During the Spring 2012 Semester, I interned for Carol Rusk and Kristen Leipert at the Frances Mulhall Achilles Library of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Although the library is located in West Chelsea and not in the Museum's main Breuer Building, it still houses many unique items and collections. The collection I worked with was the Performance Collection which contained 424 individual items in 17 separate boxes. These items act as the recorded history of performance art events held at the now defunct Whitney Branch at Altria (formerly known as the Philip Morris Branch until 2003). Within this collection are a variety of audio and video formats. There are 129 U-Matic cassettes, 6 1" open reel (?), 40 3/4" audio cassettes, 2 CD's, 119 DAT audiotapes, 16 DV's, 8 DVCAM videotapes, 6 Hi8 videotapes, 1 zip disk, 139 VHS cassettes, 2 VHS-C cassettes, and 2 (?). Over 90% of the material consists of original recordings. The rest are commercially available either through a large or small pressing.
The project I undertook consisted of several tasks. Since there had already been a spreadsheet created which listed the items, my first task was to clean up the catalog by implementing a series of new data fields. This was done in order to make the information in the catalog easier to find as well as flag items that were particularly at-risk. The DATs and Hi8s were of particular concern since there are issues concerning the obsolescence of playback machines. After this task was completed, I performed a quick visual inspection of all the items. This included removing record tabs when necessary, as well as removing U-Matic cassettes from plastic bags. I was also able to fast-forward, then rewind many of the VHS cassettes in order to achieve a tighter tape pack. These tasks gave me quite a bit of practice and prepared me for this semester's focus on collection assessments. I was able to get practice creating user-friendly catalogs. More importantly, I was able to offer advice to the library's archivists (who are actually quite good at preserving the material they have) in terms of archival best practices and standards for the storage of audio and visual material.