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About the Archive :: Preservation

The oldest tapes in the Fortunoff Archive were recorded in 1979.  Videotape is ephemeral due to its somewhat fragile physical nature, but the larger problem is format obsolescence.  Professional analog recorders are no longer manufactured and as time passes, there will be few, if any, experts who can repair those that still exist.  Time is the enemy and these crucial video documents would be lost if a preservation plan had not been implemented.  Thousands of cassettes were reformatted to a more current analog format in the 1990s thanks to funding procured by Alan Fortunoff and Joshua Greene.  Additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation was instrumental in continuing the reformatting with a new system for which the Fortunoff Video Archive was the Beta test site. 

Ten years of planning the migration of all of our testimonies to digital files has transitioned to implementation.  Yale University Library IT and Manuscripts and Archives staff designed the required systems which have been successfully operating since February 2011, when the first tape was digitized.  After the original analog tapes are retrieved from storage, they are carefully inspected and cleaned, while metadata about their condition is recorded.  Three streams of digital video are produced simultaneously: one lossless file for preservation purposes, one smaller file for duplication, and a highly compressed file for eventual streaming access.  We are designing a user interface which will provide side-by-side access to time-coded finding aids and the testimonies in a secure, password-protected environment. Access to these will be provided to other universities and museums for research purposes.  Funding for the migration was initiated in 2007 by a leadership gift from Michael Vlock and Karen Pritzker.  Other major supporters include Michael Friedman (Yale, 1955), The Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation, Professor Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausig, the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc., the Charles H. Revson Foundation, and the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.