six Questions with Rachel Price, Director of the MOVING IMAGE PRESERVATION OF PUGET SOUND
with William Pennington
Preservation is the key to any successful civilization, and in modern times video has become the preferred media on which to record this history. We, as people, learn through language, trade, and exploration, which help foster growth of our mind and spirit. The Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound has one main mission, which helps us all learn about who we are and as a species. Their mission?
“to help preserve audiovisual heritage in the Pacific Northwest by assisting heritage organizations with the conversion of analog video recordings to digital formats according to archival best practices”
What happens to each and every professional video produced in the Puget Sound region? Hopefully it is preserved digitally. Video tape deteriorates over time but digital is more permanent and easier to work with. This is where the Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound helps us: by reminding us who we are by preserving these videos. There are times when we look like fools, and other times innovative giants. I’d like to think that with every video we watch, be it a safety video we watch in CPR class, or the famous Pike Place based Fish! job orientation video; we learn how far we came at the time, and sometimes how we could do better.
I was lucky enough to hold the attention of Rachel Price, Director of the Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound for a few questions.
How did you come to reside in the Seattle City Hall?
I was a volunteer with Seattle Municipal Archives at its original location, the old city hall, back in the 1990s, working with the 16 mm film collection. I developed a good professional relationship with both Scott Cline and Anne Frantilla of the Archives. They were pretty desperate to have somebody process the collection and for some reason entrusted it to me. Then I went to grad school to study moving image preservation and returned to Seattle to help form MIPoPS.
I just discovered your Internet Archive page. Is this the source, as in THE source for all the work you transfer?
So, we work with libraries, archives, museums and other non-profits to help them make decisions about their audiovisual material. Once we digitize video on their behalf here at MIPoPS, we put some or all material up on the MIPoPS collection page at Internet Archive. For the most part we are grant-funded with 4Culture, NEH and NHPRC funds. Occasionally, we get clients who come to us and do fee-for service. We have quarterly screenings at Northwest Film Forum called Moving History. I like that they have a fairly comprehensive list of the groups we’ve worked with! https://nwfilmforum.org/series/moving-history/
What are done with the originals? Thrown away or kept as long as possible?
We encourage the organizations we work with to always hold on to their originals. If there are duplicates and space is needed on their shelves, however, the lesser quality duplicate could be reasonably discarded. We encourage keeping the tapes because the technology might change so that it’s possible to get a better transfer later. Also, it’s generally important to have multiple copies in multiple locations, which can include the originals.
I see from your site that you work with Scarecrow Video and NW Film Forum, among others. What is your ideal goal with working with them?
It’s great working with both Scarecrow Video and Northwest Film Forum. As you know, Scarecrow is now a non-profit, which enables us to work with them. We’ve been digitizing their rental-by-approval VHS tapes. They’re the ones that if you rent, you’re on the hook for if you damage the tape. Scarecrow has had to do quite a bit of copyright research in order for us to legally digitize their tapes. The copyright law is complex and changes, but for now Section 108 of the US copyright law allows copying by a library or archive, or related institution, to digitize a VHS tape, if there aren’t digital copies currently available. And Northwest Film Forum has been a spectacular and supportive partner. Not only do they host our quarterly screenings, but we’ve done a couple of NWFF Puget Soundtracks with local bands. This involves film montages curated by MIPoPS’s Program Manager/Audiovisual Archivist Libby Hopfauf, set to live music. We had an amazing time with the bands Baywitch and Postcard from the Bandands.
So video has gone from reel to reel, to tape, laser disc, to DVD, Blu Ray, Flash Drives, etc. Digital seems to be the final place to go. But is there a video destination beyond digital that we are just not seeing or utilizing right now?
We find that attending and presenting at conferences like the Association for Moving Image Archivists and Northwest Archivists helps keep us on top of emerging ideas. For example, video playback obsolescence is a huge deal. Both the knowledge to repair the machines, and the machines and parts themselves, are fading. There are current efforts to pass down the knowledge to archivists. The man who does our repair work will train us once he retires. And 3D printing for parts should be happening at some point.
Do you have a favorite video that you've converted? Maybe a top 3?
We all love Cut Your Chills, Reduce Your Bills, which is a Seattle Municipal Archives video via Seattle City Light. It must be seen, rather than described:
Same with Tutankhamun Minutes from the Seattle Art Museum:
Finally, how can someone (anyone) support you and your work?
The public can help support MIPoPS by coming to our screenings at Northwest Film Forum: https://nwfilmforum.org/series/moving-history We have a very active Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/mipopsseattle/ and they can get on our mailing list by emailing me at email@example.com. Also, there's straight up donation. We have a donate button on our website about halfway down the home page. We also take video player equipment donations. We are a 501 (c) 3 and all donations are tax-deductible.
WP - 9/2019