Coming Out of Our Ears: An Abundance of Media to Preserve and Share at Stanford Libraries


This interview is with Hannah Frost, Services Manager for Stanford Media Preservation Lab and Stanford Digital Repository. Hannah has been leading media preservation efforts at Stanford Libraries since 2001 after earning a MLIS in archives and preservation at the University of Texas at Austin. Her first introduction to the challenges of media preservation arose while working as a studio assistant for documentary photographer and media artist Jim Goldberg, who had some finicky Hi8 video tapes with recorded content to be included in a single channel video piece for his "Raised by Wolves" exhibition.


What audio and video collections are you considering putting into Avalon?

Stanford envisions a number of ways to use Avalon. We need the ability to gather media content produced by students, faculty, research groups, and departments. Our expanding Stanford Digital Repository service is attracting a lot of interest around campus, and an amazing variety of media material is coming out of the woodwork: podcasts like Generation Anthropocene, public radio programs like Philosophy Talk, and teaching and learning resources like Entrepreneurship Corner. We also imagine using it for the deposit of event recordings like Stanford commencement speeches (see Steve Jobs in 2005), and creative works, like this chamber opera by Stanford professor, composer, and researcher Jonathan Berger. Stanford is brimming with media content produced in the interest of education, research, creativity, and the well-being of society. Much of the content is of high quality, broad appeal, and long-term value. Avalon will greatly facilitate the Libraries’ ability to collect, describe, preserve, and deliver it.


Stanford Libraries also plans to use Avalon for bringing in bulk collections of digital video and audio materials from our partners. We are increasingly collaborating with other cultural heritage institutions that have rich digital collections, including media content, to preserve and serve up, but without their own means to do so.


The list of use cases continues to grow!


"Zooming In on the Mandelbrot Set", a 16mm motion picture film illustrating the work of Benoit B. Mandelbrot, the "father of fractals". Courtesy Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections.


Who will be able to access these collections in Avalon?

In many cases, not everyone, and frankly that is part of Avalon’s appeal. Most of the media content in Stanford’s collections is encumbered by copyright, privacy, or licensing terms.  Without an integrated media delivery solution that supports access limitations to the Stanford community, or specific locations or groups within Stanford, it has not been possible for us to make our digital media collections available in a controlled, systematic way.  Avalon provides a full-featured system that meets the array of Stanford’s access requirements.


What are some unique or interesting items in your media collections?

We have lots! Just to list a few:

Original 1-inch video footage from the Stanford Prison Experiment, preserved in the archive of Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology. Courtesy Stanford University Libraries, University Archives.


How will Avalon help you achieve your preservation and access goals?

For over a decade, Stanford Libraries has been actively engaged in media preservation and digital preservation – two major challenges facing research libraries today. Avalon is a natural choice for us: Stanford is a founding member and devotee of Project Hydra and home of the Stanford Media Preservation Lab.  We have invested heavily in establishing a program with supporting facilities and expert staff for reformatting aging, unique media and stewarding the digital copies in a robust preservation environment. However, we have struggled to bring up an access environment that is compatible with both access policies and the repository’s technical infrastructure … until Avalon.  Furthermore, as more and more media is born-digital, we need to expand our capabilities for efficient deposit to our repository.  We believe strongly in flexible, robust, open source software solutions in the service of information preservation and access, and Avalon fits the bill!