Eric Saxon, Public Broadcasting Fellow at KOPN

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KOPN’s transmitter, located east of Columbia, MO

Greetings gentle reader, I’m Eric Saxon, a Masters of Information and Library Science student specializing in archives at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and part of the second cohort of the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF). This summer, I embarked on a deep tape diving expedition at the radio station, KOPN.

KOPN 89.5 FM, community radio from Columbia, Missouri, broadcasts to antennas throughout the central part of the state and via online at kopn.org. KOPN has transmitted information and music since 1973 AD. As part of the PBPF mission to record local histories across the nation, I set out to discover Columbia and KOPN as it existed in the first twenty or so years of the station, through a media format heretofore unfamiliar to me, the ¼ in. audio tape reel.

The idea was to give these audio reels new life through digital preservation, and, subsequently, new access points to the history of community radio in Columbia, MO in the era of the ¼ in. magnetic tape.

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A ¼ in. magnetic audio tape reel

What I ended up recording is only a small piece of this history, but the audible trace there tells a story of a community radio station being born out of the progressive ethos of the 1960s, open to and actively exploring all available ideas during the 1970s, and incompletely mutating into new wave ideals of the 1980s. During the era of the magnetic tape, KOPN filled a void in mid-Missouri left by mainstream broadcast radio and television, serving across an intersection of race, class, gender, style, sexuality, attitude, and musical preference.

The collection is particularly strong in broadcasts that represent feminist discourse and practice of the time, and my predecessor (Rebecca Benson, PBPF Spring 2018 Fellow) had already begun work that focused on feminist community radio. Having inherited her excellent start to the project, I built upon the theme and expanded it to include live music broadcasts and a wide range of programming, all under the umbrella of feminist community radio.

To convey an idea of this breadth, some titles of the audio broadcasts I digitized include Betty Friedan in Columbia (1973); Don Cooper Live at KOPN (1973); Consciousness Across the Void (1973); Angela Davis in Columbia (1974); Political Gayness (1974); National Women’s Music Festival (1975); The End of “Alternative Radio” on WGTB (1976); Off Our Backs (1976); The Fabulish Winotones Live (1977); Numerology (1978); The Booty Band: Demo Tape (1978); Reasonably Polite New Wave (1981); Program on Lesbian Separatism (1981); DuChamp Live at the Blue Note (1981); Bella Azbug at MU (1984); Gloria Kaufman, “The Politics of Humor: A Feminist View” (1992);  City Council Meetings; and discussions by the Women’s Health Collective.

I transferred only a few reels from the 1990s to a digital format, and none from the 2000s. (By that time, the station had switched to digital machines.) However, a quick listen to KOPN today will tell you that the community values and open radio format there in the beginning continue to be the guiding forces of the station.

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Kansas City new wave band, DuChamp. Handmade collage on tape reel box.

The digitization process not only transferred content but also often recorded the unique physical characteristics of the tape and its interaction with the reel-to-reel tape machines, which, in the University of Missouri – Columbia KOPN Digitization Station’s case, are the Studer A807 (mono) and the Studer B67 (stereo). These were hooked up to a PC and a Mac desktop computer, respectively, where both utilized the audio editing software, Audacity. I could have removed some tape hiss, a sizzle of magnetic particles here and there, and other imperfections, but I left in all but the most egregious content obfuscators, not only to digitize as much as possible in the time allotted, but also as an aesthetic choice and to preserve the unique qualities of the tape medium itself.

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The Studer A807

Emancipating the tape reels from their media-specific obscurity required multiple other steps, with some reels needing more TLC and resuscitation than others. After vigilant cleaning of the machines between reels, this process might entail repairing splices that popped off during the recording process, adding leader tape to the heads and tails of reels, re-housing tapes with broken parts, periodic demagnetizing of the tape machines, untangling and re-spooling tape that had become curled and twisted, and baking/dehydrating tapes exhibiting “sticky-shed syndrome” where deteriorating binder material becomes unfixed in the tape path and gums up the machine’s moving parts. In addition to the more physical aspects of the project, there was also record creation for each reel, inventory production, metadata researched and added, checksum generation, audio file conversion, and ingest into the mothership servers at WGBH.

Although I worked independently, at every stage I had a network of experts and mentors to turn to when encountering an obstacle, from the immersion week of audiovisual preservation training in Boston to the final handoff of the files. Thanks go out to the amazing folks at WGBH and all involved in immersion week, including George Blood and Jackie Jay for introducing me to legacy A/V equipment, all my fellow Fellows, host mentor Jackie Casteel and everyone at KOPN, faculty mentor Dr. Sarah Buchanan and the scholars at MU’s Allen Institute, local mentor Jim Hone, and every one else involved in this far-reaching project.

