Archiving During the Coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic and the requirements of social distancing have led dance artists and companies to embrace the digital: offering remote classes or rehearsals, streaming archival or new performances. How can you take advantage of this moment to boost your digital engagement and improve the ways you are saving and organizing your stuff, so that it can be even more useful to you?

Managing the Explosion of Digital Content

Did you know? Just because something is digital doesn’t mean it’s preserved! All digital files are vulnerable to data degradation (also known as bit rot), hard drives can fail, web sites frequently disappear (link rot), and files on Cloud storage services can be changed, removed, or become unavailable. So, what can you do to make your digital files more secure?

LOCKSS: Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. You should always have at least two copies of any file, one of which you never touch, and one which you use to stream, edit, or make additional copies. Ideally, have two archive copies that you store in different geographic locations, in addition to your access copy. If you use Cloud storage, have hard drive or server backups.

  • Check on your hard drives! If you notice any abnormal noises, files crashing or not opening, or other strangeness, take them to get looked at by a professional (once it is safe to go out!) Check them on a regular schedule, replace them every 5-7 years. 
  • Be careful about granting permissions to edit or manage files in your Cloud storage accounts to avoid having files inadvertently altered or deleted.

Did you know? Instagram is not an archive! Don’t assume that you will always be able to readily access your social media posts on their original platform. You should save posts you feel have lasting value for you or your organization.

  • Webrecorder and Archive-It are two easy ways to create copies of social media posts and websites; Webrecorder can capture embedded videos. 
  • Taking screenshots or printing things out may seem old-fashioned, but it is reliable!

Learn more about preserving digital files, websites, and social media on Dance/USA’s Artist’s Legacy Toolkit.

Using Archives for Digital Engagement

If you have archival materials digitized, or if you are able to scan things at home, you can use these videos, photos, artworks, or press clippings to engage your community, increase your visibility, and create moments of joy for audiences at home.

Other ways to utilize archival materials could include sharing never-before-seen photographs and choreographic notes, or vintage poster designs, programs, and press materials on your social media or in newsletters.

Archiving at Home

Stuck at home with time on your hands? This can be a good opportunity to start digging into your archives!

If you have boxes of materials at home and/or access to your digital files, through hard drives, servers, cloud-based storage, etc., you can work on your organization and management on many different levels:

  • Figure out what you have and where it is - do you need to consolidate three different flash drives onto a hard drive? Can you sort physical materials by type?
  • Start an inventory. Find guidelines and a downloadable template here
  • Develop a simple, clear organization system for computer files: Find tips on filing structures here.
  • Standardize file naming conventions. Find tips on file naming standards here
  • Figure out what records you are missing that should be in your archive. Are some things still held by former directors or company members?  Are there venues, presenters, companies, or videographers that might have copies of recordings that you are missing?
  • ID digital or analog photographs: who took them? Who is in them? Where and when were they taken? Can you get former dancers or staff members to help remotely?

In this Dance Magazine Article, Ariel Grossman, artistic director of Ariel Rivka Dance in Jersey City, New Jersey, talks about going through their archives to figure out what pieces to bring back, and Robert Dekkers, artistic director of Post:Ballet in Berkeley, California talks about working on the organization of their video and photo archives.

If you don’t have access to your archives right now, you could still spend time getting familiar with Dance/USA’s Artist’s Legacy Toolkit and talking with stakeholders about long-term goals and plans for the archive.

Dance/USA Can Help!

Have questions? Want to discuss your archiving goals? Book a phone consultation with Dance/USA archivists. An hour-long consultation is free for Dance/USA members and $40 for non-members. Find more information and how to schedule here