On your monitor / VHS? What’s that? With the advent of Blu-ray, even the standard-definition DVD is about to become a thing of the past. What chance does a poor student have at knowing what a videocassette is, much less what to do with it? On top of that, try finding a machine that actually plays such media. And when’s the last time anyone’s bumped into a Betamax?
Sinclair Library at the University of Hawaii-Manoa understands this and has taken ambitious steps to bring its archives into the 21st century. A massive video reformatting project is underway. The library is converting its sizable catalog of filmstrips, U-Matic tapes, Beta tapes, laserdiscs, VHS tapes and even DVDs, to the Internet-friendly QuickTime format.
“The impetus for this project was what spurs any library reformatting project,” says Digital Media Specialist Emily Albarillo. “ Impending obsolescence of the media. Equipment and replacement parts for the equipment for these formats is no longer available generally, and the library wanted to transfer the recordings before its equipment became unusable.” The process entails connecting a Canopus analog to a digital converter to digitize the videos. These digital versions are then saved as archival digital copies, and from those, smaller versions of videos are created, which can be viewed over the Internet. Once a streaming version is available, a link is added in the online Voyager catalog.
Because much of the equipment was already available for use, the main expense for the project is manpower. In addition to Albarillo, the job has also required significant labor from other Sinclair library staff, including the video librarian and the librarians in the Hawaii/Pacific sections. Their collections are the main focus of the reformatting. Some of the collections’ highlights include Keiki Hula, the library’s videos of the 1984-1999 Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition, as well as many of Hugh Gibb’s films about the Philippines.
Albarillo hopes that with additional funding in the future, a reliable backup system can be put in place to establish additional workstations to convert more than one video at a time.
“These conversions take place in real time, so this will significantly increase the amount of video we can convert in a year.” At this time, though, only UH students and faculty can access the videos.
“Due to copyright restrictions, access to streaming videos is limited to UH students, faculty and staff,” said Albarillo.
Still, they are making a significant effort to make the collection available for others not in the university system. Researchers who need access to Hawaiian Collection or Pacific Collection materials (including media) should contact the Hawaiian and Pacific collections team. Imagine: Hours of research can now be done with a laptop and an Internet connection. No more hours in front of a microfiche machine, pouring through shelves of film rolls. Studying has definitely changed. Just don’t tell anyone you’re doing it in your boxers.