Archive Profile: Interview with Media Burn's Sara Chapman

For the 2018 Chicago Archives + Artists Festival, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan Lozano, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community. 

Christina Nafziger: How long have you been at Media Burn? How and why did you get involved with the project?

Sara Chapman: So Tom Weinberg, the founder, and I sort of came together in 2003; because I was writing my B.A. thesis on video collectives in Chicago, of which Tom was a really important part.

CN: Where did you go to school?

SC: University of Chicago. So I was doing that and Tom came to speak at one of my classes. My professor was Judy Hoffman and she brought him in. I wanted to talk to Tom and he said that he had, like, 4,000 tapes that he had just been carting from house to house over the years and I was like, “Well, I need to see all of those tapes to write my thesis. You’re the only person who has all these tapes.” He had recently decided to rent a storefront and put the tapes in there, so I started just going over there over winter break my senior year and just helping and thinking about organizing them and turning it into an archive. Tom had said, “You know, this stuff is historic, this stuff is one-of-a-kind, and this should be an archive.” But he was a TV producer, a documentarian—not an archivist. It sort of required several people coming together to really make that dream actually happen. Me and then several other people, especially Carolyn Faber, who works at the Art Institute now, helped turn just a pile of tapes into an archive. I think we spent a year just doing the real basic cataloging, such as making a list of what we had, building a database, putting labels on each tape–

CN: Categorizing…

SC: Yeah. Just the very basic archival tasks probably took at least a year. Then, after I graduated, I just ended up staying here and I have been here ever since. I’ve been here for 14 years now.

CN: That’s awesome. You must have liked it!

SC: Yeah! I did! I am really passionate about the content. We have content that is kind of hard to describe really succinctly, but it comes out of this movement called Guerilla Television, where people—artists, activists, people all around the country—were using this new tool of portable video to try to do things that had never been done before—whether using it for activism, documentary, journalism, or for video art. All of these things were totally new and had never done before, starting around like 1968, 1969. There was this period where people were experimenting with a totally new medium that no one had ever had access to before. I find this content very exciting. It’s kind of a niche thing. A lot of people have never even really heard of it. But I’m really passionate about it and I’m passionate about saving it and letting other people see it—that’s been the coolest thing.

CN: That is amazing. You can tell you’re passionate about it!

SC: Yeah! The most exciting thing for me about our work over the last 14 years has been that a lot of people who worked in video—especially in the ‘70s—their work was maybe shown in a gallery, in a community center, whatever, to a small group of people, one time. And they just had the tapes in their basement or in their house or whatever, and no one had ever seen their work and no one had ever heard of them! Being able to take these bodies of work, digitize them, put them online, and sort of bring them into the media canon, for me, has been really exciting. Like this woman Anda Course, who did video journalism and experimental video in the ‘70s, she had a really fascinating body of work, but literally no one had heard of her besides the people who worked with her in the ‘70s. She’s been deceased for a long time—and that was one of the first collections we got. We got maybe 150 of her tapes from her daughter, digitized them, and put them online. And she is routinely taught in courses, graduate courses, on film and video— video history. That really excites me—that we personally changed who is important and brought these other people into this canon.

CN: Yeah, it’s kind of incredible because in a way you’re archiving a medium that archives; a medium that is recording history. It’s like you said—making it readily available, especially as an academic resource—you’re providing so much needed context for all of these artists and performers that would otherwise just be lost! It’s fascinating—I was reading about what Media Burn does online, and it says the medium you work with primarily are videotapes and not film?

SC: Correct. No film.

CN: Which is so interesting—when I think of older recording processes and methods, I immediately think of film. And you’re right, what your doing is so niche, focusing on such a specific medium like video.

SC: Yeah, yeah. It’s an art form that has always been a bit marginalized, because I feel like film has this high place—like, “art is made on film” and movies are made on film. So things made on video often don’t fit into that theatrical running time—they weren’t necessarily shown in a movie theater—and I think they don’t have this cache that film does. On the other hand, film actually can last for a hundred years or more. Film has lasted for a hundred years and, given proper care, it will hopefully last hundreds more. Videotape, on the other hand, only lasts a few decades. If we don’t rush to save it, it’s going to be gone before anybody has the chance to appreciate it—despite the fact that not that many people are very interested in this medium. So that’s really the urgency of what we’re doing.

