Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Little Big Horn College’s archive team line up inside their Little Big Horn College office. Pictured from the left are audio visual specialist Annetta J. Holds, archivist John Ille and library archives aid Chrislyn Red Star.

Tape masters

LBHC archive team digitizes Crow tribal history
To study the past – in this case, Crow tribal oral history – researchers, historians, scientists and people in general all use information drawn from a large well of space and time.
The study of information requires a way to store it, however, and this is the problem the archival department at Little Big Horn College face. They have 2,400 audio and video items on older forms of data storage devices, such as reel-to-reel or VHS.
These forms of storage are not only difficult to interact with – as finding a medium for them is a challenge in its own right – but they are old enough that many of them are delicate.
The team fighting to save these items by converting them into a digital format are archivist John Ille, archival audio visual specialist Annetta J. Holds, and library archives aid Chrislyn Red Star.
An example of their work is found in a reel of tape, which was many years old and so fragile that – in the time they were running it – the tape ripped at least seven times.
The project originally was expected to be quick and simple, according to Red Star, but it soon became a much longer process.
“It was estimated to take about an hour per tape,” she said, “but it turned into one tape per eight hours to download and two more to export.”
Another challenge, Red Star mentioned, comes from deciphering tapes recorded when the fluent Crow speakers were the norm among the tribal population. Even Red Star, who is considered a fluent Crow speaker, encountered difficulty with the older, strongly-accented version of the language.
“It’s the very old Crow and when I listened to it, I couldn’t understand it,” she said. “You need someone older to come and translate for you.”
The team already has moved through the majority of their original data, but as the project has grown, more and more of the public have brought in recordings of their own. It’s thanks to these people that a significant portion of historical and traditional knowledge has not been forever lost.
Two copies of the collected data are on-campus and one off, Red Star said, “in case anything were to happen.”
At press time, the archival team is 100 percent finished with audio and 25 percent with video.