Going forward, I’m excited to bring forth more untold and seldom heard stories from their various limbos, utilizing what I learned as a PBPF fellow to help make a more complete historical record that is inclusive of the entire spectrum of human experience.

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Minimal audio preservation setup: computer, reel-to-reel tape machine, human

Written by Eric Saxon, PBPF Summer 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

 

Steve Wilcer, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at WUNC

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I was thrilled to experience the myriads of different programs from WUNC over the years and be able to directly contribute to their preservation for the future.

Hello! My name is Steve Wilcer. I coordinated with WGBH and WUNC Radio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as a member of the second cohort of fellows for the AAPB Public Broadcast Preservation Fellowship. I am currently working towards a Master of Science in Library Science at the University of North Carolina and plan to graduate next spring. Prior to my time in North Carolina, I studied musicology at the Ohio State University and was exposed to a wide variety of media formats and materials, ranging from microfiche to medieval manuscripts. I developed a strong passion for libraries and archives through these experiences, which led me to pursue a second master’s degree in library science.

Learning as I work

As someone who just entered North Carolina last fall, my work with WUNC Radio offered me a unique opportunity to learn about the area and its people. Public radio provides a versatile platform for education, entertainment, and awareness programming. I was thrilled to experience the myriads of different programs from WUNC over the years and be able to directly contribute to their preservation for the future. During my portion of the fellowship, I was able to digitize approximately forty assets, with most of them being digital audio tapes. I also continued to develop the cataloging and documentation for WUNC, allowing me to experience the digitization and preservation process from a more holistic standpoint.

One particularly informative component of the fellowship for me was the North Carolina Voices special collection: This collection contains materials from two of WUNC’s special program series: Understanding Poverty and Civil War. Understanding Poverty offered a wide assortment of programs and features on various financial and social issues in the state, as well as how North Carolina has developed over the last several decades. The Civil War series contained family stories of ancestors that lived during or served in the United States Civil War. Both series provided me a valuable, more tangible insight into the people of Chapel Hill and North Carolina as I listened to their stories and firsthand experiences. I also had the artistic opportunity to design our thumbnail image for the special collection as it appears on the AAPB.

Building up foundations

Being the second UNC fellow for the project, I was fortunate that our digitization station was already set up and operational. Getting the station to work was a significant challenge for the first round of the fellowship, but fortunately, the station operated without any issues for me, thanks to all the hard work from everyone involved. One of my duties in the project was to build upon the records for the digitized materials and ensure that WUNC’s personal records were uniform and easy to understand. I frequently consulted with WUNC’s Keith Weston to confirm dates, names, and programming details. In some cases, newly rediscovered items forced us to reevaluate how we defined a particular series or piece of programming, and I would edit our records as necessary.

UNC SILS Digitization station

While the fellowship focuses on digitization, cataloging the physical DATs and cassettes I handled proved to be equally important. Without proper labeling and documentation, a given asset could be unknowingly re-recorded and cost extra time. In addition to our digital master table of records, I was responsible for labeling the physical objects and their cases with the newly-determined local identifiers for WUNC. With these markings, the cases can be quickly scanned for items that are yet to be digitized, which will make future digitization projects easier for WUNC.

I developed a strong personal connection to these items as I cataloged and marked them. Each DAT and cassette had a story to tell, and it was up to me to piece together their metadata and see that they were digitized and made publicly accessible so others could listen to them. Being one of the first North Carolina-based organizations to be included in the AAPB was very exciting for me, as our work here was not only a foundation for WUNC and its archives, but for North Carolina as a state, as well. Materials like the WUNC 1953 sign-on event reminded me how long ago some of these recordings were made, and how many more there may still be at WUNC, waiting to be digitized and heard once more.

Overall, the fellowship has been a wonderful opportunity for me. It allowed me to not only develop my abilities handling audio materials and digital records, but also provide me a way to learn about the area and its people and history. I am incredibly grateful for all the support and effort from everyone that allowed this project to be realized: my advisor, Dr. Helen Tibbo, Erica Titkemeyer from the Southern Folklife collection for her technical assistance, Dena Schultz, our first fellow for the project, Keith Weston at WUNC, and all the staff at WGBH for their supervision, planning, and feedback.

Written by Steve Wilcer, PBPF Summer 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

 

Ben Gogel, Research Assistant on the NewsHour Digitization Project

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Over the last several months, I’ve worked as a Research Assistant at WGBH on the PBS NewsHour Digitization Project. This project involves taking the predecessor programs for the PBS NewsHour, including The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and making them available to a wider audience through digitization, preservation, and online access. My specific responsibilities include reviewing the proxy files, or digital copies, of multiple NewsHour episodes and making sure they are presentable (no major audiovisual glitches, complete transcripts, subtitles are legible), and recording the information in an online spreadsheet. This may sound like a straightforward job, but working at WGBH taught me even straightforward jobs can have unpredictable aspects, and I learned a lot about adapting to new challenges and going outside my comfort zone.

