Voices from the Archive: Digitizing at PBS North Carolina as an EBSCO Fellow

The Collection: 

I am one of the American Archives of Public Broadcasting’s (AAPB) fellows working in conjunction with EBSCO and the University of Alabama. While I’m currently a graduate student at the University of Alabama, I’ll graduate this May with my Masters in Library and Information Science and a certificate in Archival studies. I was elated when I first heard of the AAPB’s efforts to digitize AV materials, and I was eager to explore first hand how to participate in this work and contribute to its enduring legacy. Mostly, my fellowship work focused on digitizing a fantastic collection of betacam tapes from the 1990s—specifically a news segment titled “North Carolina Now”—for PBS North Carolina (or PBS NC, formally known as UNC-TV). By the end of my fellowship, I digitized over 120 nightly news segments that have been made accessible through the AAPB and preserved at the Library of Congress. Having never worked in audiovisual archiving before this, I saw my project as a welcome exploration of the emerging techniques within the field of AV preservation and digitization.

The Background of PBS North Carolina: 

Previously known as UNC-TV, PBS NC fosters spaces for curiosity, entertainment, education, and lifelong learning. Situated in the North Carolina Research Triangle Park (RTP), PBS NC upholds their mission to “Provide transformational experiences and trusted content to educate, inform, entertain and inspire the people of North Carolina.”

The particular news segment I was fortunate enough to work on was a segment that ran from 1994-2016, known to North Carolinians as “North Carolina Now.” The website describes this segment an exploration of “the most pressing issues of the day, talks with its most important people, visits to the most interesting places in the state, and celebrates our artistic and cultural diversity. Covering a wide array of topics ranging from the environment, politics and government, to statewide education on all levels, the farming community and coastal and rural development issues, North Carolina Now is there, bringing you the information you need. From the mountains to the coast, the State Fair to the state line, North Carolina Now covers the local stories and brings them home to you.”

The Challenge: 

My main challenge was learning PBS NC’s equipment and software so I could properly ingest these materials onto their servers as well as those of the AAPB. Thankfully, my experience joining PBC NC was excellent, and I was guided by kind supervisors and engaging colleagues. The tapes I worked with were thoughtfully labeled, carefully stored, and ready to be digitized. Once I had been trained and gained some hands-on practice, I felt ready to work independently and begin writing metadata for the materials to be uploaded to the AAPB. Depending on the week (and the studio’s needs) I would digitize anywhere from 1-5 tapes at a time. Once the 90 minutes of digitization were complete, I would trim the segments using Dalet. Next, I renamed the files in conjunction with the station’s standards and saved the files to my hard drive. After digitization and trimming were complete, I watched each segment to complete metadata standards in compliance with PBCore. This required taking notes on the general topics covered in each video as well as the names of the hosts, contributors, and producers. 

So much to learn! 

NC Now featured such a diverse array of topics from travels across the state, local economy, agriculture, businesses, events, politics and locals alike. I learned a great deal about the state’s history, the people who have and continue to inform and educate the state, and the passions and beliefs that many North Carolinians proudly uphold. As someone who has recently relocated to North Carolina, digitizing this collection was a welcome experience to learn about my new home’s history, political inclinations, and cultural strongholds.

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