A busy summer

Working in academia doesn’t mean you get to take the summer off. In fact, for many of us, the end of classes is the start of a very busy season. Summer is when we revise recruitment materials and the student handbook, submit course changes to the registrar, rework our syllabi and course schedules, and otherwise get our ducks in a row for the upcoming academic year. Faculty count on this time for research trips and writing; a huge chunk of what you read from academic presses gets researched and/or produced during their summer “break.” This fall I’ll be teaching three classes, one of which is entirely new (a course on surveillance, archives, and records management practice); another is substantially revised from previous iterations, and the third one I’ve never taught before, so I’ve got more class prep to do over the intersession than usual. In my case, summer also means getting ready to welcome a new cohort of graduate students in the fall, which includes planning a week-long, pre-term “Boot Camp” with multiple mini-courses, site visits to local archives, labs, and studios, and orientation activities specifically for the media archiving and preservation students. Boot Camp is one of the most fun things I get to work on each year, but there are a lot of moving parts, so it’s definitely work.

In addition to all of the above, I’m once again teaching the History, Identification, and Preservation of Motion Picture Materials workshop for the California Rare Books school in August. The AAPB NDSR project will hold their Immersion Week–during which the new cohort of Digital Stewardship Residents will have their own kind of Boot Camp–at the end of July, too. I’ll be attending and helping out with that as an advisory board member and local site mentor, and expect I’ll pick up a thing or two about digital preservation which will prove useful. Summertime is learning time! Sadly, that means I’ll be missing the annual Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium, which takes place toward the end of that same week–I’m hoping to get to it next summer, however, because it’s always an excellent and thought-provoking event with great speakers.

Last but not least, I’m working with my colleague Jean-François Blanchette on an IMLS-funded National Forum meeting focused on the data management needs associated with large-scale video recording programs–including (but not limited to) police use of body-worn cameras (BWC). The actual meeting will take place in August, which means we’re working now on finalizing our participant list, dividing people into working groups, gathering resources and figuring out the detailed agenda for our two and a half days of face-to-face time. There has been a ton of coverage on BWC lately; if you’re woke at all, you know these cameras are not in and of themselves a solution to the problems of accountability, transparency, and public trust that police forces are increasingly called to address. Nevertheless, they’re a huge part of the conversation, and agencies nationwide are moving quickly to adopt them. Most discussions of this technology engage only minimally with the idea that retention periods for evidentiary media will, in a lot of cases, far exceed the accessible life of a digital video file. BWC programs will also generate an unprecedented volume of data, which few public agencies have the infrastructure to manage. There are a lot of challenges ahead, and few people are thinking about those challenges from an archivist’s perspective. I see this as a major growth area within the media archiving and preservation field, and a place where the students (and faculty) of media preservation graduate programs will potentially be making significant contributions in the very near future. Something tells me the next few summers are going to be very busy indeed.

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