Final Report: Analog and Digital Audiovisual Media Preservation Needs Survey

02 Nov 2015 4:13 PM | Danielle Robichaud

Analog and Digital Audiovisual Media Preservation Needs Survey

Final Report

October 20, 2015

AAO Preservation Committee

Peter Houston (Chair)

Iona McCraith

Anne Daniel

Jessica Haskell

Margaret Bignell

Ned Struthers

Russ McMillen

Greg Hill

PDF version of the Final Report

Table of Contents


Analog Media

Digital Media


Appendix A: Comments Provided by Survey Respondents

Appendix B: Survey statistics


The Preservation Committee released a survey in May 2015 that was intended to identify the audiovisual capabilities of the AAO’s members, as well as any outstanding needs they may have regarding audiovisual preservation. The Committee hoped that the results of the survey would help indicate potential ways in which the AAO can assist archival organizations to meet their needs and navigate the complexities of audiovisual preservation. The survey asked members about the size of their organization’s analog and digital audiovisual holdings, and their ability to process, preserve, and make those holdings accessible. 68 archival institutions of various sizes and located across the province completed the survey, giving us a 95% confidence that the survey is accurate to within 13%.

Analog Media

47 survey respondents provided data about the analog audiovisual records in their holdings. 16 respondents reported having small analog audiovisual holdings (consisting of less than 100 items), 12 have medium-sized holdings (100 to 1000 items), 9 have large holdings (1000 to 10,000 items), and 3 have very large holdings (over 10,000 items). The remaining 7 respondents did not provide quantitative data about their holdings, but did provide some comments. While many respondents provided detailed breakdowns of the formats in their audiovisual holdings, some did not seem to know which formats they held, perhaps because much of the material had not been processed.

Although 80% of survey respondents stated that they are able identify all the different types of analog media in their holdings, only 10% of them have the equipment required to play them all. Comments submitted by respondents indicated that many institutions have decided to focus their resources on digitization of analog media rather than maintaining all the playback equipment necessary to access the contents of the original analog media. This might suggest a shift in institutional thinking which traditionally favoured preservation of the original over simply continued access to its informational contents.

Survey responses showed that the majority of respondents understand the preservation requirements of analog audiovisual holdings, but only 15% have developed preservation plans and policies that guide reformatting to preservation formats (including digitization). Roughly one third of respondents have not created access or preservation copies of any of their analog audiovisual holdings through reformatting, while the other two thirds have reformatted only some of their audiovisual holdings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 80% of respondents cited inadequate budgets as the primary reason for not reformatting all their analogue audiovisual media to preservation formats, while 50% indicated a lack of technical resources, which could be a symptom of inadequate budgets. On a positive note, only 25% felt that they lacked the technical knowledge required to migrate their analog audiovisual media.

Given the fast pace of technological obsolescence, it was surprising that almost half of respondents stated that analog audiovisual media were a low priority relative to their other holdings. With many analog formats either obsolete or obsolescent and at risk of becoming inaccessible in the near future, it seems that reformatting and digitization for preservation and access reasons should be a bigger priority. However, the survey results regarding digital audiovisual media highlighted significant problems with handling digital media that may help explain this.

Digital Media

47 respondents provided data about their digital audiovisual holdings. Of those, 7 reported having small digital audiovisual holdings (less than 1000 digital items), 12 have medium-sized digital holdings (1000 to 10,000 items), and just 2 have large digital holdings (over 10,000 digital items). The 15 other respondents did not provide any quantitative data about their digital holdings, which may imply a lack of physical control, as some respondents alluded to in their accompanying comments.

Responses about the ability of respondents to preserve their digital audiovisual holdings raised some concerns. 25% of the respondents stated that they are unable to identify some of the digital audiovisual formats in their care, and 30% do not have the hardware and software necessary to access all of their digital holdings. Only 34% of respondents expressed knowledge of digital preservation requirements, and only 14% conform to any digital preservation standard.

