As the digital media evolution continues at a relentless pace the impact on audiovisual collections around the world becomes an increasing focus for the organisations and people involved in them.
Digital media consumption and publishing technologies are all playing their part in fuelling the appetite of professionals and consumers alike to gain access to the wealth of heritage, news and entertainment content held within the collections.
One of the major challenges facing contemporary audiovisual archives is how to manage all of the analogue and digital media in one system.
The management of both the content and metadata is becoming increasingly complex as the transition from physical analogue formats, where it is in a tangible form, to a plethora of digital formats, where it is just a collection of bits and bytes somewhere in a computer system, becomes a necessity to fulfil the access requirements.
Importantly the ability to manage both analogue and digital formats and associated metadata held within collections in a consistent and cohesive manner will create the efficiencies required in today’s economic climate.
Mediaflex goes beyond traditional Collection Management and Digital & Media Asset Management systems to deliver a solution that meets one of the major challenges facing contemporary audiovisual archives – how to manage all of the analogue and digital media in one system. Mediaflex Collections provides the specific workflows and functionality that are uniquely required for the management of audiovisual archives. Audiovisual archivists and curators can use the functionality in Mediaflex core system and other modules to manage, preserve and deliver digital content in their collections while ensuring that the whereabouts of analogue content and artefacts is also strictly tracked and maintained.
Equally as important, the integrated solution provides the access and publishing requirements that are becoming increasingly important.
- Track and record comprehensive information on acquisitions before, during and after receipt of media items.
- Customer relationship management.
- Governance and auditing of all acquisitions and associated items throughout the entire life-cycle.
- Authority files and relationships including those for Names, Collections and Record Labels.
- Accessioning and deaccessioning workflows and management for analogue and digital items to support the organisation’s Collections Management Policy.
- User configurable hierarchical data model and extensions to support the considerable needs of collections for descriptive, technical, structural and administrative metadata.
- Analogue and digital content can be managed in a single system.
- Improved governance and auditing across the collections.
- Increased efficiency for management of acquisitions and accessioning.
- Consistent metadata with use of authority files and relationships.
- Flexible and extensible data model.
Collections Management is comprised of various processes:
Many acquisitions by audiovisual collections are donated or bequeathed by sources within the industry, such as performers or directors; as contracted commissions, or an exchange/swap of collection material from another audiovisual collection. Categories include audio, audiovisual, digital, documents, electronic media, moving image, recorded sound, as well as associated physical items, such as cans of film, tapes, costumes, cameras, props, records (LP’s). All such items, both digital and physical, are managed by Mediaflex. If an item can carry a barcode, it can be managed and tracked within the system.
In an audiovisual collection, some acquisitions remain open for continual addition of articles. Mediaflex enables multiple users to simultaneously work on the same acquisition, and accession items from this acquisition on an ongoing basis.
When an item is donated to a collection, Mediaflex creates a Name Authority Record in the system. This record includes a top-level description of the item, details of the acquisition (who donated the item, the container and article, and expected delivery date). Mediaflex automatically generates a barcode for the acquisition, which could be a single article or a pallet with many boxes on it, each containing several articles. The curator of the collection will make the decision as to what happens to each acquisition – whether it will be retained and accessioned into the collection or rejected. Mediaflex records the status of each acquisition, with a full audit trail.
Government Recording Collections
The Mediaflex Transfer Manager enables automatic bulk acquisition (import/transfer) of electronic content via Excel sheets, with associated metadata, and Acquisition From Template for repeat acquisitions, e.g., news related items, court proceedings, or parliamentary session recordings.
The Mediaflex Acquisitions visual graphical interface enables reservation of space in physical warehouses or locations for known incoming acquisitions.
Accessioning is the process of moving physical items from the area of ‘acquired artefact/container’ and converting the acquisition into the area of ‘carrier/record.’ Once the acquisition has been examined, and the decision has been taken as to which items are to be retained and moved into the collection, an Accessioning Workflow will be raised in Mediaflex. The Workflow Designer takes the operator through a process to create a version, set the usage e.g., preservation, access/browsing, copy, etc., provide a detailed description, and complete all the required metadata fields before the item can be accessioned into the collection. The item is re-packaged into a new archival carrier and a new barcode is generated to the accessioned items.
Should only a partial quantity be accessioned into the collection from an acquisition of a high number of items, the quantities to be retained or disposed of are recorded in Mediaflex, with the rejected items being disposed of as per initial instructions received on acquisition (returned to the donor, destroyed, etc.). Every item, whether accessioned or rejected, is recorded in Mediaflex with a full audit trail.
Mediaflex automatically generates a filename for every item being accessioned into the collection, each with its own unique barcode. Once an article has been accessioned, it is moved to the vault as part of the Accessioning Workflow in Mediaflex.
A detailed description of each item is critical. For example, an 8-track audio tape: during this detailed Accessioning Workflow, a problem may be found that affects the integrity of that particular type of tape, and a Preservation Workflow is automatically raised, based on the recorded condition of the item(s). Those items are moved for preservation (usually digitisation). Mediaflex automatically generates filenames for every file created by digitisation. This could be the name of a tape, or separate filenames for each of the songs on a tape, or a filename for the A or B sides of a tape.
