You are here

Chapter 2, Levels of Processing

When preparing to process a collection, archivists at the Archives begin by determining what level of processing will be performed. We define levels of processing as preliminary (tasks completed upon accession), minimal (the standard now for all but specially-funded processing projects, or collections we anticipate fully digitizing), intermediate (only undertaken with special funding), and full (typically undertaken when a collection is to be fully digitized).

To help archivists process the AV portions of their collections, the following benchmarks were created describing what is expected of archivists at each level and suggesting strategies for dealing with AV-specific processing issues. Four areas of processing are addressed for each level: a) re-housing, b) arrangement, d) description, and d) dealing with unlabeled AV media at each level. Archivists can always consider going beyond the strategies listed below for a certain level, particularly if the value of the AV in a collection seems to merit special attention. They should use their judgment as to the effort involved and benefit to the researcher.

Upon accession, the location, extent, and general content of audiovisual materials in a collection is noted by the collector, and the AV archivist surveys the audiovisual material. AV material is not played at this stage, but it is re-housed.

  1. Re-housing: Magnetic and grooved-disc media should be re-housed during preliminary processing if it is missing, dirty, deteriorated, or unsupportive. For film, detailed inspection and re-housing should be completed upon accession. Items needing re-housing upon accession are noted in the AV Survey database, and housing actions taken at this stage are also noted there.
  2. Arrangement: No physical arrangement is changed, but groups of related media are identified in the AV survey if possible, and general information collected for each group
  3. Description: A content genre and general description is recorded in AV survey database for each group of related media as well as:
    1. Media format and condition of the media and its housing,
    2. format characteristics like recording speed and size, if known
    3. known dates,
    4. an assessment of the uniqueness of the media, and
    5. an assessment of its likely rights status (recorded as “donor type”)
  1. Dealing with unlabeled media: unlabeled media is not played during preliminary processing to identify. It is surveyed as a group, collecting data about format only.
  1. Re-housing: Not required at this level. Notify AV Archivist if media appears to be in danger of damage or deterioration due to substandard or missing housing. You may also use your judgment as to whether you have time to re-house AV media yourself during processing, or ask the AV Archivist for assistance if there is extensive re-housing work needed.
  2. Arrangement: keep arrangement interventions to a minimum.
    1. grouping related media is often sufficient, without verifying specific content or sequence of media items;
    2. if media is found grouped with paper records or records in other formats, leave the arrangement as-is;
    3. if media has been separated due to format from paper records it has an obvious relation to, that relationship should be expressed in the finding aid.
    4. Duplicates and originals can be filed together without verifying or identifying which is which.
    5. Consider sorting at a more granular level if there is a media series that is well-labeled, with easily identified items, such as a series of interviews.
  3. Description should likewise aim for efficiency, and you can often save time by describing obvious series of media in groups, although there are still times to consider listing items when minimally processing. See Chapter 5 for more detailed description guidelines.
    1. If logical groupings of AV media are found, a single component might provide an adequate description for the group. Use a formal title of the group if one exists (e.g. “Artists in New York” Radio Series), or devise a title using a genre term such as “Annual meetings” or “Television news clips about [artist or gallery name].” Significant individual subjects, if known, can be referenced in a series- or file-level scope and content note.
    2. Consider describing AV at the item level when minimally processing IF the individual items are well-labeled, and items have important access points for researchers; e.g. names of important figures, exhibition titles or locations, or titles of media artworks. Use headings or subseries groupings to minimize repetition in item-level description.
    3. If any detailed documentation of AV content exists in the collection, such as transcripts, shot lists, or logs describing content, refer researchers to this documentation rather than describing any detailed content of the media itself in the finding aid. When using this approach, make sure researchers can match the paper documentation to the media items; for instance, if logs refer to tapes by tape number, include tape numbers in your description of the media components.
    4. Consult the DCD items for the collection to see if any of the AV media has been digitized and described.
    5. If arranging the AV and its documentation together physically would require significant work, leave it physically separate and cross reference related materials the finding aid.
    6. Do not undertake detailed analysis of media and its documentation if the relationship is not clear; simply note the apparent relationship.
    7. If physical media is labeled with lots of detail, it is not necessary to include all detail in the finding aid. This goes for all levels of processing. If you feel label information would be helpful to researchers, it can be noted in a series- or item-level scope note.
    8. EAD/AV description guidelines must be followed for all elements identified as r