In this phase of the experiment, I followed the draft of the guidelines I wrote for this project, Evaluation Process and Criteria for Appraising Home Movie VHS Collections at TAMI. I should note before going into the details that this process was likely slowed because I created all of the files in Excel rather than Filemaker Pro so that these experimental records were not entered into the working database at TAMI, and Excel is less efficient for the cataloging process. I also think that if I had more experience with the process, I could move through it a bit more quickly.

The collection contained 16 VHS (as mentioned in my previous post) with a total time of approximately 15 hours and 40 minutes. To go through the evaluation process outlined in my draft and create a set of cataloged and indexed segments for use in the online library, as well as base records for each tape, it took me 7 hours, 19 minutes, and 44 seconds. I created 20 segments ranging from 39 seconds to 15 minutes in length using the criteria I developed for the guidelines:

1. Historic

2. Social or Cultural

3. Educational Value

4. Appropriateness for public audience

5. Representativeness

6. Rarity

7. Watchability

Going through the assessment process helped me understand the strengths of my proposal, as well as a few modifications I will make and ways to streamline the process. In step 1 of the assessment process, I was able to use the tape labels to identify the years recorded on the tape, and they proved to be consistent with date stamps in the videos. I could also determine from the family name that the family was Mexican-American, so I knew to be looking for social or cultural events or traditions that would fit criteria 2, 5, and 6. This turned out to be a very useful notation, as the tapes included many instances of the family speaking in both English and Spanish in the same conversation, as well as performances of Mexican folk dances and Mariachi, art forms still underrepresented in TAMI’s online library. I found that steps 2 – 4 could possibly be  rewritten or combined.  In following my guidelines, I ended up watching each tape 3 or 4 times, which was really unnecessary. I watched them first in the cursory viewing detailed in step 2. There were no tapes to eliminate due to inappropriate content, and while I could tell that some pieces of a tape would not be used in the library, I couldn’t eliminate an entire tape, so I gave all of them an in-depth viewing and notated pieces I may want to use when creating segments. Then I had to go back through to find beginning and end times of each segment. Once I had those separated, I had to at least skim them again to write an abstract for the segment’s new record and ensure the indexing was thorough. This could be easier for TAMI employees that are in the office daily, but since I am only there twice a week, I had to refresh my memory of the segments before writing the abstracts.

I think that a TAMI employee (or intern) that has at least some experience cataloging and knowledge of the overall collection could begin notating beginning and end times of segments while still in step 2, during the cursory viewing. It would be simple to write down timestamps while creating the basic database record for the tape. I knew as I performed the first viewing which pieces I would likely select when creating segments, I even put them in bold on my spreadsheet, but I foolishly did not write down timestamps then as I was trying to follow the procedure in my proposal. Pulling out segments during step 2 would prevent another review of the tapes and allow the employee to only give an in-depth viewing to the segments chosen for the library, thus saving a significant amount of time. Steps 5, 6, and 7 could be moved up as part of the process of step 2, and step 4, the in-depth viewing and cataloging of videos, could be applied after segments are selected (step 8).

In step 8, I wrote in the draft that “no more than three of any type of event (Christmas, Easter, birthday, school play, etc.) should be chosen from one collection unless some unusual or notable interpretive potential is recognized,”  but I could probably change that to “no more than one.” I was trying to highlight types of events that are very common and don’t really enhance our library, but I forgot just how common they are. In this collection, more than half of the videos fit into those categories, and only one of them was useful for the online library due to the abundance of these videos already present.

Once I created the segments, I put them side by side with the segments created in phase one. Now that I have seen the collection in its entirety, I do think that the sampling method used in the first phase of this experiment is more representative of the individual collection, but the most useful material for the purposes of the online library was not represented. The segments of most use were found only by going through each VHS in the collection. Rare videos that exemplify all of the above criteria were not seen at all, and many of the segments produced by the sample would be completely unusable in the library. Only one segment from the sampling method was also chosen as a segment after an in-depth viewing. We would have missed many videos that document Mexican heritage in Texas, as well as local El Paso history.

I think this experiment proved that the expertise and interpretative abilities of a professional at TAMI is necessary to appraise a collection for the online library. My guidelines proposal definitely needs some work, but I believe I am on my way to creating an efficient process that still allows quality content to be found in VHS collections. I will create a revised draft of my proposal and apply the guidelines to another collection next week.