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Preservation Activities

Library and Archives Canada Audiovisual Migration Strategy

September, 2009

1. Introduction

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The audiovisual recordings1 held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) present a unique perspective of Canada's documentary heritage. LAC's collection comprises audiovisual recordings created by the music, film, radio and television industries, government, academic and cultural institutions as well as private individuals. These recordings, which span a range of communication technologies, document the artistic, cultural, linguistic, social and political diversity of Canada in the modern historical era.

As of 2008, LAC's collection contains an estimated 530,000 hours of published and unpublished audiovisual recordings that are stored on over 30 different analog and digital formats.2 The accessibility of the information contained on these formats is completely dependent on the availability of specialized playback technology. Due to the rapid pace of technological development in the audio and video industries, new equipment and formats are constantly entering the marketplace. Equipment is available only as long as a format has commercial viability and as older equipment is supplanted by new technology, the expertise to operate and repair machinery also vanishes.

Therefore, if all audiovisual recordings are inaccessible without playback machinery then long-term preservation must concentrate on preserving the content of a recording instead of focusing on the preservation of the original format.3 Migration offers the means of overcoming technological obsolescence through the digital transfer of content from its original hardware/software to a new file format that retains the ability to retrieve, display and use the information. In this specific context, the migration of audiovisual recordings to a standardized digital environment is the only way to assure continued preservation and continued access to their intellectual content.

The rationale for the development of a distinct migration strategy for the preservation of audiovisual recordings is based on the challenge of continuing to provide access over the long-term. This strategy identifies the principles and priorities to be employed to migrate LAC's audiovisual collection, offering a joint solution to preservation and access problems by stabilizing technological dependency through the creation of audio and video digital preservation masters in standardized file formats and the automated generation of digital access copies.

1 Bill C-36: The Library and Archives of Canada Act
( defines recording as anything that requires a machine in order to be used, regardless of format or medium.

2 See Appendix 10.1 for an overview of the formats and contents in LAC's audiovisual collection.

3 Exceptions should be made where a creator's choice of original format is a deliberate component of the artefactual value of a recording (for example, experimental video art).

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