Continuing its support of New York University’s groundbreaking work in moving image preservation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $639,000 to NYU’s Division of Libraries, in partnership with the Tisch School of the Arts, to assist in the research and development of methodologies and systems for their preservation work. The grant supports the collaborative work of the Libraries’ Preservation Department and the Tisch School’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program (MIAP).

The new initiative will be focused on learning how to better manage moving image and sound materials in the context of large research library collections and how to direct preservation efforts to rescue them. According to Carol Mandel, dean of the NYU Libraries, the outcome of the research project will provide the library, archival, and museum community with a more confident approach to assessing the condition of their moving image and audio collections, recognizing the complex factors that affect such assessment, and providing institutions with a better understanding of this work.

Time is of the essence with moving image and sound materials — much more so than books — because magnetic media deteriorates more quickly, and formats are rapidly becoming obsolete. NYU is developing a preservation strategy for its large moving image and audio collections, and this grant will assist in moving the project forward. It will allow NYU to develop a programmatic approach that includes essential elements for determining workflow and handling protocols, selection criteria, equipment needs, staffing requirements, and program costs.

A key component of the project is research into assessment survey methodology for moving image materials. Several comparative studies, to be conducted jointly by the Libraries and the MIAP program, will seek to provide a reliable methodology for predicting treatment needs for moving image materials. The studies will consider such questions as the validity of sampling, possible determinants for stratifying samples, what information can be gleaned from observation vs. playback, and similar questions. Without reliable assessment techniques, cost-effective preservation management of moving image and audio collections is not possible.

“The result will establish a much-needed protocol that will serve as a model for collection-holding institutions,” said Dean Mandel. “Currently such a protocol does not exist, and this partnership positions us to conduct the research necessary to invent it.”

“This grant allows us to continue the fruitful collaboration between Tisch and the Library that an earlier Mellon grant helped us establish,” said MIAP Director Howard Besser. A 2001 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation allowed NYU to initiate the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Masters degree program within Tisch, and to develop expertise in moving image preservation within the Preservation Department of the Library.

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