Retro ways of capturing and preserving experiences of air raids, love and nature

UEA students from the Year 2 module, Digital Media: Theory and Practice, took a look at some old media in a seminar led by the University of East Anglia’s Eastern ARC Fellow, Dr Paul Gooding: ‘Historicising new media: from analogue to digital media’.

In preparing the exhibits for the session we were reminded of the range of formats lurking within our collections and the ever present challenge of continuing access when technology threatens to become obsolete. Many observers wonder why we don’t simply digitise everything and be done with it.

The complexity inherent in such projects (quality assurance; metadata; storage; resource discovery) require significant time and resource. We are currently engaged in just two proof of concept digitisation projects focusing on two key collections (the UEA Literary Festival Video Collection and the digital preservation of Doris Lessing’s Whitehorn Letters).

We demonstrated the transformation in a digitally remastered clip from a UEA Literary Festival video when compared with a straightforward digitisation of its original.

The students were given a hands on introduction to the following archive material which included getting to grips with microfilm readers, slide viewers and cassette players and considering how analogue items might translate into their digital counterpart with the integrity of its original intact.

A series of over 100 typed love-letters from the 1940s. Complete with envelopes and photographs. [Doris Lessing’s letters to John Whitehorn (BACW)].

Aerial photographs, maps, tables of data indicating bomb drops and bomb damage. Target and attack data 1942-1945. The students considered how to reflect integrated and complex data and the treatment of fragile material. [Zuckerman Archive].

A series of 1930s photographs of Southwold Railway. [Hill Papers].

Handwritten notebooks with inserts. [Roger Deakin Archive (BACW)].

Microfilm and original manuscripts. Over 2000 school children’s essays “What I did and what happened to me in an air raid”.  Microfilm was introduced as a form of preservation; and to show the transfer between mediums when scanned to PC. [Zuckerman Archive].

Slides (mounted, glass). Royal Norfolk Show, 1957; Parliamentary visit to China, 1956. [Hill Papers].

LP (Vinyl) The Sound of New Orleans (A frisbee? Something to create pizzas on?) [Formerly UEA Record Library].

In the next week, the students will compare the experience of using both the analogue and digital versions of one of the media demonstrated.

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