Stevens Audiovisual Collections

Welcome to the first official blog post of the Ted Stevens Foundation! We’ll be using this space to discuss archival happenings and holdings, Foundation events, and items from Senator Stevens’ history in public service.

Today’s post is on the Audiovisual (AV) holdings within the Collection. Though we usually refer to them as the ‘Ted Stevens Papers Collection’ – they’re actually much more than that. The Stevens Collection consists of:

    • Over 4,000 boxes of paper documents
    • Over 9,000 AV items (also known as our ‘Media Series’)
    • Over 2,500 memorabilia objects (these include everything from campaign items to awards to artworks collected by the Senator over his 40 years in office)
    • And tens of thousands of photographs (both analog and born-digital formats)

Our Media – AV Series alone holds a variety of formats which all come with their own difficulties and archival processing challenges. A number of our formats are considered ‘obsolescent’ at this time, which means that the format is either no longer produced and/or that the technology or machinery needed to playback the media is also no longer produced or easily available.

This makes the archiving and preservation process even more of a challenge as a lot of the formats are not playable in their current analog form, but it also means that digitizing them is very difficult and cost-prohibitive. Not only can we not be 100% sure of what exactly is on the media as we have to trust the sometimes vague labels and we cannot play it back to verify content, but we are also facing the reality that the older machines used to play and digitize the materials are breaking down and digitizing is becoming more expensive by the day.

Some of the formats contained within our AV collection are:

    • 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm Film
    • Audio Reels – ¼” and 1”
    • 2” Quad Video Tape
    • 45 rpm Vinyl Records
    • Floppy Disks – 3.5” and 5.25”
    • Multiple Tape Formats: Betacam and Betamax, U-matic, VHS
    • Compact Discs (CDs)
    • DVDs and Blu-rays (most of these are copies of the older formats and were created by UAF)

Many of these formats are practically unknown to today’s younger generations, and many are considered ‘obsolete’ due to the above stated concerns.

You can see some of our film/video formats pictured below: 16 mm film; Betcam SP; 2” Quad Tape; EIAJ-1 Film; Betamax; and U-matic.

And the audio formats shown below are: Vinyl Record; ¼” Audio Reel; Dictabelt; and an Edison Voicewriter Disc.

Also shown is the older version of the floppy disk that measures a whopping 5.25” and is actually ‘floppy’. We also have some of more common later versions – the 3.5” hard plastic (not really that floppy) floppy disk. Though these are not technically ‘audiovisual’ materials – we do store them alongside the AV items as they require similar storage conditions and are not suitable for storage alongside the paper documents.

Our plans for our audiovisual materials are to continue digitizing our rarer content as well as the formats that are becoming more cost-prohibitive and difficult to digitize as time goes on. Our goal is to provide access and usability for our collection upon its opening to the public, and that is especially important when it comes to our AV items as their current formats do not provide ease of access or usability.

Since Stevens was a U.S. Senator for 40 years, we have audiovisual items dating all the way back to the 1960s – and it is especially important to preserve these items for our state’s history and for the Senator’s legacy, as many of the items are unique and not available elsewhere.

You can help us preserve the Senator’s legacy and our collection by donating to the Foundation today.

You can also view some of our digitized audiovisual items online by visiting our video gallery at: https://tedstevensfoundation.org/papers-project/you-tube-gallery/

You can learn more about some of the formats mentioned above at the following webpages from the “Museum of Obsolete Media”:
Dictabelt
Voicewriter Discs
EIAJ-1

Post by: Jolene Kennah – Archivist and Outreach Coordinator