Before working on this project, I attended a rigorous Archives Management program at Simmons University, learning about several archival processing practices, chief among them being More Product, Less Process (MPLP). The idea behind MPLP is that, in cases where large amounts of archival content needs to be preserved, the Archivist must focus on processing as many objects as possible. This approach served me well in several real-world internships, including two in different departments at WGBH. The first of these was in the Creative department during the summer of 2015, helping my co-workers not only track data but set up a Google Drive account so as to store it in a spreadsheet. I then parlayed this experience into my Simmons Archives Field Study capstone project in the WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA). Throughout the winter of 2016, I reviewed and cataloged episodes of regional news magazines produced by the Wyoming PBS and Oregon Public Broadcasting. Between the academic training and real-world experience, I thought I could handle working on the NewsHour Digitization Project, but over time, I found out just how unprepared I was, in the best way possible.

While archives share general principles, every place and department I’ve worked at has its own unique, unpredictable challenges, and the same was true on this project as well. A typical day on the job involves watching NewsHour episodes in bits and pieces, making sure the videos were watchable and their accompanying materials (i.e. transcripts and subtitles) were present and accurate. Most of the time, review has been straightforward, and the clips themselves have occasionally been interesting looks at iconic figures from new perspectives: personal favorites include retrospectives on what would’ve been the 100th birthdays of Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, for example. But there are times where I have been thrown for a loop and needed to adapt.

For clips without transcripts and/or subtitles, I had no choice but to watch them for longer time periods, paying close attention to the audio. This need for paying close attention goes both ways, and there were times during graphic reports (like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina coverage) where I needed to take small breaks to keep from getting overwhelmed emotionally. Fortunately, my co-workers and supervisor, remembering me from my previous Archives internship, have been remarkably sympathetic and understanding, which helped alleviate this stress, among other worries. The friendly, open atmosphere also encouraged me to branch out and extend a helping hand to them, and new people at WGBH, in kind.

Throughout the summer months, the MLA had several interns join over the summer, and as a welcoming gesture, I sat down with each of them for lunch on their first days, and over the course of their time I offered practical advice whenever I could, most importantly to not rule anything out vis-à-vis future work opportunities. At the same time, I myself was a fresh addition to the audience at several MeetUps and SpeakEasys: one of each a month for promoting and socializing with people from different departments of WGBH. The MeetUps even have a whole minute set aside for the purpose of introducing yourself to strangers, a nice and well-appreciated touch. Between this mentorship and more socially conducive environment, I had a support network that helped me a great deal.

As a kid, two of the biggest things that scared me were thunderstorms and spicy foods, particularly buffalo chicken. I would always stay away from both of them at every possible opportunity, to preserve my anxiety and avoid any kind of discomfort. The last few months had their fair share of stormy heat waves and spicy hot wings, but as with archival work in general, uncomfortable situations can only be avoided for so long. In the end, I had to buck up and accept that summer storms could at least be tolerated, and it helps that my co-workers never treated it as a debilitating setback. As for the spicy foods, that I did have control over, and to set a positive example for the interns, I not only tried buffalo chicken, but also pulled pork covered in Jamaican jerk seasoning. To my surprise, neither one of those foods burned my mouth off or led to searing pain, and this growth can be directly attributed to both my at-work support group and my need/willingness to handle unforeseen archiving circumstances.

Being adaptable to unpredictable elements is the most valuable lesson I learned from this experience. On-the-nose food metaphors aside, my experience with the turbulence in both the clouds and video files forced me out of my comfort zone, but it was all in terms I could understand thanks to my years of real-world experience. In my goal of preserving and making accessible the NewsHour files, I persevered and made myself more accessible as well.

Written by Ben Gogel, https://www.linkedin.com/in/bengogel/

 

 

Riley Griffin, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at GPB

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When we toured WGBH, we took turns holding an Emmy Award trophy (Image: Riley Griffin, author, holding an Emmy Award)

Hi, everyone!  My name is Riley Griffin (xe/xir).  I am just now entering my second year of graduate school in Clayton State University’s Masters of Archival Studies program.  I am the second fellow, after Virginia Angles, to be a part of the American Archives of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF).  My part of the project focused on digitizing Georgia Public Broadcasting’s (GPB) Georgia Gazette under the incredibly trusting supervision of Ellen Reinhardt, Kathy Christensen, and Joshua Kitchens.  I was looking for summer opportunities when a chance at following a career path in my new-found love for preservation presented itself through the AAPBPBPF.  I was overjoyed by the scope of the fellowship, the organizations working with it, and the special collections it included.

