Reflections on AMIA 2020 from Peabody Digitization Project panelists Miranda Villesvik and KC Carter

Although attending a professional conference while wearing pajamas might at one point have sounded like the subject of an anxiety dream, it became a reality in 2020 while attending the Association of Moving Image Archivists’ (AMIA) virtual conference. For members in our presentation group, this was a first-time experience, both attending AMIA and attending a virtual conference, but ultimately the AMIA conference went smoothly and was very enjoyable. The remote format was very low-stress, as there wasn’t the necessity to be “on” for the duration of the conference, and it felt easier to pick and choose conference sessions by popping in and out of virtual rooms to assess a session’s level of relevance. It was also really heartening to see words of encouragement and support popping up in the chat box in real time during sessions, a welcome reminder that while the AMIA conference is very much a professional conference, it is also a meeting of friends, colleagues, and like-minded people. 

The words of encouragement were especially welcome during our joint panel session. Our hour-long session titled “AV Digitization Projects: Tools and Strategies for Enhancing Impact and Engagement” was a joint session by researchers and archivists at the Brown Media Archive (BMA) at the University of Georgia and GBH in Boston to discuss and promote the effort to digitize materials from the BMA’s Peabody Awards collection. The Peabody Awards collection, which consists of television and radio recordings going back to the 1940s, includes almost all the entries to the Peabody Awards program since its inception in 1941. To bring awareness to the huge project of digitizing and preserving this collection, we decided to run the panel talking about specific points in the project, including some background on the project (Mary Miller, Archivist, BMA); the quality control process (Thomas May, Audiovisual Technician, BMA);  the collection’s preservation in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (Miranda Villesvik, Archivist, GBH); the cataloging process, creation of transcripts using Trint software, and the shift to managing interns and volunteers remotely (KC Carter, Processing and Metadata Associate, BMA); and scholarly use of digitized materials (Sally Smith, Student, UNC, School of Information and Library Science).

We were all excited to learn about each others’ processes and experiences when working on this project, and anticipated showing our work to the wider archival world. We were aided by AMIA’s unique setup, as their landing page and platform made the conference easy to navigate, and the sense of community was very obvious as we monitored the supportive comments and insightful questions that came in during the live comment section. For some of us, this was also our first time responding live during a Q&A session. It is safe to say that we gained a newfound respect for the art of answering questions live, as it is by no means as easy as it looks.

Overall, taking part in the panel presentation and attending AMIA was an incredibly positive experience. We each learned a lot by attending other sessions, while in our own session we also learned more about the different facets of the Peabody project. Even though we were not able to meet in-person at the AMIA 2020 conference this year, we all very much appreciated the sense of community both in the conference at large and within our panel.

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