Regarding storage, 53% of respondents reported that at least some of their digital audiovisual holdings are stored on a dedicated server, which was encouraging. The remainder indicated that their digital holdings are stored on optical disks, floppy disks, and portable hard drives, which are not generally suited to long-term digital preservation.

In response to a survey question asking why born-digital holdings have not been processed, respondents cited inadequate technical resources (43%), inadequate budgets (40%), and inadequate technical knowledge (32%). Furthermore, 38% of respondents stated that they considered digital audiovisual holdings to be a low priority for processing relative to other material.


The Preservation Committee identified three major concerns from the survey results which it hopes that the AAO may be able to address through future programming.

1) Inadequate ability to play analog audiovisual media

Many respondents noted that they are unable to access all their analog content because they lack the playback equipment required to do so. However, the Committee noted that there is a substantial pool of audiovisual equipment among the membership which could be of mutual benefit if there was a way to share it. A formal program to encourage sharing of equipment could be of use to the AAO’s members, although how it could be set up and administered needs to be investigated further.

2) Lack of preservation planning

A large proportion of the AAO’s membership appears not to have plans or policies in place regarding analog and digital audiovisual preservation, which is a matter of real concern. The Committee feels that planning documents are essential given the complexities of audiovisual preservation, and so the AAO should investigate ways that it could encourage members to develop plans and provide assistance.

3) Digital preservation before digitization

Although some members are carrying out digitization of analog holdings, many are choosing not to, in part because they don’t have the resources or expertise but more importantly because they don’t have the capacity, resources, and technical knowledge to preserve the resulting digitized material. The Committee came to realize that placing the priority on digitizing at-risk analog media would only exacerbate the problems members had with the preservation of, and access to, digital media. That is, by digitizing their analog collections they only end up with a larger digital collection that they are unable to preserve and make accessible. The AAO therefore should investigate ways to provide training and educational resources in digital preservation which would allow its members to manage both born-digital and digitized content. When the membership is better equipped to deal with digital content, resources can be directed to the digitization of analog media.

The AAO’s membership community varies greatly by size, resources, and abilities. Members range from small institutions with one part-time employee to large organizations with many staff members tasked with preserving holdings, yet nearly all of them could use help with the complex task of preserving audiovisual holdings. At the same time, all members have different resources, expertise, and knowledge to draw on that could complement and enhance our collective ability to preserve and disseminate the audiovisual record of the past.

Appendix A: Comments Provided by Survey Respondents

  • Had all analog media digitized so do not require to maintain analog equipment for playback.

  • Preserving digital media according to a standard or model (such as OAIS) takes a tremendous amount of resources and time.

  • Does not have playback equipment for analog media since planning to reformat [to digital] in near future.

  • We have no playback equipment at all but we do have a few audio and video tapes.

  • Constant re-formatting of digital records is unsustainable fora small archives.

  • We don’t have any playback equipment for analog media and have chosen to digitize it instead.

  • Have no equipment to play analog AV media.

  • We’re working on digitizing analog media, doing some every year instead of seeking more equipment to play analog AV.

  • I've taken preservation of electronic records workshops but there is no way my organization can justifying purchasing the recommended software. I need a basic understanding of what to do as we are a small archives. I'd like to preserve what we have using the server we have and the database we are currently using.

  • I would love to see a course through AAO PDC on this topic.

  • Processing AV media not high priority because collections seldom used but, seldom used because difficult to access.

  • The extent of files listed in our response only covers what is either preprocessed or processed. There are still a large number of unprocessed CDs and diskettes which may contain up to a few TBs of any number of formats. Digitized material in many formats listed above adds a further TB to our digital holdings.

  • Inadequate, time, money and technical expertise to deal with analog or digital media as well as I would like but trying my best.

  • While I have very small amounts of analog AV & digital media, there is very low capacity for dealing with both here. No real plan in place, just hoping for the best.

  • What I have listed is only what we have currently processed. There is much more AV materials in both digital and analog formats in our accessions. Our major concern is having reliable playback machines or processes so we can identify what is actually on the various media we have been given to see if the content is archival.