Every fellowship starts with certain expectations only to end with different lessons and new perspectives.  At the start of my fellowship, I spent a lot of time comparing. There were a lot of things I was not expecting, my reactions being one of them.  As we visited Boston and learned about all the different types of digital media we could be working with I couldn’t help but begin to feel this sort of jealousy–wishing I could work with as many formats and topics as possible.

Of course, this hunger decreased to a low rumble as I became humbled by the Georgia Gazette materials.  I quickly realized I craved difficulty; so, I became grateful instead of jealous.  In training, we were prepared to scrub and scrub our machines clean, take precious time delicately fixing things, and balance everything to be just perfect.  However, my project was given a bit of grace by being a more modern collection. Digital Audio Tapes (DATs) are often considered one of the most fragile media formats. However, most of them were recorded at a decent quality from the 1990’s to the 2000’s, rewound to the beginning, and left alone and undisturbed in an air-conditioned radio station.  So, please forgive me when I am grateful that the worst of my worries is how many times I dropped the (very loose) pinch roller into the machine that day.

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GPB Digitization Station (Image: Two desks with 2 computers, a DAT machine, cleaning materials, and various electronics everywhere)

The topics of everyone’s materials had me curious, too.  I was wondering what it was like to have video–as my project was only audio–and to have materials like oral histories to work with.  I quickly counted my blessings as I heard what my colleague was working on–images of war, tragedy, death, and disaster. I thanked GPB for having forward attitudes towards topics, reporters who were nearly-emotionless in comparison, and pert news reports.  I am a very sensitive soul and could imagine having to wait the tears out before being able to see what you’re working on. I also realized I was having a hard time with some of the Georgia Gazette material.  One thing I experience as an archivist who moves all over is major culture shock.  I think being an archivist is one of the best ways to learn about the place you have just moved to. But it also exposes you to things much quicker than you expect.

I’m from upstate New York, which has a different demographic and historical context; although I’m not unfamiliar with racism, being deeply embedded in Georgia’s racial history as I digitized GPB’s daily news was a new experience for me. I had moments of weeping at work as I listened to news reports about the Georgia General Assembly holding expensive special sessions in order to redistrict purely based on race, schoolchildren being prevented from going the schools they want as a result of segregation, and segregation’s long-term effects on Georgia school districts, which I still hear about today. Although I knew about these issues in the abstract, hearing them firsthand was very emotional for me and adding visuals might have been overwhelming.

I would be lying if I were to say I came away from this project without any further attachment to Georgia.  Although it has exposed me to some of the ugly parts I try to avoid in my daily life, it has also exposed me to so much more.  Even the drive to work showed me the oldest drive-in movie theater in the area that is still working.   I also got the opportunity to listen to all of the preparation and execution of the 1996 Olympics.  I am a huge fan of all things Olympics, so

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Indeed, this was the “WORST Gazette ever” (Image: close-up of a DAT labelled “Maxell DAT; Gazette 01-20 95; WORST Gazette ever”)

this was a special treat for me. The Georgia Gazette has given me a sort of pseudo-pride of Georgia; every guest and topic on the show had a relation to Georgia.  Learning about popular historical figures like Blind Tom Wiggins or popular events like the National Grits Festival in Warwick gives me a great appreciation for where I live and the opportunities available to me here.  It has also given me a deeper and fuller appreciation for public broadcasting, something that had already been instilled in me.  In a time where everyone is flocking to Georgia for jobs, often displacing long-term Georgians, I remind myself that my brief time being here must be purposeful.  I hope to help make their history more accessible so that they can feel that true sense of pride they deserve.  With the Georgia Gazette, I hope I did just that–even if it was just a little bit.

 

Written by Riley Griffin, PBPF Summer 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

AAPB Transcription Workflow, Part 1

The AAPB started creating transcripts as part of our “Improving Access to Time-Based Media through Crowdsourcing and Machine-Learning” grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). For the initial 40,000 hours of the AAPB’s collection, we worked with Pop Up Archive to create machine-generated transcripts, which are primarily used for keyword indexing, to help users find otherwise under-described content. These transcripts are also being corrected through our crowdsourcing platforms FIX IT and FIX IT+.

