This past weekend I was going through some of the boxes I have in storage and I discovered an old VHS tape. It turned out to be a collection of old family movies that had been transferred from 8mm onto VHS for my parents many years ago. I was happy to find the videos, though all of them were from a time before I was born.
But what do I do with a VHS tape? I haven’t owned a VHS player in many years. So as of now, I have a copy of cherished family memories that I can’t ever look at. And there is more than just the one tape. I know in other boxes I have some 8mm tapes with videos of my kids. I also have another video camera with an internal hard drive with many videos on it as well. How can I save them all for future generations, or even just for the current family to view and reminisce?
I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world with that problem, but my problem is small compared to companies and institutions creating video like crazy today. What do they do with them all? How do they preserve them and keep track of what videos they have?
On a small scale, any mishmash of solutions will probably work. For myself I can upload videos to Dropbox or burn them onto DVD and bury them in the closet (until DVDs no longer work either).
But for a place like a university that literally has videos of hundreds of lectures every year, plus special events, and student projects that approach won’t work.
What exactly will work, depends on the details of each organisation. But a good place to start is the cloud.
Cloud storage options like Dropbox (just one common example for reference) offer many benefits that even enterprises and institutions need. Those include the ability to always have the video files available, even after a disaster. The cloud storage companies invest heavily into infrastructure, backup and disaster recovery solutions. That means you don’t have to worry about your videos being lost once they are uploaded. But while the videos will be preserved on the cloud, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have easy access to them or even be able to know what you’ve uploaded. For that you’ll need to be extremely organised with a plan in place to help find a video in the future if you need it.
If you use a service like PlanetStream, your videos are already preserved in the cloud once they’ve been uploaded to your account, for as long as you pay for the storage (just like you would with a file service such as Dropbox). Keeping it organised still falls to you. And beyond physical preservation and organisation, you also have to make choices about file formats.
You can learn more about creating a digital preservation programme for your organisation at the National Archives website. They offer guidance on setting up your own preservation programme. You can also check out the US Library of Congress digital preservation website. They offer a curriculum built around helping people make sure their digital materials are preserved for future generations.