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Chapter 1, Assessment Ratings

Chapter Contents:

In assessing the pre-processed state of a collection, and the level of work required to process it, archivists may find it useful to assess the audiovisual material separately, as the work required by AV material may be different from the rest of the collection.

In the course of the Archives’ “Hidden Collections” project on AV processing, three factors emerged that affected the rate of processing for AV the most:

  1. the quality of existing housing and whether or not media needs to be re-housed,
  2. the quality of media labels and documentation, which determines how much media needs to be played to describe its content and context, and
  3. the complexity of the AV material and the quality of the existing arrangement, which determines how much analysis is needed to arrange the material within the collection.

The following ratings system was developed to help processing archivists assess these three aspects of the pre-processed state of AV-rich collections, and to estimate resources needed to process AV portions of collections. The cases used as examples below are not meant to be exhaustive, but describe typical situations found in the Archives of American Art’s AV-rich collections to help archivists gauge what they encounter when beginning a processing project. For collections acquired after 2015, the AV survey will contain ratings for each of these three factors in the AV Survey.

If ratings in these three areas are low, the archivist could consider proposing a higher level of processing for the AV portion of the collection, and should plan to spend more time with it to ensure the arrangement and description of AV is useful to researchers. However, it’s important to realize that higher processing levels and more time spent on AV often does not result in slower processing rates overall. This is because the Archives tracks processing rates by linear foot, and AV material is bulky, so a linear foot of AV represents fewer individual items to process than a linear foot of paper records.

An assessment of the extent of re-housing work needed to process the AV material in a collection; includes housing of individual pieces of media, and the use of special collection containers for media that cannot be stored in regular collection boxes. For more information on re-housing, see Chapter 3: AV Re-housing and Storage.

  1. Poor: large AV portion with most material needing re-housing and/or special collection containers
  2. Fair:  large AV portion with more than half of materials needing re-housing and/or special collection containers
  3. Good: Few AV items needing rehousing or special collection containers
  4. Very good: small AV portion; re-housing needs are not a significant factor in processing time
  5. Excellent: AV portion does not need any re-housing or special collection containers'

An assessment of the quality of individual media labels and related paper documentation such as transcripts, inventories, logs, tear sheets, shot lists, etc., to determine how much playback of media will be required to describe media content. Note that media with cryptic or unreliable labels often require just as much effort, if not more, as unlabeled media.

  1. Poor:
  • large AV portions where AV media is unlabeled and there is no corresponding documentation to help identify it, so it needs to be played to be identified and described
  • OR documentation exists but relationship between the media and paper records is poorly understood and requires playback and analysis to describe how they are related
  • OR labeling by creator is not useful for description, or is found to be unreliable, so content needs to be verified
  1. Fair:
  • large AV portions where about half of the media is labeled or documented, half is not
  • OR most items poorly labeled and undocumented but form obvious series, so playing a sample portion of each group is sufficient to describe
  1. Good:
  • large AV portions where a few AV items are poorly labeled and/or described in documentation, so some playback is needed to describe
  1. Very good:
  • small AV portion; needed interventions will not add significantly to processing time
  1. Excellent:
  • labeling and documentation is thorough and complete
  • OR, AV digitized and already described at the item level, item records can be consulted for description

An assessment of the complexity of the AV portion of a collection and the adequacy of its existing arrangement. The higher the complexity, or the worse the existing arrangement, the more analysis will be required during processing.

Typical complex AV portions include most production collections, containing raw footage and various edits and versions, or a large AV portion with few apparent groupings, where many individual recordings need to be analyzed before integrating with existing series or creating an AV series.

Typical simple AV portions are clear series of items, like episodes of a show, or interviews with identified subjects around a single topic or for a single project, or scattered items that are easily identified and integrated with existing series.

  1. Poor:
  • large AV portions with high complexity and poor existing arrangement; i.e., from complex media productions or projects, possibly with multiple versions in multiple formats, with no apparent logical existing arrangement
  • OR, large AV portions with few apparent groupings; i.e. miscellaneous recordings
  1. Fair:  
  • large AV portions with some complex and some simple groups of media, but little or no existing arrangement
  • OR, appears to have a meaningful existing arrangement, but analysis is required to verify
  1. Good:
  • large and simple AV portion requiring only straightforward arrangement
  • OR, small and complex AV portion with some analysis needed to arrange
  1. Very good:
  • small AV portion, easily integrated or arranged; AV will not add significantly to processing time.
  1. Excellent: Existing arrangement is clearly satisfactory

Next Chapter: Chapter 2: Levels of Processing