Case Study 1: Gaining permissions for multimedia Special Collections materials
SummaryCase Study 1 investigated the permissions required to digitise a multimedia archive of vernacular culture from the University of Sheffield Special Collections. The following is an overview - you can download the full internal report, in PDF format, here. :
- A sample was chosen from a multimedia archive containing analogue audio and video recordings from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, relating to vernacular culture
- The case study focused primarily on the process of obtaining the necessary permissions to digitise the sample for the purposes of preservation, and secondarily on the process of actually digitising those which were eligible
- The sample was chosen to represent a broad cross-section of types of content and format. Permission was successfully sought to digitise all but one of these, and a selection was digitised
- New equipment was purchased to complement that which was already owned by the library, to create a specialist audio-visual digitisation suite in Special Collections, suitable for digitising the remainder of the archive, and others like it
It is worth noting that, despite the focus of the case study being on the earlier stages of the process, it was still the latter stages that took the most time; in particular the digitisation itself.
- An understanding, and successful examples, of the process of identifying, locating, contacting and obtaining permissions from rights holders to digitise
- The creation of a digitisation suite at Sheffield suitable for specialising in audio-visual material, supported by a number of new pieces of equipment
- A sample of the archive digitised to preservation standard
Secondary outcomes include:
- Documented metadata and technical standards for the library to conform to in digitising the rest of the archive
- Procedures manuals for the set-up and use of the new equipment and software obtained for this case study
- Internal recommendations for Special Collections with regards to digitising the remainder of the archive
The case study resulted in several internal recommendations, as mentioned above in the Outcomes section. The following external recommendations may be of use to the wider digitisation community:
- For new digitisation projects – leave more time than you think you need to digitise the items, as there will inevitably be complicating factors which are difficult to plan for. Expect to spend at least five minutes per one minute of recording ultimately digitised.
- Build in time for equipment set-up, teaching people how to use software, and unexpected delays
- Any kind of equipment problems cause bottlenecks in the digitisation process, so keep in mind that suppliers may take longer to deliver new equipment than they initially indicate
Contacting rights holders
- Use email as the platform for initial contact with a potential rights holder, and then follow this up with a letter asking for a signature to confirm the necessary permissions. If after two weeks there has been no reply to the letter, send another one which is essentially a duplicate but with some kind of reference to fact that a previous communication has not met with a response. This case study successfully obtained permission from all but one rights holder contacted using this method.
For more about this process, including an example permissions seeking letter, see the separate Chasing the Rights Holders document (.PDF).
Standards and Storage
- If you are digitising to a preservation standard, do not use quick-fix software. There are basic products on the market which are quick and easy to use, but these are essentially designed for home use; in the long term, their lack of flexibility will likely prove problematic
- When writing technical standards, do so with the abilities and limitations of your specific software in mind, or consider purchasing new equipment to support technical standards
- If more than one staff member will be creating digital objects, particularly over an extended period of time, create an explanatory .txt file to put in the same storage location as the object itself and the metadata, explaining what everything is. If, for example, you have a folder containing an Archive Master file, a distribution copy, Dublin Core metadata and separate technical metadata, it might not be obvious to the uninitiated what everything is
- For more on technical standards, see the seperate Technical Standards document (.PDF).