Saving Every Testimony

Tue, 05/28/2013 - 9:04pm

In the summer of 2012, after a four-year, multimillion-dollar effort to preserve digitally the video interviews in its Visual History Archive, the USC Shoah Foundation discovered that 4,755 testimonies had technical or mechanical issues, such as video dropout or flickering, or audio problems.

The USC Shoah Foundation assembled a team of four supervisors with extensive experience in the field of preservation to oversee a team of 12 USC students to restore these interview tapes so they could be fully digitally preserved and made accessible through the Visual History Archive. The restoration team developed proprietary software to manage workflow of the massive effort and to fix certain types of image quality problems. The team also developed a technique of breaking down the video into still images, isolating and removing the ‘bad’ images, and replicating very similar ‘good’ images to fill the gaps.

In addition, the restoration team is repairing physical damage, such as broken tape casings and missing pins, springs, or clips. In some cases, entire tapes must be re-threaded onto new cassettes, or pieces from several cassettes are combined onto one working cassette so that a testimony can be digitally preserved and shared.

To date, 875 interviews or 21 percent of the total have been restored, with completion of the project anticipated in 2014.