Student Perspective: Digitizing Dead Formats

This week we have been digitizing CDs and DVDs featuring Provost Meetings, Interdisciplinary Arts theses, and recordings from William Russo.

The material originally consisted of VHS tapes, compact-cassettes, and micro-cassettes among others before being sent out in order to be reformatted into a modern, more accessible, format.

To begin the project there were a few simple tasks:

  • Sort the three sets of material listed above into three sets of boxes
  • Label the boxes in pencil
  • Sort the discs by the same categories

From there the media could then be digitized onto the servers in order to properly organize and maintain the records. We started by comparing the information found on the original recordings with the digitized CDs and DVDs. This led to the following processes:

  • Create list of all tapes separated by categories
  • Match discs to tapes to verify everything was digitized
  • Rip discs individually, taking all individual files held on the discs and placing them onto the servers for preservation

The media is digitized because CDs and DVDs can break, shatter and scratch. Pictures and paper also can deteriorate, catch fire and mold. A simple excel spreadsheet is used to organize the titles and mark which CDs and DVDs have been stored on the server. Having electronic files as well as hard copies ensures that nothing at the College Archives office is lost.

As you can see, storing information is not as simple as it sounds. All though it can feel like a tedious process, digitizing allows the material to be accessible and readily preserved, saving the information. At the College Archives, we are constantly finding and organizing remnants of Columbia’s history and with modern technology, it is a more permanent and effective process than ever.

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