Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Introducing: The New Zealand Media Archives

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  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    NZ On Screen, of course, only does the digitisation and access part, not the preservation, but I strongly suspect something similar would apply to Simon's project.

    Indeed, for the reasons you mentioned in the post, I think it's wise right now to separate the - both vital - functions, as the in-depth preservation part of what we are trying to achieve is likely to stymie the other if we tie these things too closely. It's not a divide I want to see, but realities force it.

    That said, a film archive styled repository of recordings is in desperate, desperate need too, and quickly.

    Stebbings are doing a pretty amazing job of preserving large bits of what was being lost, but in 2011 we no longer have the bulk of the master-tapes, multi-tracks, and digital data recorded over the previous decades, including the 2000s. What is there, is often spread around the world and only survives at the whim of the current guardians or their estates and heirs when they pass.

    The stuff that sits in boxes in old garages is terrifying (and I'm not just talking indie stuff - many of the major label recordings over the years have end up dumped or in some soon forgotten warehouse).

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3184 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Understood

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15701 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    Thanks buddy. Genuinely appreciated.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Russell C,

    The government has already brought the two big heritage archives – the National Library collection and Archives New Zealand – together by moving the library, previously its own government department, into the Department of Internal Affairs. I don’t know enough about the issues there to comment, but I haven’t really heard any cries of distress.

    This is a topic in itself, and a difficult one for me to comment on as a National Library (now DIA) employee. However, looking at the big picture, the Library is undergoing several massive changes at the same time right now.

    The obvious change is the integration with DIA and associated restructuring, which I expect to continue. I don't really think we've seen the effects of this yet, as we're still in the same financial year with few major changes to our activities, staff and processes. Next year will likely be very different, in ways we're only beginning to understand.

    We also have a new National Librarian from an innovative institution.

    At the same time, we're undertaking a building redevelopment and a massive reshaping of our public services. This has been accompanied by reviews of all our major directorates (the Alexander Turnbull Library is currently being restructured).

    Finally, we're anticipating bug changes to our budget over the next few years as the Government seeks efficiencies in the public service.

    For now, it is very difficult to say which of these factors will have the biggest impacts on the Library. I can say that our people have an awful lot of change to deal with, but are dedicated, professional and passionate, and will continue to try and deliver the best service they can.

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Tamsin6,

    For anyone who is interested, you can find the LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) submissions on the merger here:

    http://www.lianza.org.nz/resources/lianza-documents/submissions/submissions-integration-national-library-archives-and-dia

    The kind of people who'd make it tick aren't really library people.

    Also Russell, I am interested to know - what kind of people are library people? I think you need to clarify what your thinking is on this.

    After more than 20 years of working in libraries and information centres, it can be very dispiriting to keep seeing the same old stereotypes of the library 'type' - but perhaps this wasn't what you meant. I'd be interested to know what you were thinking.

    London • Since Dec 2007 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tamsin6,

    Also Russell, I am interested to know – what kind of people are library people? I think you need to clarify what your thinking is on this.

    No slight intended. Library and archive professionals have different training, different priorities and different personal networks to people who have worked in or around, say, the music business.

    The project that Simon proposes is going to require a lot of interaction and winning of trust with music people – especially when it gets to the physical archive phase and you’re talking about master tapes getting handed over, or rights being granted for works to be made available online.

    For NZ On Screen part of clearing, say, episodes of Barry Barclay's Tangata Whenua for release on the website has been contracting the right people to go out and do the talking. I think Tainui Stevens is doing some work in that vein for us at the moment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The project that Simon proposes is going to require a lot of interaction and winning of trust with music people – especially when it gets to the physical archive phase and you’re talking about master tapes getting handed over, or rights being granted for works to be made available online.

    It still sounds like just what National Library people do, just applied to music rather than documentary heritage.

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to paynter,

    But having said that, Russell has a point: the Turnbull music people have different priorities (and limited resources). So if they haven't been in touch with Simon since the last time this we discussed this project, it seems reasonable to assume that they are not likely to undertake anything like it themselves.

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to paynter,

    But having said that, Russell has a point: the Turnbull music people have different priorities (and limited resources). So if they haven’t been in touch with Simon since the last time this we discussed this project, it seems reasonable to assume that they are not likely to undertake anything like it themselves.

    And in a very practical sense, they can’t. There’s a big role for crowdsourcing in this kind of project, which means being plugged in to commercial services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, where people and resources are. There are places libraries don't to tend go.

