Belinda Reich

Audiovisual Collection Review Presentation

Hello, and a warm welcome to the University Archive Board of Directors. I am the collections manager and today I will be explaining some of the issues the University Audiovisual Archive (UAA) face regarding our collection and some strategies we use to keep our collection relevant and within the scope of our mission and priorities.
The UAA collects moving image and sound items that are related to the corporate, academic, research, teaching, and social history of the University of ACT (National Archives, 2011, p. 7). The UAA collects in support of telling the story of the University of ACT, and its communities from the past and present, that helps build on the University of ACT’s mission “to transform lives and add to human knowledge and understanding in a way that creates a future that benefits all.”
This policy aligns with the University of ACTS’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025, and delivers to UAA users as seen in the slide. This table shows our guiding strategic aims when thinking about how we craft a collection that helps us fulfil our purpose. The following slides will explore methods that help us to maintain a purposeful collection, which can include uncovering insights by conducting significance assessment, a Collection Profile, and the rarer method of deselection and disposal of items.
On this slide you will find our inclusions, taken from our Collection Policy. Our current collection strengths include historical film, video, and sound from the early era of the university (approximately 1972–2000). The collection contains many different formats from film to video to digital files.
We understand that one of our weaknesses is that we lack in more contemporary items, and we are especially focusing on building up our internally owned audiovisual output from our unique corporate, academic, research, teaching, and social history, as part of University of ACT Retention Regulations. Much like the university’s documentation is retained by the University of ACT Archive, UAA is seeking to better archive the university’s ever-increasing output of digital audiovisual content.
Collection Intent as part of Review is a way to describe how and why decisions are made. Articulating the intent of the collection is to describe the decisions that explain the collection’s existence. We have an array of tools and methods to help us best articulate our decisions about our collection and a statement of intent is a great starting point. It also gives us — along with our mission, strategy, and purpose — a starting point for accountability for our decision-making, as well.
Significance in the heritage and culture sector collecting is about the value and meaning of the items within a collection (Russell & Winkworth, 2009). Without understanding who your collection users are and what value your collection holds, it makes it hard to sustain a coherent collection over the long term. It is important to note that when assessing significance, subjective reasoning is used and therefore a judgement of significance can change over time depending on the person or people conducting the assessment, and the time in which it is done (Russell & Winkworth, 2009, p. 43). Particularly in large organizations like a university, strategic priorities do change and as an archive we need to be in tune with those changes along with the changes we see in cultural and technological expectations.
At the University Audiovisual Archive, our users are our university staff, faculty, students, and the wider community that the university and its people interact with. To understand what is of value and has meaning to our users, we can use a significance criterion to come to a better understanding of what it is we develop and manage in our collection.
The purpose of a significance assessment is to understand what is in a collection that will then guide acquisition and preservation priorities. It can also be used in understanding what needs to be deselected, which will be explained further, in the coming slides.
The criteria for conducting a significance assessment are seen here (on the slide), with a framework used to understand how and why an item is significant, and that creates a nuanced assessment. This is a very detailed and complex method to understand the importance of an item and is used at the UAA when making acquisition and deselection decisions, guide conservation priorities, and strength and weakness assessments (Russell & Winkworth, 2009, p. 23).
Another method to understanding a collection is a Collection Profile. A Collection Profile is a qualitative, content analysis research method used to assess a collection to understand what its strengths and weaknesses are (Evans & Pymm, 2020b). Previous UAA collection profiling demonstrated to the collection’s team that the collection strengths were its historical items and that the archive needed to start collecting more of the digital audiovisual output of staff and faculty from roughly 2004–present.
Our most recent collection profile focused on discovering what items we have in this area of weakness, which amounted to approximately 25 percent of the collection (Russell & Winkworth, 2008). Examining this 25 percent helps us to guide our collecting efforts of this majority, born-digital audiovisual content.
For this collection profile we used a collection-centered technique. A client-centered technique is what is commonly used in a library to gauge usage or loan statistics. We do hope to build up our collection review process to include a client-centered approach as we roll out our digitization, digital access, and engagement strategies and ascertain the metrics that should be measured. But at this stage we think understanding our holdings is the priority. Using the metadata associated with each accessioned item we can view this 25 percent to determine the type of content in the collection, without concern for format (Evans & Pymm, 2020a).
On this slide you can see the results of the collection profile we conducted on the 25 percent of the collection. This graph shows the percentages of each area of the collection profile.
This graph shows what we would like the Collection Profile to look like within the next five years. This will help us calibrate where to devote our own communications, outreach, and collecting within the university community. As you may see, our plan is to increase collecting in areas such as teaching, graduations, advertising, student, and faculty.
Deselection isn’t something that happens in the collection every day, or even every month. It is another process in reviewing our collection that can result in the permanent removal of items from the collection. It is a carefully thought out and directed by our Collection Policy, the result of review, and the professional judgement of archive staff (Evans & Pymm, 2020b). The University Audiovisual Archive’s Collection Development Policy states that the permanent removal of items from the collection may occur in the following circumstances, as seen on this slide.
Pursuing deselection as a step in the collection review process is a unique action and can be contentious at times. An archive is physically and financially unable to collect everything and at times a collection needs to be analyzed and brought into balance and the result can be the deselection of items. Examples that might influence a deselection decision include changes to “policy focus, technologies, resources, circumstances, procedures, perspectives, analyses and client demands” (Evans & Pymm, 2020b).
For the UAA, our organization’s priorities have reoriented due to technological changes that have seen an exponential increase in digital audiovisual items that the university’s staff, faculty, and students are producing. With our previous priorities of establishing the collection to reflect the university’s beginnings from 1975, we think that, while we should still be collecting unique past experiences, it has come at the expense of collecting the present. With the support of the university’s retention policy, we have an opportunity to retain a lot of the university’s intellectual property that is currently simply disappearing. This audiovisual IP is of great value to the university’s strategic priorities and to its history.
The University of ACT was established in 1975 and our dedicated audiovisual collection started in 1995. The original items were transferred from the university’s records and archives after it was decided that the audiovisual materials needed their own home and care. With the increased number of audiovisual items created in the preceding 26 years we are uniquely prepared to capture more. So, when we do find we need to deselect items, we also have procedures to dispose of them. Firstly, we need to understand our original agreement with donors and what, if any, copyright issues need to be addressed. With our obligations to donors in mind, these (pointing to slide) are our options for disposal.
Thank you. QR codes are of our archive’s policies, University policies, and further reading that inform the collection review process. You may use your phone now to scan the codes. Additionally, I will email you this presentation and you may scan the codes or simply click on the code to take you to the URL of the resource. I hope this presentation has created some clarity for you about how we make decisions about reviewing our collection at the University Audiovisual Archive. I’d like to answer any questions now, or please email me at any time with your questions.


  • Audiovisual Archiving

  • September 2021

Presentation created for Audiovisual Archiving course in Master of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University.