Re: Videotape Preservation Survey

Dan Donnelly (
Wed, 28 Nov 2001 09:38:24 -0800 (PST)

I'm not in the business of archival preservation but this survey
announcement got me to wondering about the age of collections. Two
questions I'd like to pose to the list are what is the oldest videotape
you've been able to playback and on what format? As recently as last
summer I successfully played back U-matic tapes recorded in the early
70's. I'm curious to know what others experience is.


Dan Donnelly

At 08:30 AM 11/26/2001 -0800, you wrote:


<excerpt>Those who seek to preserve videotape are familiar with the
dilemmas created by the diversity of multiple formats of a short-lived
medium that must be resolved on a limited budget. Currently, videotape
formats are tailored to the needs and whims of the broadcast market,
producing tapes that are poorly designed for archival purposes.

Therefore, the international archival and library community needs to
demonstrate the size of the archival market to the manufacturers of
videotape and video equipment. Only then will engineers seek to develop
media better suited to preservation reformatting of videotape so that
archives and libraries can fulfill their missions to preserve the records
they house. This is not an attempt to establish the elusive universal
preservation format, but simply an attempt to show manufacturers the need
for a digital tape with better physical qualities, such as a thicker tape
base, so that economically priced digital tapes can reasonably be
expected to last at least 20-30 years with a minimum of susceptibility to
chemical or mechanical deterioration during that time. Current digital
formats popular in the consumer market do not meet these standards.

Please take a few minutes to fill out the following survey, available
online, to estimate the preservation needs and approximate budget for
videotape reformatting for your institution. This survey is for any
institution, public or private, anywhere in the world, containing any
amount of videotape. Even if you have not begun a reformatting program
presently, it is important to represent all institutions that hope to
preserve video collections in the future. The survey can found at

</color></underline>Please be sure to include copyrighted videotapes held
by your institution, such as instructional collections, that may be
copied for preservation purposes under copyright law.

There is no commitment to purchase any equipment or media to be implied
by participating in the survey, nor will contact names be distributed to
salesmen. All data received will be compiled in order to demonstrate the
market size of institutions archiving tape.

The survey is being conducted by Jim Wheeler (,
currently president of Tape Archival and Restoration Services in Belmont,
California and formerly a tape engineer with Ampex, and by Sara J. Holmes
a graduate student in conservation at the Graduate School of Library and
Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin. Please feel
free to address any questions regarding the survey to either person.

The videotape survey can be found at:


Dan Donnelly, Library Manager

Learning Resources Center

University of Minnesota Libraries

612.624.6536 Fax 612.625.2519