  • We have material descriptions for sound recordings, moving images and born digital documents, but in a field of the database that is not compilatory.

  • [We don’t have playback equipment for AV media because] the AV records were largely produced by the in-house production unit. When it ceased operations the equipment was sold, given away or discarded to make way for the Archives vault that was going to take over the space. The AV collection was left on the shelves for the new Archives staff to take care of.

Appendix B: Survey statistics

Q1. Please specify your name and your institution's name. Please note that this information will be kept confidential. (Answered: 77 Skipped: 3)

[Responses not shared]

Q2. Do you have analog audio visual (AV) media in your holdings? (Answered: 77 Skipped: 3)

  • Yes - 92.21% (71 Respondents)
  • No - 7.79% (6 Respondents)

Q3. For each type of analog AV media in your holdings please estimate the extent (number of each media or running time). (Answered: 47 Skipped: 33)

  • Magnetic tape audio – cassette - 87.23% (41 Respondents)
  • Magnetic tape audio - reel to reel - 74.47% (35 Respondents)
  • Magnetic tape video – beta - 68.09% (32 Respondents)
  • Magnetic tape video - reel to reel - 68.09% (32 Respondents)
  • Magnetic tape video – VHS - 93.62% (44 Respondents)
  • Motion picture film – 16mm - 76.60% (36 Respondents)
  • Motion picture film – 35mm - 59.57% (28 Respondents)
  • Record Albums (Lps) - 74.47% (35 Respondents)
  • Other (please specify) - 40.43% (19 Respondents)

Q4. Please specify how your analog AV media is stored. (Answered: 48 Skipped: 32)

  • Archival box - 81.25% (39 Respondents)
  • Open on the Shelf - 31.25% (15 Respondents)
  • Original container such as VHS paper sleeve, cassette box - 70.83% (34 Respondents)
  • Other (please specify below) - 12.50% (6 Respondents)

Q5. Are you able to identify all of the formats of your analog AV media? (Answered: 49 Skipped: 31)

  • Yes - 79.59% (39 Respondents)
  • No - 20.41% (10 Respondents)

Q6. Do you have equipment for playback of all of your analog AV media? (Answered: 49 Skipped: 31)

  • Yes - 16.33% (8 Respondents)
  • No - 83.67% (41 Respondents)

Q7. Please list all of the equipment that you have for playback of analog AV media. (Answered: 37 Skipped: 43)

[Responses not shared]

Q8. Do you have written policies in place for storage and handling of analog AV media? (Answered: 46 Skipped: 34)

  • Yes - 15.22% (7 Respondents)
  • No - 84.78% (39 Respondents)

Q9. Do you have a preservation plan for reformatting any of your analog AV media? (Answered: 48 Skipped: 32)

  • Yes - 29.17% (14 Respondents)
  • No - 70.83% (34 Respondents)

Q10. What is the average temperature and relative humidity where your analog AV media is stored? (Answered: 44 Skipped: 36)

[Responses not shared]

Q11. Do you know what environment, storage and handling conditions are required to preserve analog AV media? (Answered: 46 Skipped: 34)

  • Yes - 82.61% (38 Respondents)
  • No - 17.39% (8 Respondents)

Q12. Do you have access/research copies of all of your original AV media?(Answered: 48 Skipped: 32)

  • Yes - 4.17% (2 Respondents)
  • No - 33.33% (16 Respondents)
  • Some - 62.50% (30 Respondents)

Q13. Do you have preservation copies of original AV media? (Answered: 48 Skipped: 32)

  • Yes - 8.33% (4 Respondents)
  • No - 37.50% (18 Respondents)
  • Some - 54.17% (26 Respondents)

Q14. Have you reformatted your analog AV media (eg. transferred VHS or cassette tape to DVD)? (Answered: 48 Skipped: 32)

  • Yes - 8.33% (4 Respondents)
  • No - 25.00% (12 Respondents)
  • Some - 66.67% (32 Respondents)

