Essay Sample on Computerized Media Archiving in Alaska Film Archives

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The preservation of important pieces of evidence is critical for research and educational purposes. As such, according to Voges (2016), it is fundamental that any existing materials are well archived so that they are not lost. One of the main ways of archiving is through computers in what is referred to as digital archiving. In this method, according to Niven (2011), the information and data is preserved regardless of the media platform in which the information is carried. In digital archiving, there is no requirement of preserving physical objects, as is the case with traditional archiving. The rationale behind digital archiving is the fact that some of the media storage devices such as computer disks and other optical media are bound to degrade (Niven, 2011). As a result, the information stored therein will be lost if it is not moved to other media. Additionally, there are always changes in softwares and hardware, which means that the physical/traditional archives are impermanent (Voges, 2016). As such, there is need for long-term preservation of data through computerized means so that there is ease of access and longevity of storage. This paper explores the strategy that was deployed by the Alaska Film Archives to computerize their films and videos. Indeed, it will demonstration how digital archiving has been a successful means of storing key media information.

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The Alaska Film Archives stores and preserves more than 10,000 films and videos derived from the Alaskan history. Some of the items that are collected include home movies, which were made in the earliest days of filmmaking in Alaska (Alaska Film Archives, 2016). As such, these movies are meant to show the history of the film industry in the state. Other information is related to cultural activities, floods and fires, earthquakes, festivals, aviation fishing, landscapes, among others. The establishment of the institution in 1993 was meant to ensure that all films and video tapes are located, collected, and documented. The institution was more concerned about the originality of these materials. As a start, the films and videos were stored in disks and were, therefore, subject to many perils. Individuals had to come and watch the DVD copies in the institution and could only view the stored information by visiting the archives.

The Alaska film archives started as a traditional archiving institution with the physical storage of film clips and videos of over 90 years of the Alaskan history. Alaska needed to store its historical films and videos in a permanent and more secure manner (Alaska Film Archives, 2016). As such, the Alaska film archives in Fairbanks had to be digitized so that the footages could be maintained. Notably, the existing traditional storage such as the dusty basements of the Fairbanks were not efficient as individuals has to visit physically the archives to view their historical media items. Additionally, there was a threat of the loss of information in case the disks that were storing the information were degraded or even lost. Voges (2016) states that any fire incidences would have rendered the information stored nugatory, as it would have been permanently lost. Alaska, therefore, needed to ensure that their media information was stored in a more secure manner without worrying about losing this critical historical data. The films and videos had to be digitized so that any retrieval of information could be made quicker. As such, a computerized media archiving was the only solution to the restoration and maintenance of the film footages.


There were several objectives that the Alaska Film Archives had in mind in digitizing their media data and information. One of the key objectives was to ensure the safety and security of the films and videos. In this case, there was a danger to the traditional preservation in the shelves and in disks (Alaska Film Archives, 2016). As time passed, some of the disks became obsolete and the content of such disks was lost. As such, the institution intended to ensure that the information would be safe and that it was secured from those who might intend to permanently delete the important aspects of the Alaskan history. The second objective was to ensure that people did not have to physically be present at the institution to be able to view the historical films and videos. As such, there was a need for a computerized way in which this information could be retrieved (Voges, 2016). Notably, scholars and researchers in cultural studies were very much interested in these materials. They had to retrieve the information at the comfort of their homes. More importantly, the Alaska Film Archives intended to conserve these materials in a way that there was no threat of loss even if there was a fire breakout. These objectives were the underlying reasons behind the embrace of digital archiving.


To achieve the objectives stated in the previous paragraph, Alaska Film Archives deployed the digital archiving strategy, which is otherwise referred to as the computerized archiving. In this strategy, the members of the public were invited to provide donations of the materials that they deemed to be of historical significance. Additionally, the existing physical DVDs and disks in the institutions storage banks were digitized. Specifically, the films were documented and information concerning them written for the viewers to get an understanding of the same (Alaska Film Archives, 2016). Digital film archiving in Alaska was aimed at providing a computerized record of the existing films and videos and even the soft copies of the same. One of the important features of the strategy is that there was a proper classification of data. Specifically, the homemade amateur videos of the earlier times were put into one category while the professional ones were distinguished. Additionally, a short description of the archived films was made under each of them so that viewers would have an easy time in making any retrievals. Additionally, the digital records provided an easy way for the researchers to get information about Alaskan film industry: how it developed, and its current state (Voges, 2016). The collection repositories were also crucial for the members of the public who were now able to know much about their history as well as the historical events that occurred in Alaska.


Computerized film archiving was executed in different ways. The existing data was digitized and deposited in the appropriate digital archives that had been prepared. In the creation of the new digital archives, several standards and guidelines were set on how the information would be structured, preserved, and later accessed (Bromberg & Palin, 2013). This method was aimed at ensuring a coordinated archvi9ng of information as well as its retrieval. The digital archiving facilities, rather the collection repositories, ensured that information was properly curated and maintained, for the sake of future retrievals. The next step involved documentation whereby information was provided on how the data was collected, the standards deployed in the description, as well as the various changes if any, which had been since the collection was made. The confidential and non-confidential data were separated. This was due to the requirement by the Archaeological Resource Protection Act that several classes of data had to be kept confidential (Bromberg & Palin, 2013). Digital security copies of paper archives were made for the sake of online access of the same. Lastly, a cross reference between the physical and digital records was made to ensure that the integrity of the digital archives was maintained.


The digitization of the film archives led to increased safety and security of information. In this regard, the threat of data loss was preempted. Additionally, Bromberg & Palin (2013) states that the retrieval of information was made easier due to the description of the films that was made for each of the items documented. As such, viewers were able to easily access information and understand the historical background behind each of the films and movies. More importantly, there was no need for people to make physical visits to the institutions as they could obtain information about various events in Alaskan history by the click of a mouse. Researchers were the greatest beneficiaries of this computerization as they got a wealth of information that would not have been available had the film archives not been digitized. Indeed, the Alaskan film and media culture was properly preserved and, therefore, the fear of the culture being extinct was nonexistent. The digitization of the film archives served to preserve the data in the long term and this ensured that the Alaskan population had a way of learning about their media industry.

In conclusion, the long-term preservation through archiving of films and movies is critical in the storage of media culture. This is only possible through digital method of archiving which involves the use of computers in storing important information. The Alaska Film Archives is one of the institutions that have embraced digitized archiving in the storage of Alaskan historical homemade films. However, before then, this information was stored physically through traditional archiving. However, the risks that were involved through this method were extreme. Specifically, there was the threat of permanent loss and degradation of the disks that were used in the storage of information about earthquakes, fires, and other films of significant events of the Alaskan history. Since the institution was started in 1993, it has archived more than 10,000 films on various happenings of the state. In its digitization program, it intended to ensure that all items could be obtained online so that researchers and scholars did not have to physically visit the institution. After collecting materials through donations from the members of the public, various benefits arose out of the digitization. Specifically, there was permanent and long-term storage of the films for the future generations. Additionally, information was well documented so that the retrieval was made easy and quick.


Alaska Film Archives | Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. (2016). Retrieved 18 November 2016, from, N., & Palin, H. (2013). Starting from Nothing: The Art of Creating a Film Archive. The Moving Image, 13(1), 217-225.

Guides to Good Practice: ArchivalStrat_1-0. (2016). Retrieved 18 November 2016, from, K. (2011). What is Digital Archiving? Archaeology Data Service / Digital Antiquity. Guides to Good Practice.

Voges, C. (2016). On the Potential of Film as a Digital Storage Medium. Arch Conf, 2016(1), 91-94.

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