I think what I was going to say before is that—since videotape was a new medium—a lot of different people were drawn to it than had been working in art forms in the past, specifically, women, people of color, community organizers—different people. And I think that we are bringing those outside groups and sort of putting them on the shelf with these other more established artists, which is I think is also really great.

CN: That’s interesting you say that just because, when you were mentioning that before, the first thing I thought of was that around the turn of the century when film or photography was being invented, a lot of the people that brought it into fine art or experimented with it as a fine art form were women because the medium wasn’t yet dominated by men. It just kind of reminds me of that—like maybe videotape as a medium wasn’t dominated by mass culture yet, so that would make sense that it would be used in that way.

SC: Yeah, and it was very inexpensive and easy to learn. I would say that a pretty astonishing percentage of the people doing video were women, like closer to 50%. If you think of, like, filmmaking—up until recently—there have been very few women filmmakers, like at all.

CN: It’s interesting to think that this medium could become really popular years down the road—but then what happens when it’s just not there, if it was not being preserved and digitized?

SC: Yeah, it’s funny. I think that video is starting to have a little bit of a cache, sometimes, especially in this nostalgic way. There are sometimes students—art students—that will say, “Oh, I’m doing my work on videotape.” And I’m like, “Well, I mean, it’s not going to last very long. You’ve got to transfer it to digital.”

CN: You mentioned how it only lasts so long. Have you lost any videos? Has there ever been a moment when you’ve gone to digitize a tape only to find that it is too late, that the tape’s contents have deteriorated?

SC: Yeah, totally. I think that pile over in the corner is stuff that doesn’t work. We’re constantly, constantly digitizing. We’ve digitized a lot of our collection, but I do find that things that maybe were digitized—and maybe I played in 2004 or 2005—I’ve tried to play the tape again and, no, it just doesn’t play at all.

CN: The original?

SC: The original videotape. We’re losing them very, very quickly. And there are often tapes that just cannot be recovered at all. Basically, tape is kind of like…if you think of Scotch tape, and then you just drizzle some magnetic particles on it? Those magnetic particles contain the signal, but they are coming off. So, when they come off, there isn’t anything there. It’s just gone. It’s not like a partial signal. There’s nothing. And you can’t gather the magnetic particles and rearrange them. It’s not like that. With film, there’s a photochemical processes you can do to sort of try to bring it back, or you can clean it, you can remove scratches. With videotape, there’s almost nothing you can do besides transfer it as quickly as possible before the deterioration happens.

CN: So it sounds like it really is a race against time, that every day matters.

SC: Yeah, it is. And in addition to the tapes themselves, we have to keep all the decksworking, which is also hard, and maybe harder, because you’re dealing with machines that haven’t been manufactured in 30 years. You need to basically cannibalize other machines in order to take parts to keep the one working, and there’s a finite amount of pneumatic decks in the world. Those haven’t been made in many, many decades.

CN: That actually brings me to one of my questions. What are the different types of videotape formats you work with?

SC: So the first videotapes that existed were portable video, which are these half-inch open reels. So this was like, late ‘60s, early ‘70s—they recorded using this system over there called a PortaPac. It looks very primitive, but it was actually revolutionary because it’s hand-held—it’s pretty small. It comes with this part where the actual recording happens, which weighs like 50 pounds.

CN: Whoa!

SC: But compared to what had existed, this was very, very, very portable. So when TV first started, TV was just live over the air—not recorded at all. Then, later, it was recorded on two-inch tapes. And the cameras for TV—they’re like the size of a whole guy sitting on it—like the huge studio cameras. So then, when portable video came out, you shifted from not being in the studio anymore to being able to go anywhere you want. It starts with half-inch. Then the next format was pneumatic, which was color, and in a cassette in and much, much higher resolution. This was used a lot through the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then there started being a much wider diversity of formats. There’s BetaCam, there’s a lot of different flavors of BetaCam. There’s BetaCam SP, SX…there’s Digital BetaCam, which came later. They all look, I guess, fairly similar. Then there’s the consumer form, which is BetaMax and VHS.