    Probably the most striking change since the launch of NZOS has been the rise of Facebook. Google used to be, as you’d expect, the major referrer of traffic. Not any more. It’s Facebook.

    I really must emphasise that I have only the highest respect for what library and archive professionals do – I’m close to announcing a sweet little get-together with Digital NZ, in fact. But music has always been a business as well as an art, and there’s a case for have people from the business on board.

    These things cross over of course. Sound Archives has a long history of employing musicians – Blair Parkes, Bruce Russell and John Kelcher immediately come to mind. I think all those three would have a lot to contribute to a music archive.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think all those three would have a lot to contribute to a music archive.

    The contribution of what we're calling Genre or Style Curators - very much people like the above three, plus many others with the necessary expertise in their fields - is central to the detail of my proposal.

    It simply can't work without it.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3184 posts Report Reply

  • Tamsin6,

    I really must emphasise that I have only the highest respect for what library and archive professionals do – I’m close to announcing a sweet little get-together with Digital NZ, in fact. But music has always been a business as well as an art, and there’s a case for have people from the business on board.

    With all due respect Russell, I don't think that you understand completely what library and archive professionals do, and also what they would like to be able to do. You say that libraries don't tend to go to commercial services like You Tube etc - but actually, we do. The National Library (a current employee may have more information on this) have a whole variety of initiatives devoted to metadata of all kinds. Library and information professionals HAVE to be involved in these things, they ARE involved and the DO use them - that is what it is to be a librarian in the modern age.

    For the first time in my career I am cut off from these resources in my work - and at times it can be very limiting - because I work in a large institution which blocks access to these resources. This is where some of the issues lie - not with the profession, but with the administration and policy frameworks information professionals have to work within.

    I want to say more but Saturday morning with two small daughters is making thinking (even reading!) difficult. Important to have these discussions, even though in this instance my brain is not functioning properly.

    London • Since Dec 2007 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Tamsin6,

    With all due respect Russell, I don’t think that you understand completely what library and archive professionals do

    Thanks Tamsin, I was going to make this point too.

    Russel:

    …means being plugged in to commercial services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, where people and resources are. There are places libraries don’t to tend go.

    Facebook and Twitter are infested with Librarians (YouTube less so). And we’re doing all we can to add them to the collections, particularly now that they’re in scope of leal deposit.

    But music has always been a business as well as an art, and there’s a case for have people from the business on board.

    Yes, but that is also true of print. Libraries have been dealing with publishers since, well, for as long as there have been libraries. That part’s not new for us.


    Putting aside our reputation as Luddites, it’s a bit hard to explain the National Library’s collecting goals around online, digital and audiovisual – especially since we have three separate sets of collections (General, Turnbull and Schools) with different purposes but plenty of overlap.

    Also, a lot of the work we do in these areas is currently not very visible. For example, we’re struggling to find the resources to capture the web, nevermind making what we have publicly accessible (though I hope we can make a bit more progress on social media sites in the coming year).

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to paynter,

    making what we have publicly accessible

    Any detail on how you envisage doing that? Seems to be the area where contextualising adds value.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15701 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Sacha,

    Any detail on how you envisage doing that? Seems to be the area where contextualising adds value.

    Nothing official, but we admire the British Library's UK Web Archive, and we use many of the same web archiving tools as BL (we have jointly developed the Web Curator Tool).

    The UK Web Archive is a purely selective archive (i.e. each website captured separately) and we also have whole-of-domain harvests to present. However, the whole system is based on Wayback I am pretty sure we can interleave the selective and domain harvests.

    I also expect tools that get us straight into archived web material without visiting an web archive will come into their own over the next few years. For example, browser plugins that provide access to the archived versions of any page you visit or archives that are designed to replace 404 Page Not Found content for obsolete websites.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    No slight intended. Library and archive professionals have different training, different priorities and different personal networks to people who have worked in or around, say, the music business.

    I'm with Paynter and Tamsin6 in that there's nothing to prevent librarians from doing this. In my previous job I used to have to get copyright and other clearances for artworks, cartoons, pieces of text. The librarians at National Archives and Hocken Collections were tremendously helpful at making that happen. There's nothing preventing librarians with expertise and experience in music fields from doing similar work.

