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Lennox intern –  Amanda Gedeon holding a CD from the ISU Lecture Series Compact Disc Digital Audio Collection


How many CDs and DVDs do you still have?

If you lived through the 90s and the 2000s, chances are you do or at some point did have quite a collection going for you.

They might’ve been meticulously organized, a replacement or even a backup to a larger analogue collection – or maybe they were abandoned the moment you could get iTunes to copy every track for you, onto a device half the size of a CD case or even smaller.  Maybe you still have a couple DVDs mixed into your shelf of Blu-rays. Maybe you haven’t touched a disc of any kind in years.

In the grand scheme of things, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs – collectively referred to as optical media because of how the discs are read – might not seem very historical. A lot of us can clearly remember their rise to prominence, which makes it difficult to conceptualize them as an at-risk media carrier.

As the 2019 Lennox intern, my project this summer is to develop and implement a workflow for the preserving the Library’s optical disc collection. The majority of the content in the collection is recordings of the University’s Lecture Series.

Part of my curriculum in earning my M.A. in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image from the University of Amsterdam last year included working on a similar project for VIAA, an organization based in Gent, Belgium tasked with digitizing, archiving, and making accessible heritage materials from Flemish memory institutions like museums and research libraries. A significant part of their focus is on audiovisual material, which these institutions may not have the expertise or the resources to preserve individually. My work with VIAA consisted primarily of research and documentation preparation for their CD/DVD transfer project. At Iowa State I will be moving past this phase of project management and focusing on workflow development and testing.

To this end I’ve spent these first two weeks of my time here becoming familiar with the Parks Library administration, department structure, practices in use, and in particular learning the technical details of the Ripstation – a combination hardware/software device designed to copy large batches of optical discs. My next steps are to draft a rough workflow aiming for two separate outputs: a to-the-bit identical copy of the data as it’s stored on the physical discs, transferred to University storage; and an ADA-compliant access copy to be uploaded to the Lecture Series’ YouTube channel, pending permissions. The workflow will also require a variation to handle processing damaged or difficult discs.

This is an exciting chance to formulate and put in place a practice that could remain at ISU as long as there are optical discs to process. I especially look forward to the technical details that this project holds.

[The preservation department of Parks Library here at Iowa State University offers an internship every year generously funded by the Lennox Foundation with the goal of providing experience and education in preservation work within an academic library to a graduate student or recently graduated student of a preservation or conservation  program. The 2019 recipient of the Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Training, & Outreach is Amanda Gedeon.]