CN: Okay. I remember both of those.

SC: Yeah. These are more consumer. Much of what we have is more, I guess, professional or pro-sumer. You know, there’s a lot of little obscure ones. Basically, it gradually gets smaller and smaller and the formats are used for less and less time.

CN: Oh, these are kind of small.

SC: Yeah, those are mini-DV. Did you ever use these?

CN: I remember those but I was too young to use it. Were they in the handheld cameras people used for home movies or–?

SC: Yeah, probably 2000 to 2005, that would have been the era when they were most popular. They’ve been gradually getting smaller and a lot more proprietary. Actually, often the pneumatics are a lot easier to transfer because everyone was using them for 10-15 years. There was just one kind, basically. Whereas, once you start getting into the digital format—sometimes a Sony tape doesn’t work in a Panasonic deck, or you could have been shooting in 24 frames a second versus 30 frames a second—there were many, many ways and can be hard to recover, even if they’re only 10 years old.

CN: So the more variations there are, the harder it is to figure out–

SC: Yeah, because sometimes manufacturers would introduce a format and then it just wouldn’t take off, so it would be abandoned. Sometimes people used it for a year. Like, BetaCam SX was used at WTTW, our local PBS station, which adopted it as their main format. They switched over to it, but it did not take off at all. So no one besides people at WTTW have BetaCam SX tapes. But we have to keep those decks because we get a lot of people from WTTW. Oh, these are also a home movie format, too—High-8. This would have been in the ‘80s and ‘90s though.

CN: I’ve never used them but I have seen those in my parents’ house. Have you ever received a tape from someone and you didn’t have anything to play it on—that you had to go find the equipment?

SC: Yeah, if we can find it we do—there are just a lot of formats. There’s M2—that’s an obscure one that we don’t have. There’s D1, D2, D3, D4. We don’t have any of those decks. A lot of masters in the ‘90s were on one-inch, open-reel format. We also don’t have that one. So we’re always looking for more decks and we would love to get any formats that we don’t have. But it’s hard to find working obsolete decks.

CN: Yeah, I can imagine.

SC: But yeah, we try to get them when we can. If not, we have to refer them to someone else.

CN: Someone that does have the equipment?

SC: Yeah. I mean, it’s a smaller and smaller group of people, but there are other archives and vendors out there that are trying to maintain this stuff, too. There’s sort of a dream in the archival community that someone will figure out a way to 3D print decks.

CN: Oh!

SC: But, I think that everyone always shoots it down—there’s no market in it. Because I think that, in order to build it is a fairly difficult undertaking—to make the plans for it. So if it’s something that five companies are going to want–

CN: Then they’re probably not going to do that, like make the effort to create it.

SC: Exactly. It does not seem like that’s on the horizon.

CN: So all of the materials that you have—you had kind of mentioned already that it’s experimental video, art video, documentary…are there any other types? How do you receive the work? Do you accept everything, or anything?

SC: No, definitely not. It has to be produced on videotape. We are just starting to get into stuff that’s produced digitally. Which, you know, everything now is produced digitally. But aside from that limited stuff—and that will be our future—historically, it’s been produced on videotape. So, no film, and usually they are produced independently. By that I mean someone, like, you or I working with a few people, not independent like how Miramax was independent. Independent like, really, just a small group of people doing a project they care about because they want to—not because there is some sort of corporate entity paying for it to happen. So most of our stuff is non-fiction, in some way or another. It’s the majority. And a lot was produced by Chicagoans—maybe half. It’s a strength, just because this is where we are, but it’s not a requirement. And the content itself is really all over the place. I think we’re open to just anything that is sort of examining the world around us and presenting it for others to learn from it. It’s very broad, but I think we have just reserved the right to decide what we’re interested in and what we like. In the same way that probably you guys probably just decide what art you think is worth promoting and what art you don’t think is worth promoting. So I guess it’s, in some ways, sort of subjective, to Tom’s and my sensibility, but I think our sensibility is very aligned.

