Digital preservation Category


Preserving Media

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Submitted by Emily F Shaw

Stacks of different types of mediaIn addition to millions of books, journals, and electronic resources, the University of Iowa Libraries is also the permanent home for film, audio, and video collections.

Projecting an original 16mm film can be risky, and using playback equipment that is dirty or in disrepair can cause permanent damage. Protecting the original is critical; many of our media collections are unique and most are actively degrading. In order to preserve this content and make it accessible to we need to digitize it.

I recently traveled with local historian and collector Mike Zahs to visit The Media Preserve, the vendor we contracted to digitally reformat some of Iowa’s most precious “time-based” media collections.

Racks Of Magnetic Tape Playback Equipment

Racks Of Magnetic Tape Playback Equipment

The Media Preserve is staffed by enthusiastic and knowledgeable professionals with many of experience working in the film, video, and recording industries. The studios at The Media Preserve are designed to minimize risk to customer assets, such as power surges, lightning strikes, or electromagnetic interference. Their studios are fully equipped to read and play back every type of time-based media content imaginable.


Inspecting Film in the Preservation Lab

Inspecting Film in the Preservation Lab

For common consumer media like VHS and ¾” Umatic tapes, the digital transfer process has been engineered to allow a small number of staff to oversee the digitization of multiple assets at once, thereby lowering transfer time and cost to their clients. In addition, The Media Preserve has a film preservation lab equipped for cleaning, repair, and high-resolution scanning of film. Their film preservation staff recently digitized half a dozen of Mr. Zahs’ badly degraded 35mm nitrate films created in the first few years of the 20th century.







The Szathmary Digitzation Project

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cover of a CookbookThe University of Iowa’s Special Collections was fortunate to receive Chef Louis Szathmary’s library of cookbooks throughout the mid-80’s.  Among the items were a number of handwritten cookbooks that Szathmary had collected over the years. In the Spring of 2012 conservation and digital preservation students began scanning the manuscripts. The first item, Josiah Ingall’s account book, went digital on March 13th, 2012. The goal was to crowd source the transcription of the pages and create legible, accessible, versions of the cookbooks, some of them dating from as far back as the 1600’s.

A little over a year later, the project reached the 100 mark with the digitization of the ‘Household recipe book of Mrs. Howard of Staines, Middlesex and Salsfield Court, Nr. Westerham, England’.  This number represents hours of work in addition to 12,674 images totaling 249,361,919,444 bytes!  Each item is assessed before scanning, treated if necessary, scanned, processed, and rehoused in a 4-fold-flap.  The DIY transcription project is also moving along at a good pace with 33,222 pages transcribed to date.

If you’re interested in browsing the digital collection go to:

Or, if you’d prefer to try your hand (or eyes) at manuscript transcription, visit the DIY transcription site at:

Lastly, if you’re feeling super adventurous, try out some of the recipes yourself, also found at the DIY site. There’s everything from dandelion wine to cures for the plague (which hopefully you don’t have).

-Jessica Rogers


Welcome, Emily!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Portrait of Emily F. ShawThe Preservation and Conservation Department would like to welcome our newest staff member, Emily F. Shaw! Emily started on January 13, 2012 as our Digital Preservation Librarian. She comes to the University of Iowa from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, where she was most recently the Coordinator for Large-Scale Digitization. She brings with her a wealth of diverse experience in Digital Curation, as well as in hands-on Conservation treatment. Her first task is to review our digital policies, practices, and workflows and make recommendations for improvements. Emily is a great addition to our department, and we’re so excited that she’s here!


UI Libraries Preserve Selected Websites

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Those hard copies of course catalogs, University annual reports, and department newsletters are becoming a thing of the past. In their place are “born digital” records – publications created and available exclusively online. This poses a preservation challenge to the University Archives, which has traditionally collected paper versions of these records. Web sites are not always permanent, unlike paper records, and are often at risk for loss. UI Libraries’ Preservation Department, the UI Archives and other units in the Libraries are now using ArchiveIt, a service provided by the Internet Archive based in Palo Alto, CA. It allows us to select University-created web sites for scheduled capture and future access. The Libraries began using this service in 2008 – about the time of the flood – and since that time has been tracking over 200 selected University web sites for on-line preservation. Recently links to the service were added to the Libraries’ web site.

To access the Internet Archive’s gateway to preserved UI web sites, go to and choose from the four collections available. Or go to the University Archives’ web site at and click on “Internet Archive.” It is also linked from the archives’ resource guides gateway at


From 78 to CD

Monday, February 8, 2010

One of the audiovisual formats we are digitally reformatting is the 78. We no longer have the equipment to play 78 recordings. In order to have the recordings accessible to researchers we needed to replace the 78s with CDs. Staff purchased commercially produced CDs where possible. Titles they couldn’t find were sent to us.

We quickly discovered two things. The jackets that we had made to house the 78s many years ago were too small for the 78s. We had to split open the jacket in order to safely extract the 78. We also discovered that some of the 78s were extremely brittle. We never knew when the next handling would cause the 78 to break.

We sent off a sampling to Safe Sound Archive to find out just how good the sound would be when converted to a CD. We were curious as to how much sound loss there would be for a cracked/broken 78. The results were very interesting.

Most of the records reformatted quite nicely with a few words repeated (just like a stuck record) the only evidence that it was a copy of a cracked record (image on left). One recording had missing sentences (image on right). All in all the results were quite satisfactory so we sent the rest of the collection off to Safe Sound Archive for conversion from 78 to CD.
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Safe Sound Archive was kind enough to share some photos of the work with our 78s. You can see from the photos that the correct size stylus or needle is critical and there are many to choose from. Adjustments for frequency and treble and bass are also made. The hisses, pops, and crackles were left in.
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