IU marks official launch of Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative

  • Oct. 29, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University officially marked the establishment of an ambitious initiative aimed at preserving the university’s extensive collection of audio, video and film holdings with a ceremony Oct. 21 at the Indiana Memorial Union.

The IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative will preserve IU’s rare and, in some cases, irreplaceable collections of 635,000 sound, video and films recordings, currently stored in 50 formats housed in 80 units across the IU Bloomington, IUPUI and regional campuses.

"This event celebrates the opening of an initiative through which Indiana University is preserving for future students and scholars not only films but also a vast collection of audio and video recordings that are of major cultural and historical importance," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "These collections contain material from a wide range of areas in the humanities, the arts and music, the social sciences and the health sciences -- areas of great traditional strength at Indiana University."

First announced in the president's 2013 State of the University address, the initiative will receive $15 million over the next five years from the offices of the president, the provost and the vice president for research. It will be led by Carolyn Walters, Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries, and Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology and chief technology officer at IU and interim dean of the IU School of Informatics and Computing.

The ambitious goal of the initiative will be to digitize, preserve and make universally available -- consistent with copyright or other legal restrictions -- all of the most critical media objects judged important by experts across the university’s eight campuses by IU's bicentennial in 2020.

According to the 2009 IU Bloomington Media Preservation Survey, IU Bloomington alone owns more than 560,000 audio, video and film objects, with 32,000 additional recordings on the IUPUI campus and 43,000 on the regional campuses.

A sampling of items from the vast collection includes recordings of language, music, and tribal lore and histories from North American native peoples in the late 19th and early 20th century; audio from Orson Welles’ famed Mercury Theatre radio performances; photographs of African-American musicians in the post-World War II era; and interviews with female newspaper editors in the 1970s.

Formats include CD-R, open-reel, VHS and cassettes tapes as well as rarer formats such as U-matic videotapes, Betamax, lacquer discs, wire recordings and wax cylinders.

In many cases, the pieces are regarded by scholars as the official record of tradition for cultures long lost to history.

Already a national leader in large-scale and wide-ranging efforts to preserve, digitize and provide wider access to these materials, IU was cited as a model for other institutions in a 2010 report from the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Library of Congress.

Previous archival projects at IU include the IU Variations Project in the Jacobs School of Music, begun in 1990 in partnership with IBM, the National Science Foundation and a number of foundations, and the Sound Directions project to preserve materials from IU’s Archives of Traditional Music -- in partnership with Harvard University -- with three grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2005 to 2012.

The IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative will significantly speed the work begun under these pioneering projects.

Additional speakers at the ceremony were John Studdert, vice president of sales and marketing for the professional solutions division of the Americas Group of Sony Electronics, and Michael Merton, founder and co-CEO of Memnon Archiving Services. Both companies will contribute technology and expertise to the project.

Ruth M. Stone, the Laura Boulton Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and director of the IU Ethnomusicology Institute, who studies the culture and performance of music in Africa and the Middle East, also spoke about how the initiative’s efforts will advance her research.

Related Links

Examples of deteriorated media that could be restored by the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative.

Examples of deteriorated media that could be restored by the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative. | Photo by Indiana University

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IU President Michael M. McRobbie speaks at the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative opening ceremony.

IU President Michael M. McRobbie speaks at the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative opening ceremony. | Photo by Indiana University

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Media Contacts

Mark Land

Associate vice president, IU Communications

Ryan Piurek