As the AAPB continues to grow its collection, we have added transcript creation to our standard acquisitions workflow. Now, when the first steps of acquisition are done, i.e., metadata has been mapped and all of the files have been verified and ingested, the media is passed in to the transcription pipeline. The proxy media files are either copied directly off the original drive or pulled down from Sony Ci, the cloud-based storage system that serves americanarchive.org’s video and audio files. These are copied into a folder on the WGBH Archives’ server, and then they wait for an available computer running transcription software.

Dockerized Kaldi

The AAPB uses the docker image of PopUp Archive’s Kaldi running on many machines across WGBH’s Media Library and Archives. Rather than paying additional money to run this in the cloud or on a super computer, we decided to take advantage of the resources we already had sitting in our department. AAPB and Archives staff at WGBH that regularly leave their computers in the office overnight are good candidates for being part of the transcription team. All they have to do is follow instructions on the internal wiki to install Docker and a simple Macintosh application, built in-house, that runs scripts in the background and reports progress to the user. The application manages launching Docker, pulling the Kaldi image (or checking that you already have it pulled), and launching the image. The user doesn’t need any specific knowledge about how Docker images work to run the application. That app gets minimized on the dock and continues to run in the background as the staff members goes about their work during the day.* But that’s not all! When they leave for the night and their computer typically wouldn’t be doing anything, it continues to transcribe media files, making use of processing power that we were already paying for but hadn’t been utilizing.

*There have been reports of systems being perceptively slower when running this Docker image throughout the day. It has yet to have a significant impact on any staff member’s ability to do their job.

Square application window that shows list of transcripts that have been processed
Application user-interface

Centralized Solution

Now, we could just have multiple machines running Kaldi through Docker and that would let us create a lot of transcripts. However, it would be cumbersome and time-consuming to split the files into batches, manage starting a different batch on each computer, and collect the disparate output files from various machines at the end of the process. So we developed a centralized way of handling the input and output of each instance of Kaldi running on a separate machine.

That same Macintosh application that manages running the Kaldi Docker image also manages files in a network-shared folder on the Archives server. When a user launches the application, it checks that specific folder on the server for media files. If there are any media files in that folder, it takes the oldest file, copies it locally and starts transcribing it. When Kaldi has finished transcribing it, the output text and json formatted transcripts are copied to a subfolder on the Archives server, and the copy of the media file is deleted. Then the application checks the folder again, picks up the next media file, and the process continues.

Screenshot of a file directory with many .mp4 files, a few folders, and a few files named with base64 encoded strings
Files on the Archives server: the files at the top are waiting to be processed, the files near the bottom are the ones being processed by local machines

Avoiding Duplicate Effort

Now, since we have multiple computers running in parallel, all looking at the same folder on the server, how do we make sure that multiple computers aren’t duplicating efforts by transcribing the same file? Well, the process first tries to rename the file to be processed, using the person’s name and a base-64 encoding of the original filename.  If the renaming succeeds, the file is copied into the Docker container for local processing, and the process on every other workstation will ignore files named that way in their quest to pick up the oldest qualifying file. After a file is successfully processed by Kaldi, it is  then deleted, so no one else can pick it up. When Kaldi fails on a file, then the file on the server is renamed to its original file name with “_failed” appended, and again the scripts know to ignore the file. A human can later go in to see if any files have failed and investigate why. (It is rare for Kaldi to fail on an AAPB media file, so this is not part of the workflow we felt we needed to automate further).

Handling Computer and Human Errors

The centralized workflow relies on the idea that the application is not quitting in the middle of a transcription. If someone shuts their laptop, the application will stop, but when they open it again, the application will pickup right where it left off. It will even continue transcribing the current file if the computer is not connected to the WGBH network, because it maintains a local copy of the file that is processing. This allows a little flexibility in terms of staff taking their computers home or to conferences.

The problem starts when the application quits, which could occur when someone quits it intentionally, someone accidentally hits the quit button rather than the minimize button, someone shuts down or restarts their computer, or a computer fails and shuts itself down automatically. We have built the application to minimize the effects of this problem. When the application is restarted it will just pick up the next available file and keep going as if nothing happened. The only reason this is a problem at all is because the file they were in the middle of working on is still sitting on the Archives server, renamed, so another computer will not pick it up.

We consider these few downsides to this set up completely manageable:

  • At regular intervals a human must look into the folder on the server to check that a file hasn’t been sitting renamed for a long time. These are easy to spot because there will be two renamed files with the same person’s name. The older of these two files is the one that was started and never finished. The filename can be changed to its original name by decoding the base-64 string. Once the name is changed, another computer will pick up the file and start transcribing.
  • Because the file stopped being transcribed in the middle of the process, the processing time spent on that interrupted transcription is wasted. The next computer to start transcribing this file will start again at the beginning of the process.

