1. Forward

The Task Force on Selection for Digital Transfer was commissioned by the IASA Executive Board in February 2000 to examine the issues underlying the process of setting priorities for the digital transfer of analogue and digital audio content, and to deliver a statement of principles for use by sound archives in their planning for digitisation. The members of the Task Force were drawn from IASA’s Cataloguing and Documentation, Discography, and Technical Committees, and its National Archives and Radio Sound Archives Sections.

The Board provided Terms of Reference which included the following:

Sound archives in all sectors are addressing the challenge of digital collection management using mass storage technology. The capital cost of implementing this technology is significant, but in the medium and longer term the continuing costs of transferring holdings to the new environment are greater. This effect is more pronounced for the larger archives.

It is thus necessary to select, to make choices and set priorities which will determine for each institution the parts of its holdings which will be transferred to the new environment at each stage. Success in attracting investment and funding for this activity will depend in part on the ability to demonstrate adherence to internationally agreed guidelines, particularly if they address issues of potential duplication of effort.

This Task Force will examine the issues underlying the process of setting priorities for digital transfer. It will analyse the various criteria which can be applied in the institutional, national, and international context, and will identify strategies for co-operation and co-ordination to avoid duplication of expenditure where institutions have overlapping holdings. It will deliver a statement of principles which can be used by different kinds and sizes of sound archive in planning and setting priorities for digitisation. The issues to be examined will include the following:

  • Cultural, scientific, or academic significance of content

  • Fragility of existing analogue carriers

  • Primary institutional responsibilities

  • Technical obsolescence of existing analogue platforms

  • Present and future level of demand for use and access

  • Restrictions on archival activity arising from intellectual property law

  • The resource required to generate metadata to support the digitised recordings

There is no universally applicable formula to be applied to the complex set of issues addressed by the Task Force, but there are clear principles based around institutional objectives and the intrinsic nature of audiovisual materials. To some extent, this document remains a work-in-progress, and it is presented here as a Working Paper, rather than a formal policy document, but it is hoped that the presentation of these issues here will provide professional colleagues responsible for the care of audiovisual collections with useful guidelines to formulating institutional policy in this increasingly important area of work.

Crispin Jewitt
IASA Executive Board
, 2003