Organizations ranging from museums to government agencies maintain moving image and sound collections that are used daily for research, education, communication, and the fulfillment of institutional missions. Unfortunately, these collections are often inadequately documented and frequently inaccessible due to various resource constraints, difficulties in capturing relevant data from objects, and the effects of obsolescence and physical degradation.
The lack of intellectual control is a very real threat to the preservation of audiovisual materials. If an organization does not know what content and formats it has, it will not know how to plan or prioritize nor know what materials are most at risk. Common practice across archives has been to drive preservation by that preservation work is primarily driven by patron request or internally identified priorities that may fit under a particular budget allocation. However, such initiatives cannot be carried out without some basic knowledge of collection contents; without such insight, unidentified or unprocessed materials will sit on the shelf – perhaps until it is too late to digitize them – not because the content is unimportant, but because it has been unfindable and inaccessible. As a steward for the assets in your care, you are responsible for making sure they are findable, accessible, and sustainable; this important work requires an accurate inventory.
An accurate inventory enables you to make informed decisions regarding your collections. It allows you to make smart choices around selection and prioritization for digitization. Creating an inventory will allow you to learn more about your collection and reveal a path forward to its preservation.