archive, they are going to start working on capturing web sites associated with programs and films, but there are challenges related to capturing streams and some AV files.

For other archives grappling with questions of file formats, metadata, selection, and budgeting, the approaches taken in the Netherlands can serve as a useful model. There is more background from the New York Times in a recent article, “Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, Encased in Glass.”

At long last! Dave MacCarn’s outstanding survey of file formats and practices in public television production and distribution is now available.

Survey of Digital Formatting Practices in Public Television

We hope this will be useful to organizations that are facing the sometimes daunting prospect of making choices about how to archive video files for preservation.

Please contact us with questions or comments about this or any of our other materials.

Last week, I participated in an all-day seminar hosted by the Museum ofthe Moving Image in Queens. It was sponsored in part by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides federal funding to libraries and museums.

IMLS has been supporting an impressive range of innovative projects to help their constituents embrace the challenges of the digital world. This seminar was called: Open Collections: Exploring Online Cultural Resources, and the program focused on managing collections on-line.

A key goal was to promote the Museum’s free open source collections management application – ‘Open Collection.‘ IMLS supported developing this software, and from my untutored eye, it appeared many institutions might find it a useful tool, although it is not suitable for us. (The folks from the Museum of Natural History were quite enthusiastic about it.)

Even so, I was very happy to be reminded that there is a creative and functional world of digital catalogs and collections outside our rather narrow broadcast focus.

The CORSAIR system at the Morgan Library was nothing short of elegant, and the Virtual New York City project, underway at the New Media Lab at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center was just one example of an on-line collection as a work-in-in progress.

All the examples demonstrated that large, complex aggregations of digitized resources can be easily used — if they have well-organized databases/content management systems running behind them. It made me long for a few million dollars so we could produce something similar.

The seminar also emphasized the recent and growing shift away from local computing over to ‘superior’ web-based applications. OK, I got that message. These tools are coming up fast, and they offer flexibility and functionality, plus the opportunity for sharing tasks much more broadly.

But the shift is hardly seamless. How do our disparate databases, running on all manner of systems both local and web-based, communicate with each other, not to mention maintain file integrity and security? (Hey, isn’t that C3PO’s job???) And how do we pay for it? Clearly they have a way to go yet, and no one told us what was under the hood.

Also, I couldn’t help thinking about broadband access, and how this is based on the naive assumption that everyone has super-fast downloading capabilities. (Not so.) Or that small, sophisticated, hand-held devices will continue to roll out and alter how we experience the internet.

Mostly, though, the seminar reinforced my conviction that public broadcasting should mobilize our army of volunteers to help describe and catalog our video collections.

To me, descriptive cataloging remains one of the biggest hurdles we have to clear in order to make our materials findable, searchable, and truly accessible.

Alas, we will never have a crew of professional librarians and catalogers paid to tackle this problem. But wait — we already DO have thousands of well-educated volunteers and supporters at local stations around the country!

What with so much ‘tagging’ already going on, it’s not much of a stretch to develop a participatory plan. And with a web-based application, folks doing the work could reside anywhere.

To develop a credible and useful cataloging system, of course we’ll need standards. We’ll also need common database templates (based on PBcore), and we’ll have to create a structured process based on professional criteria.

Then, voila! If we provide training, review and oversight, we can let folks go at it. I imagine many volunteers would be delighted to participate in such a collaborative, substantive effort.. And no doubt, some of them would be excellent.

I left the seminar filled with ideas about how to get started — what could go into designing a pilot project and who might help us.

Much more exciting than free software – thank you IMLS and Museum of the Moving Image!

For project team members out on the road and in need of a project summary on paper, we now have a spiffy new Project Summary.

Everything Old Can Be New Again, Nan Rubin’s article in Current, the newspaper about public TV and radio, offers an overview of PBS archives, plans for the future, and advice for station managers concerned about preservation and access. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s time to get over our wasteful habit of letting our programs vanish forever. We’ve got decades of national and local productions sitting in storage, and the public is hungry for them. Making programs accessible will generate great goodwill, new audiences and new funding.

Thirteen/WNET New York invites you to check out the finding aid for our newly remastered landmark public affairs series, The 51st State.

On the air from 1972-1976, The 51st State began as a nightly news program with a mission to present in-depth and thoughtful reporting of regional issues.  During this period, New York City was struggling with the national traumas brought on by the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam War, as well as facing a rising crime rate and heading towards the largest financial crisis of its history (“Ford to City: Drop Dead”).


The program was noted for an unorthodox journalistic style and covered a wide range of subjects, from a town hall meeting of youth gangs in the Bronx and the pollution of the Hudson River to statewide hearings on abortion legislation and the New York City take on such national issues as pornography and the war in Vietnam. 


