Acts of Non-Conservation: Developing More Effective Means of Communication and Advocacy Through Metadata

Joshua M. Ranger
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Two: 2011-2012


As the theme of this year’s conference suggests, conservation involves much more than physical actions performed on objects but also extends to activities that enable the performance of those actions, such as advocacy, fund-raising, and preservation planning. At the root of these activities is the ability to communicate qualitative information (e.g., why do these objects matter?) and quantitative data (e.g., how many, how old, what type, and how much?) to colleagues as well as to people outside the field. The qualitative argument will pique interest to get the ball rolling, but it is the quantitative information that supports actionable preservation plans and seals the deal for funding—especially when descriptive metadata is limited or unobtainable.

Coupled with institutional budget cuts, the backlog of unprocessed audiovisual collections, and the exponential growth (and often poor file management) of digital collections present serious challenges to the conservation and accessibility of those materials. In this presentation I will discuss ways to leverage collection metadata into effective quantitative communication strategies for advocacy. My focus here will be on technical metadata and audiovisual and digital media as representative of media types that have been under-documented in collections or have presented challenges to documentation due to variability, collection sizes, and accessibility issues.

Case data will come from inventory work performed using two new processes developed by AudioVisual Preservation Solutions (AVPS), New York, to overcome those hurdles: a high-efficiency inventory workflow for documenting analog audiovisual assets and our FATMAP tool. FATMAP is a data-mining utility that AVPS developed that crawls servers or other storage devices and parses available metadata from files into a format that allows for greater intellectual control of file-based assets, statistical analysis, obsolescence monitoring, and more. Using basic querying or reporting utilities, the data collected from these processes can be used to distill or graphically represent information that helps communicate with administrators, funders, vendors, and the public.

Joshua M. Ranger
Senior Consultant
AudioVisual Preservation Solutions
New York, NY