Digital Curation
Version 1.1

Teleconference with George Willeman

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Introduction

00:00 Introduction by Jon Ippolito

01:19 How George came to manage the nitrate film archive

The Library of Congress's film vault

04:25 Facts about the collection

05:02 The Culpeper complex (and the zombie apocalypse)

10:08 Vault conditions and discovery tools

12:24 Importance of a human archivist

The precarity of film

14:02 Deterioration of nitrate films

16:10 Nitrate: an explosive medium

21:30 Safety (acetone) film isn't safe

25:28 What can you do about decaying formats?

Historical films in the archive

27:02 Fred Seavey: what are the LoC's holdings of nature and educational films?

30:10 Other national film archives

30:50 Georges Melies and the beauty of reprinted negatives

32:13 The first 3d films

Preserving film

32:53 Legal rights and preservation

35:10 What copies should be saved for preservation?

36:35 Preserving film versus slide frames

38:07 How you get a print or copy from a negative?

Going digital

39:51 What is lost and gained in going from film to digital?

41:29 Unique qualities that can’t be reproduced digitally

43:26 Process for digitizing film

Q & A

44:35 Rhea Cote Robbins: How do US and Canadian film archives compare?

45:02 "Frozen Time": documentary on deteriorated nitrate by Bill Morrison

46:27 John Bell on paper prints

50:44 Preserving microfilm

51:35 Should old formats be discarded upon digitization?

52:20 Fred Seavey: initiatives for preserving home movies?

53:44 Mystery film of JFK's assassination

54:20 LoC's recommended digitization formats

56:50 Storage of digital formats

57:35 Magnetic tapes versus hard drives

58:10 Proportion of collection digitized

58:34 Offsite backup versus cloud

59:41 Colin Windhorst: how hard is adjusting to the transition to digital?

This teleconference is a project of the University of Maine's Digital Curation program. For more information, contact ude.eniam@otiloppij.

Timecodes are in Minutes: hours

In this teleconference, we get up close and personal with the Library of Congress's film manager George Willeman, who oversees a vast archive of audiovisual culture stretching over 100 years. Willeman's job ranges from preserving Thomas Edison's earliest films from 1891 to migrating stock to the latest digital formats.

Willeman's vault at the library of Congress contains 90 miles of shelving for analog film and video as well as petabytes of digital storage. The heavily fortified building also has a fascinating history as a cold war relic. It was built to house 300 members of the US government in case a nuclear war wiped out nearby Washington. His work is profiled in Wired and a Gravitas documentary.

Although the focus was storing and digitizing film, the conversation ranged from preserving Hollywood classics to home movies, and why the most volatile medium for film might be best for its long-term storage. Despite his busy schedule, Willeman was willing to meet from his home, where his boisterous son James makes a cameo appearance.

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