Plans in Place for Digitization of Historic Arkansas Videotapes

by Joanna Kauffmann  on Monday, Nov. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

"In 2005, the Pryor Center received a donation of $2 million from the Tyson family," said Katrosh. This gift allowed the center to add to its facility much of the equipment that will be put to use in the preservation of the KATV archive. The money enabled the Pryor Center to purchase high-definition video field recording equipment, to add a digital archive and to hire additional staff.

The next step in the process of preserving the KATV archives is to build a digitization program and storage system that is designed specifically for the transfer of analog videotapes, like those in the KATV collection, to digital files. The goal of the center, Katrosh said, is to convert all the tapes to digital files so that they can be shared online.

The center is considering setting up a separate website specifically for the KATV collection, but its own website will be "the portal to [the collection] if not the direct access." Once the tapes have been digitized, Katrosh hopes that they will be viewed online, not only by those in Arkansas, but worldwide.

Most of the footage has not been available to the public since it was first collected, and many who view it online will be seeing it for the first time, which is one of the things that most excites Katrosh about the project.

"I think with any archive you think that researchers and historians will be interested," Katrosh said. "We're trying to make it much more available and useful." Katrosh said that he believes students and teachers will be interested in making use of the digitized archives, and that the center also hopes to be able to convert some of the historical material into lesson plans. "We want the public to use it," he said.


Raising Money

Currently, the Pryor Center is raising money for the digitization process, which has not yet begun. According to Katrosh, digitizing the KATV archives will cost between $3 million and $5 million, and the University of Arkansas is seeking donors to help fund the project. In a press release announcing KATV's donation, Katrosh said, "It is crucial this collection be preserved as soon as possible, before this history is lost forever."

Until the money can be raised, however, the archives are being kept in a safe place, to ensure the current quality of the tapes remains intact and that they do not continue to deteriorate.

On Aug. 25, the Pryor Center held a press conference at the Arkansas State Library to announce that the tapes would be moved from their current spot at KATV's Little Rock station to a new home within the library, in a basement storage room.

According to Katrosh, at KATV the tapes were being kept in a basement area, where they were exposed to changes in temperature and water leaks from the ceiling, which had caused deterioration. "When the air is not moving and the humidity is going up and down and there's water in there, that can really cause mold on the tapes," Katrosh said. "It was pretty bad."

The Pryor Center began looking for a new place to store the archives. "We were looking for a place to put them that was inexpensive but appropriate," Katrosh said.



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