Managing Prioritization

Because the AAPB has a busy acquisitions workflow, we wanted to make sure there was a way to manage prioritization of the media getting transcribed. Prioritization can be determined by many variables, including project timelines, user interest, and grant deadlines. Rather than spending a lot of time to build a system that let us track each file’s prioritization ranking, we opted for a simpler, more manual operation. While it does require human intervention, the time commitment is minimal.

As described above, the local desktop applications only look in one folder on the Archives server. By controlling what is copied into that folder, it is easy to control what files get transcribed next. The default is for a computer to pick up the oldest file in the folder. If you have a set of more recent files that you want transcribed before the rest of the files, all you have to do is remove any older files from that folder. You can easily put them in another folder, so that when the prioritized files are completed, it’s easy to move the rest of the files into the main folder.

For smaller sets of files that need to be transcribed, we can also have someone who is not running the application standup an instance of dockerized Kaldi and run the media through it locally. Their machine won’t be tied into the folder on the server, so they will only process those prioritized files they feed Kaldi locally.

Transforming the Output

At any point we can go to the Archives server and grab the transcripts that have been created so far. These transcripts are output as text files and as JSON files which pair time-stamp data with each word. However, the AAPB prefers JSON transcripts that are time-stamped at each 5-7 second phrase.

We use a script that parses the word-stamped JSON files and outputs phrase-stamped JSON files.

Word time-stamped JSON

Screenshot from a text editor showing a json document with wrapping json object called words with sub-objects with keys for word, time, and duration
Snippet of Kaldi output as JSON transcript with timestamps for each word

Phrase time-stamped JSON

Screenshot from a text editor of JSON with a container object called parts and sub-objects with keys text, start time, and end time.
Snippet of transformed JSON transcript with timestamps for 5-7 second phrases

Once we have the transcripts in the preferred AAPB format, we can use them to make our collections more discoverable and share them with our users. More on the part of the workflow in Part 2 (coming soon!).

Rebecca Benson, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at KOPN

My name is Rebecca Benson, and I’m a graduate student at the University of Missouri, working on a Master’s in Library Science and focusing on work in special collections libraries. I am so excited for the experience I have gained working with the AAPB: I am familiar with much older materials, but the history of the past 100 years really demands broadcast media to be fully understood. The opportunity to work with AAPB and the materials from our local community radio station has expanded my archival horizons, and I look forward to sharing these materials and this history with researchers, as well as sharing this technology with other archivists.

IMG_3065The University of Missouri partnered with the one of the local community radio stations to work on this project. KOPN has been broadcasting from the same office in downtown Columbia since it was founded in 1973  — and I’m pretty sure some of the reels I digitized had not been touched since then. As one of the first open-access community radio stations, they have an amazing perspective on the history of the past several decades. The collection spans an incredible number of areas, from radio theatre to concerts to talk shows, from feminist, queer, indigenous, and otherwise marginalized voices. Working with Jackie Casteel, we decided to begin by digitizing the women’s programming, from the annual Women’s Weekend, the League of Women Voters, and the local Women’s Health collective, among others. Even within this subset, the range of programming spans from interview shows with women in prison to a discussion from one of the first female dentists in the area. Every time I start a new reel, I learn something new and interesting about Columbia or the world, and I cannot wait for others to use this trove of information to begin doing research. I have benefited from the information myself — by chance, I digitized the 1986 League of Women Voters panel on hospital trustees a week before another hospital trustee election in town, which dealt with the hospital lease discussed in 1986!

As I have worked with these materials, I have found that this sort of archival work can re-unite communities and bring people together. Not only have I worked with the university and our initial contacts at the station, I have encountered numerous other people who are, or were, connected with programming that I have now heard. Working on the metadata for our programs led me to the State Historical Society, and their archives of broadcast lists. My time sorting reels at the station led to meeting with a woman who had run much of the radio theatre programming for decades. A chance mention of KOPN led to learning more about the alternative ‘zine community in Columbia, and its connection with the radio station. This project has shown me all the ways in which archival projects are more than just scholarly work, but a way to build and re-build communities.

Getting all of these reels digitized has been — and continues to be — a massive project. As a community radio station, KOPN did not have the most standardized procedures for recording, broadcasting, and documentation, which has led to some interesting moments at the work station. I’m still uncertain how someone managed to splice one tape inside out and backwards! On the other hand, all of these quirks are a result of the creative community that grew around KOPN, and without it, the history of the station would be much poorer. We are so excited to share this vibrant part of our local history with the world.

Written by Rebecca Benson, PBPF Spring 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

Tanya Yule, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at CAAM

 

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Drives loaded up and ready to be sent to the AAPB!!