CN: It sounds like you’re subjective, but you’re also pretty mission-oriented—so you just have the best intention in mind for the organization.

SC: Yeah. We also have news stuff, sometimes, too.

CN: Oh, I was watching some of the videos online this morning from Media Burn’s website that seemed sort of like news, and some of it was from the election in 1992? I actually don’t think it was news exactly. It’s interesting because even if the video is showing a type of news, you could see the actual news cameras—it was behind the scenes, so you’re watching both sides, in a way? It’s such a valuable perspective that seems very honest. It’s really interesting—thinking about the camera and the studio becoming handheld—and just thinking about the large contrast of authorship that must have happened due to that transition, that change in who is doing the actual filming. If only a few people have access to this equipment, then you’re seeing just one perspective from this one group of people. But then all of a sudden this equipment is handheld and becomes more accessible, and then the authorship of the video becomes completely different, changing what you’re seeing.

SC: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean that’s what was so exciting about that time period and about the invention of video.

CN: I was reading online just a little bit about Media Burns’ history—you had mentioned the founder–

SC: Tom Weinberg.

CN: Yeah, and how he had this collection. So, when you started being involved, it wasn’t an archive yet? It was just his collection?

SC: Yeah, he had wanted it to be an archive. That was the goal. But it was mainly just his collection. So Tom produced a lot of documentaries, a lot of TV shows—especially for PBS. He created this show called “Image Union,” which was on Channel 11, which was a showcase for independent film and video in Chicago. People would just submit their work and it would get on the show or not—they’d get paid a little bit, and it would be on TV. He produced that from 1978 to 1988. Then, after that, he left to do the show on a national level, and it was called “The ‘90s,” and was on for three years.

CN: That’s so cool!

SC: Yeah, yeah. And so “The ‘90s” was on national PBS all around the country. There are 52 hour-long shows that we have of that. So, a lot of Tom’s work has not been, “I want to make this thing and here it is,” it’s been bringing together hundreds of independent producers to collaborate on a project, even going back to starting in the ‘70s with these video collectives that were really collaborative projects. Tom’s collection was the work of hundreds and hundreds of different people that he worked with over the years to make various shows. So it’s related to his work, but it’s not all authored by him. It’s not a collection in the way someone might collect, you know, anything. It’s not like, collective, but there’s a connection there.

CN: Yeah, like a collaborative *slash* curated collection?

SC: Yeah, totally. The collection has expanded since then because people continue to donate their collections. Some of our recent collections this year have been from Carol Marine. She’s a journalist who’s been working for several decades with various stations— I think NBC and WTTW. She’s just one of the best journalists in the country, of TV journalists, so we’re really excited about her collection. We’re processing it. This year we also just got materials related to the documentary “Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” which was a feature documentary about Howard Zinn. And so—I’ll step a little bit backwards—a lot of what is important to us to collect is camera-original footage. Like, all of the footage. When you shoot an hour-long program, you might shoot 50 hours of footage or whatever. Maybe you didn’t need all of the footage for the purpose of your show, but it might have footage that’s very, very valuable to us, especially as time has passed and it becomes really a historical record.

CN: I’ve never thought of that, like what they edit out is actually a really good insight to what is really happening behind-the-scenes.

SC: I mean, especially for documentaries, because the footage is just more of what’s going on. It’s not like people are standing around, you know, just smoking a cigarette. I mean, life is continuing to happen even though they didn’t choose to put it in the final cut. So, yeah, it can be valuable if you want to look at a program and find the bias of the filmmakers, what better to watch than the whole interview unfold in real time and find out what questions they ask? Why did this person say that thing? Were they prompted? Did it come out of nowhere? Sometimes you shoot a person or shoot an event and it just didn’t relate to the story. You know, we’ve got tons of footage of Rahm Emanuel fundraising for Bill Clinton, and Rahm Emanuel was pretty young then and he wasn’t really a known guy, but that’s important to have now. Also, you discover people in the footage. During the last election, Kartemquin Films, a local documentary organization, found footage of Bernie Sanders getting arrested in 1963 in a Civil Rights protest.

