This All Seems Familiar

Touring the Special Collections Resource Center at Temple this week and seeing some of the chaos induced by the move and new work flows vividly reminded me of my struggles with an archive of a different sort. Before coming to graudate school I worked for a television network, where my day-to-day job relied heavily on working with a media library that was responisble for maintaining an archive of episodes, movies, and promotional materials.

Throughout the three years working for this company, the library went under constant and drastic changes, many of which happened with little to no input from the people using the materials. Each change resulted in more precarious preservation and decreased accessibility, all for the sake of office aesthetics.

When I first started, I was shocked to see that all of the company’s media assets were almost exclusively archived on HDCam tapes. If an old episode or arhived promotional spot was needed, a digitization request had to be submitted. The process was slow; digitizing an episode could take up to one week. Once digitized, there was no method in place to store the digital file. So the company perpetually wasted time re-digitizing files whenever they were needed again. This led to the creation of an informal archive at my desk of digitized files on various hard drives.

HDCams that were frequently used were initally kept on site in the office. These tapes were used weekly by multiple producers and editors. However, when the library was rennovated to house new desks, the company decided to move almost all of the tapes off site, to an office fifty miles away in Connecticut. A truck would deliver assets from offsite twice a week. This led to the creation of many mini-libraries, as people began hoarding assets at their desks and in offices so as to not lose accessibility. What we did lose was multiple tapes.

I did have control over our online archive of promotional campaigns. I inherited a hodge-podge collection of our show’s campaigns and reorganized the entire system to be more accessible. However, a month or so before the leaving the job the company announced it was switching platforms, meaning that terabytes of files needed to be downloaded from the old site and reuploaded and reorganized on the new one. I am not so sad to say that I left before the chaos ensued.

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