(Not) Freaking Out Over the Videofreex: Preserving a video collective archive

Tom Colley and Kristin MacDonough
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Five: 2017-2018


Video Data Bank (VDB) is a leading resource in the United States for video by and about contemporary artists. The VDB Collection includes the work of more than 550 artists and 6,000 video art titles, and work is available to exhibitors through an international distribution service. Steadfast in staying ahead of exhibitors needs, VDB has been long committed to digitization and preservation of its video archive, including the Videofreex Archive special collection. Founded in 1969, the Videofreex were one of the first video collectives in America: through the mid-1970s they produced content using newly available consumer video equipment that chronicled the counter-culture movement and broadcasted the first pirate TV station in the country from Lanesville, NY. In 2001, VDB began acquiring the Videofreex tapes from locations around the country, the majority of which are on ½” open reel. Digitizing the tapes has been a high priority for VDB, and thanks to generous donations early on, many tapes were digitized through the Bay Area Video Coalition’s Preservation Access Program. In 2014, VDB received project funding to enhance ongoing, in-house digitization activities. This presentation will discuss the work involved in preserving the Videofreex Archive, from initially acquiring, cataloging, and prioritizing the tapes, to recent in-house digitization activities – notably, obtaining and repairing ½” open reel decks, as well as cleaning and stabilizing tapes against further deterioration.

Tom Colley
Video Data Bank
Archive and Collection Manager
Chicago, IL

Kristin MacDonough
Art Institute of Chicago
Time-Based Media Conservation Fellow
Chicago, IL