AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting, Electronic Media Session, Thursday May 10, 2012, Acts of non-conservation: developing more effective means of communication and advocacy through metadata, by Joshua Ranger

The second talk of the Electronic Media Session was from Joshua Ranger, who described the conservation of analog media in terms of the soul.  That preservation is soulful and grounded in the past, and non-conservation is soul-less or uncaring of the past.  He then turned this argument on it’s head to say that preservation of analog materials is machine-dependent and machines are made of plastics and chemicals, they are essentially emotionless androids who argue against passion.  He then argued his point of view for the conservation of analog materials from the point of view of an emotionless android, without passion.

There are aesthetic and monetary values to analog media and advocacy gives us a foot in the door, but we need to utilize many forms of advocacy. Before we can start an advocacy program we need some quantitative information about our digital collections:

1. How much do we have? How many of what kind do we have? How old is it?

2. How much is it going to cost to preserve it all?

To answer these questions he demonstrated FATMAP:

FAceted Technical Metadata Aggregator Project (which won the twitter competition for the best acronym of #aicmtg2012)

FATMAP reads hundreds of thousands of files and comes up with data about the files including file formats, aspect ratios, file extensions, audio codes, and image formats.  This allows us to create metrics, plan for storage needs (current storage needs and projected future storage needs), plan for research and accessibility needs like software, emulation, and migration, and finally for obsolescence monitoring.

FATMAP is ideal for unprocessed digital collections to get an idea of the types of materials in the collection and then use this information for future advocacy campaigns.

Joshua Ranger demonstrated from a case study of an unnamed client who had 400,000 files that were run through FATMAP.  The program uncovered some interesting facts like the popularity of certain files formats over time and how file extensions could be used for a tool for collection profiling and to manage collections.

To me, this seemed like a great tool for the management of digital collections, especially those collections that may have no previous collection management system.