Understanding Acts of Memory and Digital Archives – By Michelle Moore

My personal research blog will document the importance of digital archiving. This blog emphasises the importance of archiving for the upkeep and preservation of knowledge and culture particularly oral storytelling and film as it explores acts of memory and digital archives. In turn, the audio heritage and the visual heritage bring the past and the future together through digitality.

This blog also explores the process of digitization and the advantages this process has in securing material into digital archives. It highlights the importance of preservation and why it matters.

To begin, you will find a video clip on my blog which is narrated by Harrison Wick, an archivist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In this clip Wick highlights the need for digitization of artefacts and documents which are one of a kind before they disappear. Significantly, he emphasises the importance of this digitization process as being an access tool rather than a preservation tool. Of course, preservation is important but in this case, accessibility to these magazines, newsletters, manuscripts, artefacts and documents prevails as he says “So everyone can enjoy them”.

IUP Special Collections Video Clip – The Need for Digitization via Youtube

This clip is a beautiful compilation of the university’s history, but only some of the university’s history. It is interesting to see the gap in the footage as some of the documents Wick mentions have not been digitalized. This gap further emphasises the need for the process of digitization of historical, cultural and social material in the rapid globalisation of the modern world. This is IUP’s unveiling of treasures for modern technology which is consequently being practised by many other archivists, museums, councils and institutions around the world.

Having a keen interest in culture, this student’s blog concentrates on two local projects in digitization and preservation. I discuss my own experience in the Cork Northside Folklore Project where I first developed an interest in digital archives.

In the summer of 2010, I gained experience within a research environment which involved duties in digital archiving. I spent this time working with the Cork Northside Folklore Project. As part of my experience, one of my tasks was to transcribe audio recorded interviews to the page, Microsoft Word documents in particular. These documents were then saved and filed electronically on an external hard drive. The accuracy of information was a main objective of this task. The preservation of these interviews with their oral storytelling and remedies for local customs and practices are invaluable. As part of local heritage, it was essential to transcribe and record these findings and interviews because otherwise they would be lost forever. As a result, I gained an appreciation for local folklore and history. The transcription of many audio interviews is a mammoth job.

During my time at the Cork Northside Folklore Project there were researchers working on another project entitled Cork Memory Map. There is an interview on my blog from RTE Radio 1 with Dr Cliona O’Carroll of the Department of Folklore and Ethnology at University College of Cork in which she discusses the purpose of this project. This radio clip contains some excerpts of what the project has to offer. At times normal conversations like the ones in this clip are littered with unfinished sentences but it is argued this brings an authenticity to the project as these bytes represent everyday life in Cork City. Digitization has allowed for elements such as laughter, accents, delivery, timing and warmth to be captured and stored as these may have been lost in the written word and on the page. The researchers’ fieldwork proved fruitful as can be seen on the website. All of the audio recordings became known as the “Sounds of Cork” and they were all to be digitized. A Google map of Cork is used for this project. One only has to move their cursor over an area of Cork City and click to hear a story that coincides with that place. Although it is still a work-in-progress, this site allows local history to be preserved and is considered to be of the up-most folkloric, cultural and social value. It is possible for anyone in the world who has access to the internet to gain an understanding of the richness of Cork’s local oral storytelling traditions at their fingertips.

Furthermore, I researched the preservation of film in Ireland for this blog. In particular I looked at the Irish Film Institute Archive. Not only is film a means of entertainment, it is important as a historical document as well as an aesthetic work and form of cultural expression. Like all heritages, the cinematic heritage of Ireland needs to be preserved and recently the IFI Irish Film Archive launched a campaign to protect the Irish national film archive. 

This webpage highlights that the IFI archive building in Temple Bar, Dublin has reached capacity and critically, they cannot accept any more material which means that valuable collections are in danger of being lost. In response to this danger the IFI developed an innovative partnership with the National University of Ireland, Maynooth to build a new Preservation Centre. In an in-depth interview with Kasandra O’Connell, the Head of the IFI Film Archive, O’Connell emphasises the need for a new centre to store collections. She also highlights that the targeted date for completion and opening of the centre by spring 2013.

As a way of asking the film community, their friends and partners to help them collectively fund the shortfall of €300,000 by spring 2013, they produced and broadcasted this clip below. Actress Saoirse Ronan appears in this lovely montage of Irish film throughout the ages.

IFI Film Archive Preservation Fund Clip via YouTube

This beautiful array of Irish film throughout history is an advertiser’s dream. It makes me wonder about the expenses of this one minute clip. The money spent on this could surely have gone into the preservation centre. But then again, this is the power of advertising and it is possible that the funds raised because of this clip outweigh the costs of production.

Significantly, the fact that scholars of the humanities are embracing digital technology highlights the urgency and importance in the preservation of literature, history and culture of all work. This blog also discusses the Bayeux Tapestry in brief. As an extremely valuable piece of artwork, it is exciting to find that there have been attempts to digitalise it and to also extinguish fears of other art, oral storytelling and film being lost in the transgression of the digital age. 

Works Cited

Newspapers:

Hozier-Byrne, John. “Op-ed Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Film Archive, on our Cinematic Heritage.” The University Observer, 26 January 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

Websites:

Foys, Martin Kennedy. “The Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition.” Scholarly Digital Editions. Foys, Martin Kennedy, 2002. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

Irish Film Institute. “About Irish Film Archive.” Irish Film Institute, 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

Radio Telefis Eireann. “RTE Radio 1.” RTE.ie. Radio Telefis Eireann, 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

University College of Cork. “UCC Home.” University College of Cork, 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

University College of Cork. “The Cork Memory Map.” University College Cork. University College of Cork, 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

University College of Cork. “Research Profiles: Bealoideas: Dr Cliona O’Carroll.” University College of Cork. University College of Cork, 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

University College of Cork. “The Cork Northside Folklore Project.” University College Cork, 2007. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

YouTube Videos:

IFIcinema. “IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation Fund.” Online Posting. YouTube, 3 November 2011. Web. 15 March 2012.

IUPVideo1875. “The Need for Digitization (IUP Special Collections)” Online Posting. YouTube, 6 June 2011. Web. 15 March 2012.

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