Managing Film and Video Collections

Bob Duckett (Reference Librarian, Bradford Libraries)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Duckett, B. (2000), "Managing Film and Video Collections", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 1, pp. 40-48.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The Aslib “Know How Guides” are short practical guides on how to deal with issues of current interest or concern based on good practice. In this slim, pocket‐sized book our guide is the Archive Manager for the BBC’s Information and Archive Department. After pointing out the distinctive features of audio‐visual media vis à vis text‐based sources, and why different approaches are needed, the reader is introduced to the bewildering array of different formats. In the case of video, maybe, a touch too bewildering. I have a motley collection of videos in different shaped and sized boxes in a storeroom, but I’m still not much wiser. How do I know a 1"C Format from a Lo band Umatic? A list of experts to contact would have been useful. I have learnt, though, the meaning of JPEG, GIF and Bitmaps, and of the need to wear cotton gloves when handling film, the need to wind film with the emulsion side out, and the damage done by dust, humidity and “stray magnetism”. The chapter title featured here is “Formats and equipment”, but the only mention of equipment is a paragraph telling us to clean playback and recoring machines. The chapter on preservation identifies the correct storage conditions for film and videotape, and discusses the issues about whether to preserve the original format or to transfer onto more modern ones. As time passes, film and magnetic soundtracks suffer “vinegar syndrome”, the deterioration in the cellulose acetate resulting in buckling and embrittlement. Videotape formats, like computer discs, fast become obsolete, and their archival quality is decidedly questionable. This throws into sharp focus the need for clear selection and collection review programmes.

The chapter on the documentation and cataloguing of collection holdings is the longest. Unlike print resources, browsing and access are difficult, and the need for good documentation is consequently stronger. Important elements such as data format, duration of recording, rights information, and whether coloured or black‐and‐white, are treated, as well as the more familiar elements such as title, subject information (including genres and contributors) and indexing of people featured. It is pleasing to see how thoroughly this is done. Chapters on catalogue use – browsing and searching; security of information and holdings; staff training and digital archiving – follow.

Layout and book production are excellent, but why no index and such a cursory bibliography? The practical knowledge of the author is evident, and the awareness of pitfalls and solutions valuable. As such, the newcomer to the field of film and video management will learn much.

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