CN: Wow!

SC: And Bernie Sanders was, you know, just a guy! If they hadn’t saved all those outtakes, they wouldn’t have had that. And other things—if you want to step back in time and experience an event, meet a person you didn’t know. I mean, when you have hours and hours of footage instead of just the brief clip you would use in something, you can see the décor of a place or how people dressed or how people interacted with each other.

CN: And mannerisms, and little details–

SC: Yeah! It’s just like stepping back in time. Again, this is something that hasn’t always been recognized by everyone—by funders, by supporters—but we just think that saving that camera-original footage is the most important thing we can do to document the 20th Century.

CN: You’re completely right. It’s so valuable! It’s like reading someone’s diary! It’s such an intimate–

SC: But it’s even less filtered, almost. You can choose to point the camera this way or that way but what happens happens.

CN: Exactly. And what’s said is said.

SC: It’s not your recollection of it.

CN: Yeah, it’s in real time, what’s really going on. There’s no stepping backwards. That’s invaluable…and amazing!

SC: Yeah! Yeah, I’m glad you feel that way. Because a lot of time people say, “I don’t know why you want to save the outtakes.” You know, like, “that stuff wasn’t good enough to be in the movie.” And it’s like, well, for historical purposes the footage has other lives and other uses unrelated to what this particular filmmaker wanted to do with what they were shooting.

CN: Yeah! Even just interactions–I’m just thinking about, one of the videos I watched this morning on Media Burns’ website, which was somebody documenting the filming of a commercial, and the interactions between people on set. And if you just think about it, historically, it was all men. I was thinking, if this was a commercial where the actress was a woman, what would the interactions be? That’s just interesting culturally, what does or doesn’t change over time in a certain industry. And if they had just turned the camera off, we wouldn’t have that. Or if you just delete that footage, then we wouldn’t have that.

SC: Right, and I think that you don’t know what is going to seem interesting in 20 years or 30 years. So to make that decision right now—like, “this stuff is not interesting”—is a mistake. Because you just don’t know. Everything seems normal to us right now—we’re not going to know what, in 30 years, will have changed culturally that is going to strike you as being so of this era. Stuff like that.

CN: Yeah. There are so many things we can’t see except in hindsight. Of course we’re going to think it’s “normal” if we’re living in it. You’re completely right.

SC: Yeah. So, I think that a lot of the focus of the people in our collection has been that stuff—showing the mechanisms of media, of the creation of commercials, of the creation of news. That’s something that comes up, again, throughout our collection—trying to show the full picture. You know, when someone’s doing a little thing for the press, all the camera people are there trying to make it seem like there are no other cameras there and that they’re just there. But our people usually try to show the whole thing, to show that this is what is happening. It’s not just Clinton talking to you, it’s Clinton talking to 20 cameramen, and that’s important.

CN: Yeah, that was actually one of the videos I was watching—it was just so interesting. I mean, the media in general shapes so many things. My brother was working for a long time as a news reporter. We talked about how you’re shapinghow people see things, literally how people view other people, issues, events. Not only that, but also, historically, what’s remembered now, which is what’s recorded now, because they delete the rest. So to have different voices showing different sides of the same picture is so important historically.

SC: And to show you how the picture is constructed. I think that understanding that is important. Also—this is a whole other topic, but—TV stations have nothistorically saved almost anything, at all. Like, they have just thrown it all out or have recorded over it. So a lot of this history is completely being lost. I mean, it’s shocking the amount of stuff that TV stations have throw out. We had a local station call us—our former Mayor, Jane Byrne, she was Mayor for a term, for four years—a local station called us because they wanted to make her obituary and they didn’t have footage of her! At all!

CN: Wait, what?!

SC: She was Mayor for four years!

CN: They didn’t have any footage? Just because—

SC: Because they had thrown it away. They had thrown all of it away.

CN: The hoarder in me is cringing! I always joke that I’m a hoarder, but I really just don’t want to get rid of things that are remnants of history…I’m just so afraid of things being lost.