Unconventional from the start, Jack Willis, the series’ Executive Producer, hired a combination of experienced print and television reporters along with a selection of completely inexperienced but eager young journalists.  He gave The 51st State added credibility with the hiring of Host and Editor, Patrick Watson, who had long been regarded as the foremost television interviewer and public affairs program producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


The program was given an unprecedented amount of editorial freedom and jumped right in to exploring contemporary urban concerns.  This resulted in fresh and creative coverage of the people and issues that made up New York City, affectionately known as The 51st State.  Nat Hentoff stated, “This provocatively unpredictable nightly news show [The 51st State] is beginning to present a formidable challenge to print journalists while leaving the other local television news operations a light-year behind (The New York Times, April 2, 1972).” 


This project was made possible thanks to a grant from the NATIONAL HISTORICAL PUBLICATIONS AND RECORDS COMMISSION (NHPRC).  It is the first in an ongoing initiative at Thirteen to preserve important programs from our library of 30,000 videotapes. 


Stay tuned for announcements about other collections!

For more information about viewing the programs, please contact us:

Winter Shanck
Archival Media Librarian
450 West  33d St.
New York, NY 10001

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) today announced the appointment of David Liroff as Senior Vice President, System Development and Media Strategy. Liroff comes to CPB from WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts where he has held the position of Vice President and Chief Technology Officer since 1995. At CPB, he will oversee CPB initiatives including: system strategy and policy development, audience- based research, implementation of station grant policy and strategy, and investments in new technologies.

“David brings an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and senior management experience in public broadcasting and new media,” said CPB president and CEO Patricia Harrison. “We are thrilled to have such a remarkable individual help guide CPB on behalf of the stakeholders of public broadcasting.”

“David has made enormous contributions to WGBH and to the public broadcasting system,” said WGBH president Henry Becton, Jr. “We have benefited greatly from his expertise and sound guidance on a range of issues from technology to strategy and policy. We’ll miss David at WGBH, but we are delighted that the entire system will now have the benefit of his wisdom.”

Over the course of his tenure with WGBH, David Liroff has been responsible for production services, engineering, information technology, telecommunications, digital asset management, audience research, broadcasting, creative services, membership, major gifts and capital campaign fundraising, local program and national “how-to” program production, and for overseeing WGBH’s transition to digital production and broadcasting. …more

As part of the NDIIPP Grant, PBS is pleased to announce the completion of a comprehensive inventory of its media. Approximately 157,000 items have been inventoried since the inventory began in 2006. A number of tapes that had been previously thought missing, including episodes of Austin City Limits, Mystery! and Firing Line were found during the inventory and now have been located.

With a collection that spans over thirty years of broadcast television, PBS holds a wide variety of formats including 2” Quad, 1”, Betacam SP, ¾” Umatic, DATs, DigiBeta, Betacam, D2, D3 and D5s. In addition to these, PBS also holds 16mm film from the National Education Television (NET) Collection.

A comprehensive inventory had not been conducted at PBS in over a decade, it was deemed crucial to perform a complete inventory of its collection before beginning an At-Risk Inventory. PBS, WGBH in Boston and WNET in New York are all conducting digital inventories of material that is “At Risk” of loss. Due to the increasing rapidness of format obsolescence in digital formats, these inventories will give the stations and PBS as well as the Library of Congress a better assessment of how many early digital tape formats, such as D2, D3 and D5s are at-risk.

There were two occurrences at PBS during the Inventory time-frame, which made the inventory more complex. The first was PBS’ physical move from its old location at Braddock Place to two separate locations. The inventory process helped to guarantee that no tape was lost during the move. The second involved PBS converting from its older program informational media library database that had been relied upon for several decades to BroadView, a database meant to streamline PBS’ operations. Due to the database conversion, the majority of the NDIIPP inventory was conducted using a Microsoft Access database with data drawn from the older media library database. Efforts are currently underway to reconcile the Access database with BroadView so that the larger PBS system can benefit from the inventory.

An undertaking of this size is never possible without generous help from others. Glenn Clatworthy, Bea Morse, Cindy Jackson, Gwen Wood, Wendy Allen, Kellen Alexander and Patricia Green gave generously of their time and expertise.

Questions regarding the inventory at PBS should be addressed to Irene E. Taylor, Project Archivist at i e t a y l o r @ p b s . o r g or (703) 739-8640 or Bea Morse at b m o r s e @ p b s . o r g or (703) 739-5767.

