Wednesday Works: IS&T Archiving Conference and the Importance of Preservation by Joe LaBarca

Technical Blog - By Joe LaBarca – Pixel Preservation International

joe-labarca-photo

IS&T, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, is an international organization that for nearly 50 years has been dedicated to advancements in the field of imaging. Every year IS&T holds an Archiving Conference where scientists, curators, librarians, government officials and private businesses gather to discuss the most pressing issues related to the digital preservation and stewardship of hardcopy, audio, and video.

Berlin-International-Film-Festival-418x215

This year’s Archiving Conference will be held May 13-16 at the Arsenal at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany (home of the Berlin Film Festival) a very appropriate venue for topics of preservation.  One key theme during the conference is the critical need for the protection and preservation of digital image files to professional labs, professional photographers, and consumers. It’s a hugely important and timely topic as there has never been as great a need to focus on preservation of digital photography.

ArchivesRotunda

Last year’s conference was held at the US National Archives and featured several papers that were directly applicable to labs, photographers and consumers on the importance of preserving digital image files. Given the historical and emotional significance of photographic images, the high risk of losing digital files has made it critical to discuss these issues at many different levels.

When we hear the term “digital preservation”, our first thought is often of preserving analog originals (think scanning of film and prints) into digital formats. IS&T and companies like Kodak Alaris, are helping to put a major focus on “born digital” files, i.e., those files originated directly from a digital device.  Clearly, digitally captured photographic images fall into this category.

The idea of creating human readable objects from digital files is very appropriate.  For us that means making prints and photo books. Whether printing at professional labs, including those with on-line fulfillment websites, or even a trip to the store for printing on a kiosk, making prints is easier than ever.  And new Facebook and mobile apps from Kodak Alaris allows for easy print and photo book creation from images stored in social media.

A key point for the long-term preservation of images is to use high quality paper and print media. This includes Kodak Endura papers (look for “Kodak Endura” on the back of the print), Kodak consumer photographic papers and Kodak thermal prints from kiosks (look for “Kodak” on the back of these prints).  This also includes Kodak-recommended materials for photo books, including those using KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper.

A full session of last year’s conference was devoted to film and its ability to create “future proof” storage of digital assets. The idea of “future proof” storage and preservation applies to any physical object having excellent long term keeping properties, and which operates or exists independently of the technology used to create it. This certainly applies to photographic prints as well as film.  A photographic paper like KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper clearly fits the bill and will easily provide long term preservation of digital photographic images for over 200 years when properly stored.

Other interesting topics at the conference session included the continuing high growth rate of digital files and the use of the newer JPEG2000 standard for photographic encoding of digital files.  These are both applicable to our professional and consumer markets and customers.  Clearly the huge growth of digitally captured images comes via the growth of smartphones.  This means that there are ever-more image files for the consumer to manage, share between devices and preserve.  And the larger a digital photo collection gets, the harder this task becomes.  This is true for large institutions and individual consumers alike.  The continued use and support of JPEG2000 (“.jpf” and “.jp2”), as indicated by several papers presented at IS&T last year, implies that older photographic encoding formats like JPEG (“.jpg”) continue on a slow trajectory towards obsolescence.  At some point these vast collections of JPEG image files will need to migrate to a new encoding format or risk being lost forever.  There is no better way to prevent this than by taking those most precious images and making prints.

IS&T Archiving 2014

For more information about the 2014 Archiving Conference including the preliminary program, and to see abstracts of papers from past conferences, go to: http://www.imaging.org/ist/Conferences/archiving/