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IU starts media digitization and preservation initiative


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By Julie Masterson



A new project will combine historical content with new-age technology to bring IU further into the digital age.

IU recently announced the launch of the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, a five-year initiative aimed at preserving the University’s extensive collection of rare, as well as irreplaceable, media content.

Carolyn Walters, the Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries, and Brad Wheeler, the IU vice president for Information Technology and CIO and interim dean of the School of Informatics and Computing, serve as the 
initiative’s co-chairs.

“This initiative focuses on preserving the scholarship that has been generated by our faculty and researchers for generations to come,” Walters said. “We ensure that the media is accessible and discoverable by meticulously tagging and cataloging the finished digital products.”

The initiative, which was first announced during IU President Michael McRobbie’s 2013 State of the 
University address, will receive $15 million in funding during the next five years.

MDPI will receive its funding from the offices of the IU president, IU-Bloomington provost and the IU vice president for research.

Wheeler said most of the initiative’s work, which includes the digitization of thousands of holdings housed in locations across IU-Bloomington, IU-Purdue University Indianapolis and IU’s regional campuses, is being completed through one of two workflows.

Wheeler said materials that are fragile or in obscure formats will be handled and digitized individually by IU personnel while materials in good condition with common formats, such as long play records, will be handled by MDPI’s corporate partner, Memnon Archiving Services.

Memnon, which is now a division of Sony, has set up a “digitization factory” at the IU innovation center and can process several items at the same time with essential quality control.

Wheeler said Memnon has hired a number of students to work as digitization operators.

Walters said while she thinks many students understand IU has an excellent library of time-based media, it can be difficult to truly grasp the scale.

“For example, we are digitizing over 30 thousand LP records,” Walters said. “Playing that many records end to end without any breaks would take over three years — we’ll be digitizing them over the course of seven months.”

Walters said after materials are received for digitization, they are checked in and the contents of their batch are verified.

If the material was not “born digital,” the material is played on a player specific to its media type and a preservation master file is created.

“We also create production master and mezzanine files, which correspond with different formats and levels of compression of the same file,” Wheeler said. “We then gather the appropriate metadata — data about the digitized material such as the performer, genre, title, etc. — to ensure the material will be discoverable.”

Once the materials are digitized, they are stored in IU’s scholarly data archive in the IU Data Centers.

“Preserving the content and, when possible, making the content accessible over the next four years will preserve a record of the achievements of Indiana University that might otherwise be lost,” Walters said. “That will be something to celebrate as part of Indiana University’s Bicentennial.”

Walters said digitized material will be made publicly available whenever it is legally possible to do so, but she said access will ultimately be determined based on the restrictions associated with the material and copyright.

“MDPI has been a truly collaborative effort including many departments at IU including not only IT and the libraries but also the general counsel’s office, purchasing and so many of our academic departments that contributed the materials,” Wheeler said. “Witnessing all these units collaborate to preserve so many pieces of unique scholarship for generations to come has been most 
rewarding.”

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