SC: No, me too. Yeah. You would think that TV stations are more enlightened now. Like, “Oh, they made those mistakes in decades past.” I was in a TV station a few months ago and there was a shelf full of tapes and there was a big sign that said, “Caution: Do not record over tapes until they have aired.”

CN: “Until”—then you can do whatever.

SC: “Until they have aired”! I mean that’s the time period they’re thinking about…and that’s 2018. There are a few TV stations that are exceptions to this and had some visionary people keeping stuff—like WGBH is amazing for their archive—but most TV stations have saved literally nothing. And any TV [footage] that still exists [only does] because the on-air talent wanted a copy, or the cameraperson wanted a copy, or someone who worked on it kept a copy for themselves. These TV things that show up don’t show up because the TV station kept it.

CN: That’s so crazy, because, I mean, Sixty keeps everything, but also we are an archiving initiative, too. We keep everything, but that’s the point. This is getting into a different realm—but digital recordings are so easily deleted anyways–

SC: The digital stuff is actually so much harder to manage. Because at least with this [picks up tape], I can just put it over there, and then it’s sitting over there.

CN: It’s physical–

SC: And you can see it. But the digital files—if the person who knows where the files are, what their names are, the conventions for where they are—what if they are not in the picture anymore? You might just not have any of that anymore.

CN: They just are floating in space; you don’t know where they are…

SC: You just don’t see them. Like, just imagine, if you got hit by a bus and died—anything you had created or any files that you had—would someone else be able to use them? They wouldn’t. They wouldn’t even know where to look or what was there.

CN: They wouldn’t. Unless they knew it existed. But they can’t find something they don’t know exists, in a hard drive. It’s crazy.

SC: It’s very hard to maintain digital files. You have to really proactively go about it. You can’t just let it sit in the closet like you could previously.

CN: Yeah. And it’s interesting that having physical copies of photos—like Polaroid is revamped and all these other products, ways of recording in a physical copy—is becoming more and more popular.

SC: Yeah. But you know, the traditional way that historians have worked is like, I’m going to write a biography of Norman Mailer or something, so I go to where Norman Mailer donated his archives, and it’s all the letters he’s ever written, and all of the letters people have written to him, or whatever. We’re not going to maintain copies of email correspondence. It’s very unlikely that anyone will have access to those in the same way that historians have for centuries.

CN: Oh yeah, great point. I keep a journal for that exact reason. And it’s not even a journal, like “I’m writing out my thoughts because it’s helping me think through things,” it’s like, I’m literally putting dates and saying what I did. Like, on a trip. Because my family, generations after me, they’re not going to know who I am. I can read my parents letters to each other, I can read my grandparents letters to each other. It’s kind of scary.

SC: It’s weird! Because everything feels so much more accessible, but the length of time that any of it’s going to survive is really unknown. Because even I—I work in an archive, I do like saving everything—but I do not take any steps to save my digital data, like at all.

CN: It’s so sad when I’m like, “I should print off some of my photos or delete some of the ones I don’t want,” and then you’re like, “Oh, I just took 20 pictures of the same thing yesterday apparently.” And it’s all there but then you just delete it. Oversaturation.

SC: Yeah, I know! Because it is, like, “I need to open up my photos and find the good ones and save those ones,” and then you open it up and you’re like, “Ohh…there’s 5000 photos here. No.” [laughs]

CN: Yeah, it’s oversaturation. If anything, it’s interesting because it’s almost going the opposite way. There’s an oversaturation of imagery and files, and because of that, nothing’s being saved because of the oversaturation in a way? No, I feel the same way.

SC: Yeah. It’s not like, a human scale of content anymore. Because you probably take dozens of photos in a day, whereas people used to—one roll of film had 24 photos on it, and then you needed to get it developed–

CN: You’d go to CVS or–

SC: That’s an amount you can deal with. Not when you’re taking that in an hour. That’s the thing that’s been harder when we have started to get digital collections. At least previously it was like, you make a documentary, you got all the tapes, they’re in the boxes, here they are! But when someone comes to us and they’re like, “I’m giving you all these digital files,” they’ve got this hard drive; things just have random numbers on them so you can’t tell–

CN: Is it a digital file of a video? Or–?

