Digital Archives Assistant at the UW Library Media Center
by Rachel Price
It’s bitterly cold across the country this fine January so I have decided to reminisce on memories of my summer just a little bit more. My last post discussed the internship I did at Sub Pop Records, so this time around I’ll discuss one of the other fun jobs I had this summer, as a digital archives assistant at the UW Libraries Media Center.
I spent part of my summer doing all sorts of activities around the Kearney Barton Collection, which is a collection of thousands of analog recordings engineered by local Seattle audio recording legend Kearney Barton. Together with Light in the Attic Records, the media center has been sorting through boxes upon boxes of analog recordings, digitizing them, researching the bands who were recorded (which range from local garage bands to the Beatles), and working towards making them accessible through the library. This is a fascinating collection that really provides a window into the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest’s music scene from the 50’s through the 80’s. It’s been said that Kearney Barton is responsible for shaping the “Seattle Sound” and paving the way for Seattle’s thriving music scene.
As part of my duties, I worked with John Vallier on a variety of tasks around the collection. I learned how to digitize analog recordings from their original tapes to MP3’s and WAV files using special equipment and audio programs. I also did a lot of sleuthing on the bands represented on the recordings and even contacted any band members I could find to let them know we had their recordings! There were a few happy emails back and forth from band members who did not think their recordings even existed anymore. Finally, I worked on designing LibGuide pages for the Kearney Barton collection and getting samples from the collection up on the media center’s SoundCloud page. For this particular aspect of the project I designed standards for the media center’s SoundCloud metadata practices, which was a great experience! Working within such a system designed for commercial use, it was a challenge to try to incorporate useful archival metadata within SoundCloud, but designing best practices was a great first step in making sure that as we utilize more and more tools that allow access, we retain the level of information necessary to make the collections truly useful to users.
Working in the media center gave me unique insight into the ins-and-outs of working with unique media collections, from metadata concerns to archiving practices, licensing issues to access rights quandaries. I loved my time at the media center and got a lot out of it, and recommend it if you are curious about media or unique collections!