Reports from MIRC: Delving into the DVR

This post is the third in a series of reports about my Spring 2016 internship at Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries.

My last post described my film processing duties at MIRC. These constitute the majority of my internship hours, but I have other tasks that bear mention as well. For now, I’ll cover the DVR assessment that I recently completed. The Digital Video Repository at MIRC makes digitized films available to the public for streaming, with a metadata record accompanying each video. As with other digital collections, the DVR is a wonderful resource for library patrons, providing online access to materials held at USC. This kind of digital access requires an enormous amount of work that does not end with initial processing, cataloging, and digitizing. We cannot simply put material on the web and forget about it.

Site maintenance and database management are essential. Of course, these responsibilities are certainly not unique to digital collections, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate the point when it comes to online archival access. Someone once informed me, “With computers, I guess archivists’ jobs will be going away.” There’s so much wrong with that statement, starting with the idea that electronic computing is a recent innovation. I’ll put away my soapbox for the present, however, and focus on what I did at MIRC.

The non-public side of the DVR needs periodic review to find, among other things, records without videos and videos without records. In my case, I reviewed the Local TV News Collection on the DVR. I logged into the staff view so that I could see incomplete entries absent from the public view. First, I went through each record to see if (1) the metadata were complete and (2) an associated video was present. Second, Amy combined my notes with a list of video files from a related MIRC server, and I matched videos with records. In some cases, both were present but were unlinked. In other cases, we had a video but still needed to create a record (or less often, vice versa).

Archival processing often yields exciting discoveries as one goes through materials. Metadata assessment generally lacks this kind of serendipitous joy, but it is fulfilling in its own way. Such periodic reviews, unglamorous as they may seem, help the MIRC staff make their films more accessible to patrons. Also, as a newcomer, it is a great opportunity to become more familiar with already processed collections. Speaking of which, I think my favorite Local TV News video is WIS Story #63-1471. A reporter interviews Gloria Rackley in 1963. The Orangeburg teacher had been fired for participating in civil rights demonstrations with her students. When asked if activism detracts from students’ education, Rackley replies, “I think this is educational. They are gaining something here. For without dignity, education means very little.”