Analysis of the collection is an ongoing process to identify which media is most at risk of irrecoverable deterioration. These items are tested regularly to ascertain the integrity of the media, and steps are taken for preservation, based on equipment, resources, etc.
Preservation in Mediaflex is all workflow-based. Many of the old physical formats (e.g., super ferric cassette tapes, chrome tapes, and triacetate film) degrade badly, and if no preservation action is performed on these formats, they would be lost forever. The condition of each item is recorded, and it is then easy for the operator to identify all the items of a particular type of media that are recorded within Mediaflex – how at risk they are – and take steps for their preservation. This is done via the Pick List Manager, which enables the user to build a pick list from any data within Mediaflex, (for example, every cassette manufactured by Sony from 1971 to 1973) and raise a workflow to have preservation activities carried out on these items.
As some tapes may be particularly fragile or in a poor state of deterioration, there are times when they may offer only one attempt to play and digitise them. There are therefore many different conservation treatments and conditions available to be recorded in Mediaflex, such as to bake the tape, clean or splice the tape, or other methods of preservation to be able to create the best possible outcome.
A particularly destructive condition for old tapes is known as Vinegar Syndrome. A vinegar smell is produced during a chemical reaction which occurs when cellulose triacetate film begins to decompose. While the presence of this odour does not mean that the film has degraded, it is indicative that this process has begun, with this reaction being continuous and irreversible. The production of acetic acid is autocatalytic, meaning that this reaction feeds on itself and speeds up over time. This acid also reacts with dyes in colour film, causing fading and damage to the base as well as the images. Mediaflex records the measurement and progress of vinegar syndrome and tracks any treatments that are performed on the tape and film. Conditions and treatments are all tracked within Mediaflex throughout the lifecycle of each item.
Mediaflex makes the process of manual preservation easy for the operators by providing information on where the files are located, what each digitised file should be called, what metadata is related to the items, unique identifiers, etc. Mediaflex automatically detects files created with the correct name, and processes these through the workflow in the system. Multiple preservation formats are supported in Mediaflex for all content types.
ACCESS and RIGHTS MANAGEMENT
Access to an audiovisual collection is managed through Mediaflex. An important aspect to accessing content is related to rights management. Mediaflex includes a Rights Module, which records who owns the rights to each item in the collection. The system enables search for the rights owner and includes an audit trail of who contacted them and when, along with whether permission has been granted for access to the article(s) and for what purpose. Articles can be linked to a particular rights agreement, and additional permissions can be added to the agreement for different users and purposes, e.g. for research or even YouTube, internet download, broadcast, copying, etc. Content can be loaned, for example, for an exhibition, or borrowed from other collections such as state libraries, galleries, etc.
Mediaflex enables tagging of different types of physical and digital media to build up a virtual collection – with the specific purpose of being used for a specific event , such as an exhibition or as a loan, and then deleting this collection once it has served its purpose. A single article can be part of several such collections at the same time. All information and metadata related to every article can be linked to these collections, including an acquisition record. All movement of these articles and collections is recorded within Mediaflex, with a full audit trail.
The Mediaflex Lending Module enables tracking of articles, both physical and digital. Such loans could include loaning items to other agencies or organisations, or to individual staff for research or exhibition purposes. A Mediaflex user would raise a lending request, a lending officer picks up this request and checks the request, checks the permissions, approves, and dispatches the item. Mediaflex records the status of this item as ‘On Loan’ and linked to a return date, showing overdues (providing alerts and notifications), and returns.
Once a loaned item is returned to the collection, manual checks are done on the condition of each item, before being placed back into the storage location (vault). An important part of preservation of articles in a collection relates to environmental storage conditions. Some items are required to be stored in specific conditions, such as a temperature-controlled rooms. Mediaflex records these specifications and ensures each item is returned to its correct location. Every step of the loan and return is recorded and tracked within Mediaflex.
The Mediaflex Library or Vaults Designer enables the user to design the layout of the vaults, the physical locations, where items are stored, such as cans of film, tapes, artefacts, disks, etc. These vaults can be geographically dispersed but controlled centrally within Mediaflex. The vaults are typically structured with Vaults – Areas – Rooms – Bays – Racks – Banks – Shelves. However, this structure is flexible, and can be created to suit the needs of each organisation.
The Mediaflex Vaults Designer interface provides powerful physical location management by enabling the user to easily create any of the above locations using simple drag-and-drop to create multiple shelves or multiple banks within rooms. Each location has a barcode. Portable barcode scanners can be used to update Mediaflex with the location of every item – the user simply scans the carrier barcode, scans the location barcode, and docks the scanner to the system. All location information for the items is then synchronised and updated in the system.
Mediaflex includes fields for specification of height, width, depth, weight allowed, format/type of media allowed for each storage location. Conditions such a vinegar syndrome is recorded, and the logic within Mediaflex will only allow similar items with similar conditions to be stored in the same location, to prevent contamination of uninfected items.
An extensive set of rules is available for locations. Home location could be a temperature controlled long-term location. For secure, cold storage locations, acclimatisation rules are built into Mediaflex which force certain items to be brought to room temperature before the item can be released from the collection for a loan.
Status for loans ready, loans returned, is updated within Mediaflex, as well as status, condition, and location of every item at every step of its lifecycle within the collection.