 

Hello, my name is Tanya Yule and I am one of the five, in the first cohort of the AAPB Public Broadcast Preservation Fellows. Later this month I will be receiving my Masters in Library and Information Science, and an advanced certificate in Digital Assets Management from San Josè State University, with an emphasis in archives and preservation.

When I began the program at SJSU it was with a focus on photography preservation; this was initially a means of utilizing my background in historic photography practices as a way to protect and preserve images for future generations. However, through my work at the Hoover Institution Archives (where I am an intern), I began to fall in love with working in all areas of archives, not just with photographs, and have had the fortunate experience to process incredible collections that range from the Russian Revolution to the Vietnam War, each providing a unique glimpse of someone’s life that I get to describe, organize, and preserve for future generations. When the fellowship was posted, I had a “this was made for me” moment and applied instantly. I have wanted to work with A/V media for quite sometime, and have yet to have the opportunity, until now.

For the last three-months I have been entrenched in material spanning the globe; each item as unique as the next, and giving me more in return than I was prepared for. As I am sitting here trying to tap out a structure and synthesis of what the heck just occurred during the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s Preservation Fellowship, I am almost overwhelmed with the task.

 

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Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) Set-up

 

The specialness of this particular fellowship has been based in the opportunity to work with at-risk magnetic media, multiple stakeholders, and learn a very complex technique for capturing. I was fortunate to be able to work with two amazing San Francisco based non-profit organizations that focus on representing arts and culture for underrepresented communities, and have been pillars in what they do for several decades. The collection I worked from came from the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM); CAAM isn’t a traditional archives, but their holdings are significant and represent a wide range of diverse films and documentaries; many which have appeared on local and national PBS stations over the years. The collection contained U-matic, Betacam, and Digibeta tapes, many which haven’t been viewed in decades. The majority of the fellowship was spent over at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), under the watchful (and extremely patient and knowledgeable) eye of Jackie Jay. I was fortunate to be able to have my experience take place with the help of a staff that do this work daily, and could help me capture and learn in the best possible situation. I would like to also give a shout out to Morgan Morel for suffering though my lack of commandline knowledge, he has inspired me to take a python class when this is all over.

What is in a name?

While inventorying the items for the collection at CAAM, I couldn’t help but be curious about some of the titles: Anatomy of a Springroll, Dollar a Day, 10 Cents a Dance, A Village Called Versailles, Sewing Woman, to name a few. Since all of the items are on some form of video (magnetic media) it isn’t as easy as just popping in a deck and taking a peek. While capturing in the dark room with my noise cancelling headphones on, there were moments that I would literally laugh out loud, or cry; the subjects are heavy, as is the perspective and history, my work at the Hoover Archives had helped prepare me for dealing with difficult collections, especially when it comes to visual materials regarding war and atrocities.

 

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Many videos have some form of image error, the above “watermark” is a blemish on an old tape, this can be seen in 1/30 of a second. After capturing I would go back to any discrepancy to investigate further

 

Cleaning, cleaning, and some baking!

I soon learned that the majority of my time was in making sure that the decks and tapes were in tip-top shape before capturing. It is quite amazing how much time is spent cleaning tapes, cleaning the decks, baking tapes (in a really high tech food dehydrator), re-cleaning tapes, and re-cleaning machines, as well as setting up levels and making sure that the item being digitized is as close to the original as possible. The cleaning ensures that there is no transfer of dust or debris from another tape, and that the output from the deck is precise. I am extremely fortunate to have my digitization station at BAVC, as they understand the fundamentals of video preservation and digitization, and helped me learn more about the process then I thought I would be capable of in such a short time.

About the collection

As archivists often times we really don’t know what the collection is “about” until the end, there are usually surprises, and most the times these records don’t come with a “read me” file, so I figured I would save this portion to the end as well. The collection as a whole speaks to the diversity of Asian American life, culture, and experiences; evoking the universal struggle of the human condition. When curating the featured films for the AAPB Special Collections page it was difficult to choose, however, many of the films tell the history of women who have defied odds, been outspoken, or who had sacrificed so much for so little in return, I wanted to put these women upfront and recognize their stories and the ones who decided to tell them.

 

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CAAM Video Archive

 

Having this wonderful opportunity to participate in this fellowship while completing my degree allowed me to expand my technical and historical knowledge base, which I am forever grateful for. I would like to thank SJSU and my wonderful advisor Alyce Scott, James Ott and Davin Agatep at the CAAM for helping me out with the project, the entire preservation crew at BAVC for making sure I didn’t break anything, and of course the AAPB and all of the wonderful WGBH folks that made this fellowship happen.

If you are interested in learning more, here is a Q & A I did with CAAM when I started, you can also follow #aapbpf for photos of the stations and process.

