by Matt Richardson, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian
October is Archives Month! The TMC Library is celebrating with a special opportunity to support the McGovern Historical Center. Help us secure the history of the Texas Medical Center. https://library.tmc.edu/mcgovern/2022/09/28/give-2-history-secure-the-past/
For those of you who’ve been following the McGovern Historical Center for a while, you know our audiovisual collections are among our most distinctive holdings. For example, we have hundreds of films (many available online!) illustrating heart surgery techniques by Denton Cooley and his associates at the Texas Heart Institute. Recently we’ve also written about sound recordings of Nobel Prize winner Philip Hench, as well as interviews with leading figures from the TMC Historical Resources Project.
Audiovisual materials are especially high preservation priorities, as their formats make them especially susceptible to degradation. Besides the fact that magnetic tape deteriorates at a concerning rate, when was the last time you saw a U-matic tape deck in working order?
Last spring we were excited to learn that we’d been awarded “Speedy Startup funds” from the South Central Academic Medical Libraries Consortium (SCAMeL) to further support our audiovisual collections. Knowing that foundational archival collections like the TMC Library records (IC 001) and the Texas Medical Center records (IC 002) contained unique and at-risk audiovisual recordings, the MHC and TMC Library team put together a proposal to have these materials digitized for preservation and access. We selected 52 videos, films and sound recordings—including a range of educational lectures, TV news coverage, and promotional segments—all focused on the history of the TMC and the Library. We also jumped at the opportunity to finish digitizing the remaining twenty-five interviews from the TMC Historical Resources Project.
While we can handle some things like VHS and compact cassette tapes in house, sometimes securing a vendor is the best way to get this sort of thing done, especially in large numbers. We recently got the digital files back, and they look great! Besides offering valuable historical content, the videos also transport viewers back in time through a mix of color bars, tracking, and other reminders of their analog heritage. Archivists are currently viewing the finished products and creating additional descriptions so that they can be searched and navigated online. We’ll be adding these to our online collections system over the coming months. Stay tuned!
We’d like to thank our friends at SCAMeL for making this project possible. And if anyone out there is on the fence about giving to our Give 2 History: Secure the Past fundraiser, let’s just say we’ve got plenty more files and tapes to preserve and digitize!