The KlezmerShack started as a place to aggregate information – by making information about new Jewish music (back then, from my limited perspective, that meant “klezmer,” hence a name that implies far less than is currently covered) accessible to more people.
Once challenge in introducing people to new music was getting them to listen to it. So, for several years, I included RealAudio clips with reviews.
(Listen to old RealAudio 3 clip – the problem with confusing “presentation” with “preservation” is that what makes sense for today’s listeners will likely seem incredibly crude 10 years from now. You need to ensure preservation of the highest quality version of a file, and to “disseminate” relevant web versions to web users accessing the media. Change “disseminators” as relevant—and you can continue to upgrade the quality of your site with relatively little hassle. – reference is to, say, Fedora disseminators; not to the idea of generating a zillion little files to be replaced/referenced in your copious spare time 10 years from now.)
An early example of the what could be done – and the perils. Significant amounts of the Ashkenaz ’97 festival were captured on DAT and cassette tape, digitized to RealAudio 3 and put online. A few years later, the site disappeared entirely. Fortunately, the RA3 version is still available as a subsite of my development web: http://www.ivritype.com/ashkenaz . But I have never had time to properly digitize/store the tapes in an appropriate preservation environment, much less upgrade the quality of the video available to the public. Some tapes are now missing, of course, so for some performances, this is as good as posterity will ever get.
As performances happened, we recorded, then digitized them, and posted them back online. Incredibly labor-intensive in those days.
Nowadays, I can copy the file from a digital audio recorder and upload to the Internet Archive relatively quickly. The IA is good in terms of making the audio available in many formats, and for downloadable, rich metadata. But so far, I have not succeeded in uploading concert-length video to the IA.
For making video accessible, I can use YouTube, of course, and accept the loss of metadata as a trade-off for accessibility and findability.
And the KlezmerShack no longer needs to host audio – most bands put up the audio they want to share, and maintain it themselves, on MySpace or other social networking sites.
At the Jewish Women’s Archive we face the same challenge of audio and video for the web created in earlier formats that, today, sounds very noisy. Because much of this was generated before we knew about long-term preservation, we often have nothing but these older RealAudio or QuickTime Audio files—there is no source to return to and re-disseminate.
But, we have also set up active preservation management of many older oral histories, now no longer residing soley on old cassettes or minidisks, and are soon to make them available online for the first time. First preservation, then dissemination as we please—the easiest path.
Here is a typical set of “oral history assets”. It includes searchable PDF, as well as Word versions of the transcript, audio-only, and video formats. We hope to eventually put the transcripts into an easier-to-preserve, XML-based format, but this is an important first step—capture what you have and put it under active preservation management.
We don’t preserve soley to make the same asset available long-term; it is also critical to enable “remixing” – the use of the asset in new ways for new purposes. Here is JWA’s new Social Justice curriculum, “Living the Legacy” which includes access to many existing digital assets, as well as new ones.
Teachers and students can browse assets not just by standard search, but can browse by type, by subject – seach engines are now one crude way to find files – findability has moved on (and relies heavily on that metadata that we preserved long ago, or are belatedly adding now).
Students can remix our assets in new presentations, including materials elsewhere on the web, or that they, themselves, upload
This system also means that it is easy for students and teachers to upload new assets – we do try to ensure that the uploader is reminded of permissions issues, and by default, limit access to a given classroom or the person herself/himself. It is not only critical to educate people about not appropriating other people’s work online; but to ensure that they set appropriate boundaries in terms of license (we use Creative Common licenses and encourage licensing for unlimited non-profit use, with attribution). Not easy to make people aware!
But, you can view the results even without considering our curricula – you can go to http://jwa.org/onthemap and put a significant Jewish woman (and her music!) “on the map”.
Jewish music online
Jewish Music Online: Analog Repositories, Digital Fieldwork, and the Web of Collaborative Tools Ari Davidow [email_address] Presentation for AJS Conference 2010