    I suspect the problem is more with funding. Our local archives - Hocken Collections - struggles to find enough funds to archive everything properly, let alone make it publicly available. Archives that are able to make their materials available to the public in the ways that are being talked about here cost a lot of money.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    expertise and experience in music fields

    Like Kiwi pop/rock/indie/hiphop/electronica?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15701 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I'm with Paynter and Tamsin6 in that there's nothing to prevent librarians from doing this. In my previous job I used to have to get copyright and other clearances for artworks, cartoons, pieces of text.

    That rather misses the point of what many of us think is needed, and being requested, as I'd argue do parts of the the above posts from Paynter and Tamsin6.

    At the risk of repeating myself again, and repeating what Russell has said too, we - as in those who have and are closely involved in the local music industry - are not looking for a filing, collating or collecting process as an archive, nor a way of making recordings publicly available.

    A two pronged entity is desirable. One is simply a repository of what has been recorded by record labels and studios etc - a physical and digital vault if you will. This is first and foremost to retrieve, preserve and prevent decay. It has much in common with what has been done by the film archive.

    The second part, which will perhaps come first, and operate at arms length to the other, is a living database of the people, the music and the cultures. It operates almost as a front end to the last 70 years of New Zealand music and also to the future.

    It has no exact parallel in New Zealand to date but has elements of NZ on Screen, Wikipedia, Facebook, the All Music Guide, the work of people like Chris Bourke, John Dix & Andrew Schmidt, and Rock's Back Pages mixed in. I'm very uncomfortable using the word archive for this, as it's not.

    By it's very nature, it needs to be created, melded and directed by those that create the music and the cultures that surround that music if it's to fulfil its primary role.

    Archives that are able to make their materials available to the public in the ways that are being talked about here cost a lot of money.

    Both sides may well encourage commercial exploitation and the availability of musics, but that is not a primary focus as above.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3184 posts Report Reply

  • Tamsin6,

    At the risk of repeating myself again, and repeating what Russell has said too, we – as in those who have and are closely involved in the local music industry – are not looking for a filing, collating or collecting process as an archive, nor a way of making recordings publicly available.

    A two pronged entity is desirable. One is simply a repository of what has been recorded by record labels and studios etc – a physical and digital vault if you will. This is first and foremost to retrieve, preserve and prevent decay. It has much in common with what has been done by the film archive.

    I keep getting interrupted, so I am probably not getting to grips with this as I should, but the first prong, if you will, is simply an archive. As a librarian, I may not be the best to judge – libraries and archives are different beasts, which gets back to the issue about the merger of archives and libraries and the implications of this – but I don’t see the problem, aside from funding, of creating this kind of archive within the existing framework. The beginnings of this kind of depository is already there. The National Library has been doing this, as far as is practical, for years.

    Part of the problem with including the whole range of musical genres (Kiwi pop, rock, etc. etc as described by Sacha above – on a side note, again with the stereotypes – librarians and archivists are just people, you think we don’t listen to music, engage with music, have mates who are in bands, in the recording industry, have ourselves been in the recording industry in a previous career etc etc etc? So yes, experience with and expertise in all kinds of music) is the issue of what legal deposit entails. Publishers HAVE to provide material to the National library. Recorded music? Not so sure this has always happened. A National librarian will be better placed to comment.

    The second prong, the living database part, is an extension to what archives can do and should do – but there has to be some kind of incentive for this to happen. Again, I can’t see any reason why there can’t be some industry-based project which extends and makes use of a music archive in this way. It’s a good thing to have stakeholders and communities involved in archives and to put them to all kinds of exciting uses, to create a project which uses and extends the parameters of the archive. It sounds fantastic – but don’t underestimate the uses and talents of a good archivist – you may be surprised to find that they are already dying to do something like this, but haven’t had the opportunity.

    This is a political, rather than professional issue.

    Apologies again, for the lack of coherence. My brain hurts.

    London • Since Dec 2007 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tamsin6,

    With all due respect Russell, I don’t think that you understand completely what library and archive professionals do, and also what they would like to be able to do. You say that libraries don’t tend to go to commercial services like You Tube etc – but actually, we do.

    Arrgh -- how did this get to be librarians vs others? It's not a very productive way to go.

    We were talking about the differences between the Turnbull's NZ music archive and what Simon wants to achieve -- and I do think an independent archive will manifestly be a better fit than one inside a library.

