Mass Migration of Archival Video Collections: Open Source Tools for Managing Digitization Projects

Donald Mennerich
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Two: 2011-2012
Abstract PDF


The move towards digital preservation and servicing of moving image assets has created a unique set of challenges which the archival repository must face to keep collections as viable resources for research in the shifting information landscape. These challenges push the boundaries of what can be accomplished through the traditions of archival management and analog video transfer practices.

The digitization of moving image collections present will normally exceed the storage and systems demands that what most institutions can adequately provide. At present, there are few options for an institution to implement that do not require extensive development and cost. A commercial Digital Asset Management system is an extremely resource expensive management tool to implement, available to few institutions in the arts and humanities. Even with this technology at hand, expertise is needed for every facet of a digitization project. Combined with the sheer size of digital video assets created during a migration process, moving image resources have proven to be one of the most problematic formats to approach for digital migration.

Fortunately there are free and open source applications that can be used to aid this process and manage digital resources produced both in-house and through vendors. This presentation will illustrate Yale University Library’s implementation of open source tools to manage the digitization of the over twelve thousand videos that make up the Fortunoff Video Archives of Holocaust Testimonies. The desktop application Archivists’ Toolkit, web application development framework Grails, and technical metadata extraction tool Mediainfo have all been implemented by the library specifically for this project. Used together these tools have allowed Yale to create a sustainable management and workflow tools for the lifecycle of the migration project and a new descriptive framework for future access to the testimonies held in the collection.

Donald Mennerich
Digital Archivist
Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division
Yale University