 

 

Written by Tanya Yule, PBPF Spring 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

Evelyn Cox, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at OETA

Oklahoma Legacy: Indelible Impressions of Perseverance, Fortitude, Resilience and Pride

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Storm Chaser Footage of a Tornado in Newcastle, Oklahoma headed towards the Newcastle High School.

Greetings from the lovely state of Oklahoma. My name is Evelyn Cox and I am the Public Broadcasting Preservation fellow partnered with Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA). I represent the Spring 2018 Cohort from the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma and have been blessed to work with outstanding mentors and advisors throughout this fellowship, collaborating with my host station mentor and Vice President of Operations, Janette Thornbrue and the talented staff at OETA; my local mentor and Political Commercial Archivist at the University of Oklahoma, Lisa Henry; and my faculty advisor and Director of the School of Library and Information Studies at OU, Dr. Susan Burke. It has been my honor to explore and select for preservation from the treasure trove of audiovisual content within the OETA Archives housed on both analog and digital tapes dating back to the 1970s.

About OETA’s Collection

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Oklahoma City Murrah Bombing Memorial. The chairs represent lives taken.

Previously identified as Native American territory prior to statehood, Oklahoma Educational Television Authority’s collection is a glimpse into the past, covering topics and exploring issues that are relevant to the diverse cultures represented, both then and now. Issues such as racial diversity, terrorism, natural disasters, war, and poverty become the catalyst for unity and the impetus for exploration, growth, and acceptance. This collection is an eclectic mix of at-risk public media material from the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) Archive with contributions from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Archive. At the heart of this collection, are the people. The resilient men and women who have both contributed to the legacy of Oklahoma as well as the mosaic of our great nation in the area of art, music, science, exploration, politics, religion, architecture, literature, language, etc. Oklahoma Legacy is a culmination of indelible impressions of perseverance, fortitude, resilience and pride.

Exploring the Legacy of Oklahoma

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Elizabeth Smith (right) and Margaret Anne Hamilton of Enid, OK (left) are WASPs that were given Congressional Medals for service During WWII.

As I combed through the OETA Archive, I felt giddy with excitement. Oklahoma has so much rich, culturally significant and diverse history that many people do not have access to. I could not believe that because of the PBPF fellowship, I would have the opportunity to select material that would be accessible online at American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s website and preserved at the Library of Congress. What an honor. I was like a kid in a candy store, eagerly anticipating the chance to break out the audiovisual equipment and get reacquainted with the treasures of our past. I found information about Amelia Earhart and the Woman Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) of Oklahoma who bravely contributed during World War II. People like Betty Riddle of Tulsa, Oklahoma are our very own Wonder Women. Talk about girl power.  There was information about Clara Luper, known in Oklahoma as the mother of the sit-in and a pioneering leader during the American Civil Rights Movement. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I found information about “Pistol Pete” Eaton and black and white footage of the Land Run of 1889, as well as Quanah Parker the great Comanche leader. I was just scratching the surface! Thanks to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting @amarchivepub a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH this will be available to people throughout the United States from a centralized web portal at online at americanarchive.org.

Digitizing the At-Risk Material: Collaboration is the Key to Success

I was chomping at the bit and excited to exercise what I learned during Immersion Week hosted at WGBH Education Foundation in Boston. Like any worthwhile venture, I had setbacks of my own to overcome; but if I learned anything from the material selected for this collection, I learned that adversity is just a temporary setback that can be endured with perseverance. I counted my setbacks as badges of honor, which were many. We experienced setbacks regarding copyright issues. We had equipment issues right out of the gate. We had a BetacamSP deck that worked for two seconds. We had issues getting the older technology to play nicely with the new technology. I had so much support and help from my Academic Advisor here at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studied as well as from the staff in our SLIS office, my local mentor Lisa Henry and OU technical support Gary Bates, all of whom devoted countless hours trying to get our equipment up and running.

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School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma’s Digitizing Station with a BetacamSP and DVCPro decks.

I also had great support from Janette Thornbrue at OETA. I can’t say enough about how wonderful everyone has been through this entire process. The collaboration between AAPB, WGBH, OETA, and the University of Oklahoma models the kind of collaboration needed to effectively provide access to training in audiovisual preservation, allowing for a pool of resources and support to future archivists on a local as well as national level. I feel so blessed to be part of such a wonderful program!

From left to right: OETA Host Station Mentor Janette Thornbrue, Director of SLIS and Project Advisor Dr. Susan Burke; Political Commercial Archivist and Local Mentor Lisa Henry; Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow Spring 2018, Evelyn Cox

Written by Evelyn Cox, PBPF Spring 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

 

Virginia Angles, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at GPB

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.