Library and Archives Canada
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Preservation Activities

Preservation of Audiovisual Recordings

The audiovisual preservation laboratories at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are the largest of their kind in Canada. Working with specialized equipment, conservators handle all types of film, video and sound documents including numerous obsolete formats. Documents are stabilized, repaired, cleaned and inspected, and, when required, new preservation copies are made.

In September 2009, LAC began the implementation of an Audiovisual Migration Strategy to preserve at-risk audio and video recordings in its holdings. This strategy is LAC's response to the preservation crisis for audiovisual recordings resulting from aging, unreliable and obsolete playback equipment, disappearing expertise in analogue audio and video technologies, and the deterioration of physical formats (such as tapes and discs).

There are two principle directions outlined in LAC's strategy: (1) recordings will be migrated to standard digital file formats; and (2) priority for migration will be assigned to those formats most at risk of obsolescence.

Beginning with the successful completion of a pilot project to migrate D2 videotapes to digital format, LAC is gradually increasing its capacity and experience. LAC has since fully migrated recordings from four additional formats: digital audio tape, minidisc, dictation, and wire audio formats. Work has also begun on projects to migrate recordings from 2-inch Helical, 2-inch Quad, and -inch U-matic videotapes, as well as from reel to reel, cassette, disc, and acetate disk audio formats.

Some of this migration work is now being done by the private sector and collaborative ventures for audiovisual preservation are being investigated.

With approximately 530,000 hours of audio and video recordings yet to migrate, success will depend upon a concerted preservation effort over many years.

Similarly, LAC's motion picture film collection is facing the same threat of technological obsolescence and will require a comparable preservation strategy in the very near future.