February 28 + March 1, 2007
PBCore Training: 2nd Live Sessions Scheduled

Please join us for the second in a series of four live Webinars on using PBCore. This session is “PBCore 102: The PBCore Elements.”

As many are aware, a metadata dictionary used to describe the intellectual content, rights, and formats of public broadcasting media has been developed and made available for your use. It is called PBCore, or Public Broadcasting Core of Metadata Descriptions ( PBCore is being used in public radio, television, and beyond to describe, publish and share content, and to allow others to find your content.

But how do you actually use PBCore? “PBCore 102: The PBCore Elements” will describe the element dictionary, show the creation of an actual PBCore record and detail the resources available to help you learn more about the rules of the PBCore dictionary. This presentation will be held on Wednesday, February 28, at 2:00pm Eastern time, and repeated on Thursday, March 1, at 2:00pm Eastern time. Hosted by the PBCore Project at WGBH/NCAM, both sessions will be conducted via WebEx, and there is no charge to attend. All you need is a phone, a Web browser and an Internet connection. (The complete PowerPoint presentation and a PDF version of the slides will be available for download before, during and after the

To sign up for this training presentation, please go to, click on the “Upcoming” tab and register for the session you want to attend. Note that you will be prompted to install the WebEx client once you have completed the registration form. You may install the client at any time prior to the session. Please contact Geoff Freed at g e o f f _ f r e e d @ w g b h . o r g if you have questions about registration or the presentation itself. If you recently had difficulty using WebEx with your Intel Macintosh computer, this problem has been resolved by WebEx. All participants will be prompted to download the
new WebEx client, regardless of OS.

“The PBCore Elements” is the second training presentation in a series being developed by the PBCore Project. Here is the complete schedule:

Session 1. PBCore 101: Introduction to PBCore (held January 31 and February 1) An introduction to the nature of metadata and the PBCore.

Session 2. PBCore 102: The PBCore Elements (February 28 and March 1) A more detailed look at the structure of PBCore, what the elements are and how to use them to describe media objects.

Session 3. The PBCore XML Schema: What It Is and How It Works (dates TBA) A general discussion of what an XML Schema is, and a look at how the PBCore XML Schema can be used to implement the PBCore metadata dictionary within information and cataloging systems. Also explains how important the XML Schema is for sharing metadata and interoperability.

Session 4. Cataloging Tools for PBCore: What’s Available and How They Work (dates TBA) A detailed discussion of tools that use PBCore. The tools facilitate the markup of descriptions for media objects and have data-export capabilities for sharing and interoperability.

For a complete review of PBCore training materials, visit our Web page

The PBCore Project is administered by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM). Initial PBCore development, advocacy and training is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The January NDIIPP partners meeting was at UC San Diego, hosted in part by the San Diego Super Computer Center (SDSC). LC has been hosting these meetings twice a year now for all the NDIIPP projects plus fellow travellers, and these gatherings have been less about us talking about our projects and more about LC informing us about their activities and plans.  They are also important opportunities for us to talk among ourselves, especially now that we are all well along into our third project year.

The PTV Digital Archive delegation, included Nan Rubin and Mike Boeglin from Thirteen, Leah Weisse from WGBH; from NYU Howard Besser, Unni Pillai and Brian Hoffman; Glenn Clatworthy, Julie Fenderson and Irene Taylor from PBS, and Jeff Ubois.

The meeting focused on strengthening the ties between projects by scheduling a range of break-out sessions where groups could discuss issues in depth and exchange resources. There was a special emphasis on technical issues, and which our team found very helpful. There were also useful breakout sessions on economic issues and legal issues, and on metadata. A few of us presented at the plenaries or breakouts, including Thomas and Leah, in addition to Nan.

Being in San Diego also offered an opportunity for our folks to meet with the staff at SDSC about NYU’s plans to use SDSC’s SRB (storage resource broker) service as part of the management scheme for repository operations.  (We also enjoyed a nice dinner with the fishes at the Scripps Aquarium.)

NDIIPP Strategic Outcomes
A meeting of the PI’s was scheduled at the same time, and we met for a half-day before the general partners meeting began, and again for a few hours after the closing plenary. The discussions revolved around the Strategic Outcomes that LC wants to present:
* National Digital Collection
* National Digital Content Stewardship Network
* Technical Infrastructure for the Network
* Digital Preservation Sustainability
* Public Policy for Digital Preservation

Based on these goals, LC is asking all the NDIIPP projects to focus on these collaborative efforts as well as our individual activities.  We don’t see any difficulties with these, because they fit pretty nicely into our own plans, too.

LC also produced an animation to introduce the World Digital Archives. It’s a large file, but as good as anything out of Pixar. Three minutes to show the digital archives at your fingertips!