Q15. If you have not processed all of your analog AV media please indicate why. Check all that apply. (Answered: 46 Skipped: 34)

  • Inadequate budget - 80.43% (37 Respondents)
  • Inadequate technical knowledge - 23.91% (11 Respondents)
  • Inadequate technical resources - 50.00% (23 Respondents)
  • Low priority for processing relative to other materials - 65.22% (30 Respondents)
  • Other (please specify below) - 21.74% (10 Respondents)

Q16. Do you have born digital media in your holdings? Born digital media is defined as items created and managed in digital form. (Answered: 53 Skipped: 27)

  • Yes - 81.13% (43 Respondents)
  • No (skip to end of survey) - 18.87% (10 Respondents)

Q17. For each type of born digital media you have please estimate the extent (eg. Amount of each file or total bytes of each type of file). (Answered: 31 Skipped: 49)

  • Audio files mp3 - 58.06% (18 Respondents)
  • Audio files wav - 51.61% (16 Respondents)
  • Motion picture files dcp - 25.81% (8 Respondents)
  • Motion picture files dpx - 25.81% (8 Respondents)
  • Still image files jpeg - 74.19% (23 Respondents)
  • Still image files pdf - 48.39% (15 Respondents)
  • Still image files tiff - 51.61% (16 Respondents)
  • Video files avi - 38.71% (12 Respondents)
  • Video files movie quick time - 35.48% (11 Respondents)
  • Video files mpeg - 35.48% (11 Respondents)
  • Video files mxf - 25.81% (8 Respondents)
  • Video files wmv - 29.03% (9 Respondents)
  • Other (please specify) - 32.26% (10 Respondents)

Q18. Are you able to identify all of the formats of your born digital files? (Answered: 37 Skipped: 43)

  • Yes - 75.68% (28 Respondents)
  • No - 24.32% (9 Respondents)

Q19. Do you have hardware and software for playback of all of your born digital files?

(Answered: 38 Skipped: 42)

  • Yes - 65.79% (25 Respondents)
  • No - 5.26% (2 Respondents)
  • Some - 28.95% (11 Respondents)

Q20. Do you have a preservation plan for your born digital files? (Answered: 36 Skipped: 44)

  • Yes - 30.56% (11 Respondents)
  • No - 69.44% (25 Respondents)

Q21. How are your born digital files stored? Check all that apply. (Answered: 37 Skipped: 43)

  • Dedicated Server - 72.97% (27 Respondents)
  • Floppy Disk - 18.92% (7 Respondents)
  • Online - 37.84% (14 Respondents)
  • Offline - 29.73% (11 Respondents)
  • Optical Disk (CD, DVD) - 51.35% (19 Respondents)
  • Portable Drive - 51.35% (19 Respondents)
  • Other - 2.70% (1 Respondents)

Q22. Do you know what environment, storage and handling conditions are required to preserve born digital media? (Answered: 37 Skipped: 43)

  • Yes - 48.65% (18 Respondents)
  • No - 51.35% (19 Respondents)

Q23. Does your organization adhere to any digital preservation standards for the preservation of your born digital files? (Answered: 37 Skipped: 43)

  • Yes - 13.51% (5 Respondents)
  • No - 86.49% (32 Respondents)

Q24. If you have not processed all of your born digital holdings please indicate why. Check all that apply. (Answered: 30 Skipped: 50)

  • Inadequate budget - 60.00% (18 Respondents)
  • Inadequate technical knowledge - 46.67% (14 Respondents)
  • Inadequate technical resources - 63.33% (19 Respondents)
  • Low priority for processing relative to other materials - 56.67% (17 Respondents)

Q25. Do you feel there is any media you have acquired which you do not know how to adequately preserve? (Answered: 35 Skipped: 45)

  • Yes - 48.57% (17 Respondents)
  • No - 51.43% (18 Respondents)

Q26. Please list any other concerns or comments that you have about management of either analog AV media or born digital media. (Answered: 9 Skipped: 71)

[See Appendix A: Comments Provided by Survey Respondents]

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