Friday, February 23, 2018

Archivist Jon Ille enters Little Big Horn College’s main archive room, where 2,500 video and audio tapes are set to be digitized into computer files.

Keeping time

LBHC works to digitize Crow tribal history
Two grants are in effect at the Little Big Horn College’s library in an effort to preserve Crow culture and heritage. One is funding a digitization process for all audio and video records in the college archives. The other is for recording the Crow Tribe’s oral history after 1945.
The first grant, funded by the Institute of Museum & Library Services, began about three years ago. Faculty at the library pressed for the grant after they began to notice signs of deterioration on the video and audio records in the archives. Since then, they continue lengthy process of converting all 2,500 tapes into computer files.
The process is labor intensive and time consuming. Using a machine, the tapes have to be converted into a file that can be saved onto a computer. The saving process alone can take hours, as the length of the video determines how long it takes to save. After the initial “raw” copy of the material is made, that file is copied, to be released for the school’s website. The file is then saved in different locations to ensure its sustainability.
Library Director Tim Bernardis believes that digitization is important for not only the college, but the community as well.
“We didn’t go to work and do all this recording over the years to see them disappear through deterioration,” he said.
The work was difficult at first, he said, as none of the staff was trained in the computer software used in the digitization. An organization called the Sustainable Heritage Network helped the library faculty learn the programs, and even write the grant itself.
According to college audio and visual technician Danetta Holds, the digitization has been a worthwhile venture.
“I’m glad we’re doing this,” she said. “Some of my family members are on [the tapes] and they’re gone now.”
Working alongside the digitization is the Oral History grant, funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities in May. Because of a lack of oral histories in the time after World War II, the grant primarily focuses on Crow history at that time.
The process began with a list of several subjects such as the construction of the Yellowtail Dam, the expansion of the tribal government and the development of Crow Fair. Then, different members of the faculty conducted interviews with members of the Crow Tribe who had knowledge and experience in those subjects.
Interviews will be available to be viewed by anyone who can access the Little Big Horn College website. The library staff intends for the college’s teachers to use the material in their future classes.
Archivist Jon Ille is hopeful that the online history will be more popular with the student body.
“[The students] will have a greater access to the material,” he said. “They can look at it on their phones, or come in and look at it on a computer, or go and watch [videos] at home.”
The digitization is expected be finished by the end of September 2018, and the oral history in 2019.