    I suspect its public face would look more like NZ On Screen's than that of the Turnbull Archive of New Zealand Music.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tamsin6,

    It sounds fantastic – but don’t underestimate the uses and talents of a good archivist – you may be surprised to find that they are already dying to do something like this, but haven’t had the opportunity.

    I guess the difference is that Simon is going out and working hard to create that opportunity. Not only through the music archive project, but in the likes of his excellent discography for his own label, Propeller Records.

    In that context, allowing that he and others in the industry could “extend” something done by proper librarians is patronising. The fact is, most of the moves on documenting and preserving recent popular music culture are being made outside the institutional sector.

    That doesn't mean there isn't a key role for professionals, but I get Simon's view that this will function best as an independent archive with close ties to its own industry and culture.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Arrgh – how did this get to be librarians vs others? It’s not a very productive way to go.

    Agreed, but I think you brought it on yourself. You've made the argument that libraries / archives can't do this work (or a large part of it) because they lack certain skills; but these skills are actually part and parcel of the profession. I venture that many who work in libraries found this rather condescending and are trying politely to correct you.

    I agree it's not productive.

    And I agree with Simon that our existing institutions are neither resourced nor inclined to attempt the second point. They're already doing the first as well as they can, but it is always possible to do more (and it is hard and expensive).

    Finally, let me say that if Simon can get this off the ground, then all power to him. I hope that my institution would be supportive.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to paynter,

    Agreed, but I think you brought it on yourself. You’ve made the argument that libraries / archives can’t do this work (or a large part of it) because they lack certain skills; but these skills are actually part and parcel of the profession. I venture that many who work in libraries found this rather condescending and are trying politely to correct you.

    It was more what was possible in a particular institutional setting.

    David actually raised the issue by suggesting that Simon’s idea might be “a further waste of resources” when the Turnbull already had its own music archive. It really seems evident to me than an independent archive, within in a structure that facilitates best practice, will do things the Turnbull couldn’t. And more the point, isn't.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to paynter,

    To be, fair, what I’m saying is also informed by my own experiences.

    When I was doing the Great New Zealand Argument project, I met and got on very well with Philip Rainer at the Turnbull. Seeing the thousands of pamphlets held as part of the original Turnbull bequest was a real thrill. Pamphlets and polemics were very interesting to me.

    But I never did anything with any of that. I could never get a price for digitising a work for republication, and not for want of trying. I had no problem with the idea that it had to be done properly, but I couldn’t find a way of doing it at all.

    It was much easier to find stuff in second-hand bookshops and take it from there. Bob Gormack was delighted that someone found ‘A Maori Lament’ amusing after all these years, more so to accept a bottle of single malt so I could transcribe and republish it.

    And the Lange speech … Jesus wept. The audio recording and my transcript (I was staggered that no one had previously done one) are still hosted here. They’re linked to from Lange’s Wikipedia article, and literally not a day passes that someone accesses them. That only happened because people broke the rules, because I persisted (dutifully calling the Oxford Union was an odd and pointless exercise) and, in the end, because Ian Fraser said: just do it.

    It’s a similar story with the Mazengarb Report. The copies linked from the Wikipedia article are only there because Jonathan Ah Kit sourced and scanned the report and uploaded it to ibiblio and Project Gutenberg. Those copies are now basically the country’s teaching copies.

    The point I made in the Information Entrepreneurs paper is that there is a role for independent enterprise in curating and disseminating heritage content, and that there should be some support for individuals who do that. I’d love to see a modest contestable fund for the purpose. Sometimes, it’s useful to work from the bottom up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17915 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tamsin6,

    librarians and archivists are just people, you think we don’t listen to music, engage with music, have mates who are in bands, in the recording industry, have ourselves been in the recording industry in a previous career etc etc etc? So yes, experience with and expertise in all kinds of music

    I know and respect some funky librarians. However they seem to have little influence over the priorities of their institutions' collections and engaging the public in those.

    Perhaps that's a matter of insufficient resources but it must affect perceptions about relying on libraries and existing archives as sole hosts of our nation's musical history and culture. From what I've read here, it seems 'doing with' is the answer, not 'doing for'.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15701 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to paynter,

    You've made the argument that libraries / archives can't do this work (or a large part of it) because they lack certain skills

    Perhaps better to think of it as certain relationships and mana with key stakeholders, rather than skills. People don't trust others with their taonga only because of skills.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15701 posts Report Reply

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