SC: Well, like if someone tries to give us all the files associated with a project. They’ll have the finished edit, but also the camera originals, just like we would with tapes. But, it’s much harder to sort through these digital files that aren’t labeled. With tapes, even people who are pretty disorganized usually write something of somesort on the tape. You know, you can kind of tell what it is from the outside. Well, with a digital file, usually it’s just a random string of letters and numbers, and best-case-scenario it says the date that it was shot, but not always. And, you know, just figuring out what each thing is, and which files are worthwhile, because people didn’t [delete]—if you shot some stuff that was totally worthless on this tape you’d probably tape over it—like, if you accidentally turned the camera on. But with digital files, no—you’ll just stop and go on to a new file. You probably don’t delete it. So there’s just so much irrelevant material to sort through and it’s just much harder to go through these digital collections. There are also just many more files. You’re going to use a tape until it’s full, so that’s 60 minutes of shooting, or 20 minutes of shooting, or if it’s VHS it could be much longer than that. But digital files, they’re going to be like, 15 seconds and 40 seconds and 3 minutes, and so you have lots and lots and lots of files! And keeping track of which have shots that are important and–

CN: It’s a lot.

SC: We used to just save it all! But when you have someone giving you, you know, 200 digital files that are all 15 seconds long, it’s harder to feel that that is the best course of action. I don’t know. It’s a challenge. We’ve only gotten a handful of digital collections and I’m not really looking forward to the future of continuing to get more of them, because there’s so much–

CN: You’re not thrilled to sort through that.

SC: Because you deal with each thing on an item-by-item basis. You still need to. You need to deal with each file separately. I wonder if, in the future, we’ll want to somehow join them all into one longer file or—I don’t know. When you’re dealing with these really short files with almost no content on them it’s hard—with each one, you have to give it a number and you have to make a record for it and–

CN: Oh, like the archival work. Yeah.

SC: Yeah.

CN: That’s a lot. What would you say is your and/or Media Burn’s biggest challenge as a whole, I guess? That’s a pretty broad question.

SC: I mean, funding.

CN: Yeah. That’s– [both laugh] I assumed. Funding is always the hardest.

SC: Yeah. It’s hard. We’re a non-profit obviously, so we get grants, we get individual donations, and we earn some earned income. It’s very hard to make the case for what we’re doing, because archiving is not most people’s passion. It’s kind of very low down on the list of things. I mean—even for us—it’s like, okay, we’ve got starving children, we’ve got domestic violence…you know, all of these things are happening and archiving is obviously less than them. But it makes it hard to raise funding when there are so many other things that are more urgent than archiving.

CN: I just think—history. That’s what you’re creating, or re-writing, preserving—all of it. And that is important. Not that the other things aren’t really important, too.

SC: Right, right.

CN: But I can imagine that funding is difficult…even explaining the scope of what you do, because—how many files or videotapes would you say you have?

SC: We’ve got about 8,000.

CN: Wow….that’s a lot. What’s the staff size? I’m just curious.

SC: We have two full-time people and right now we have six interns who are here 10-20 hours a week.

CN: Man. You guys do a lot. It’s always—with non-profits—a lot with a small staff.

SC: I know. Yeah, and it seems like the smaller the organization, the more you do for less money. Like, you get so much value out of it. When you apply for a federal grant or whatever and you’re competing with all these universities, these universities are going to add on a 40% overhead charge, their people are going to get paid twice as much as us—dollar-for-dollar, we are doing so much more workper dollar than they do. But we’re seen as a “risky bet” compared to a university that’s applying—because they’re “stable” and they’ve got processes…but it’s really not true. I’ve visited many archives at institutions large and small, and, in general, most archives is a room with 1-2 people in it, and that’s whether your overall institution’s budget is, you know, $5 million or $100,000 or $20,000. It’s 1-2 people in a room, and we all kind of end up with about the same amount of resources because, even if you’re at a big institution, the archive is usually not the priority. You know, it’s kind of the guy in the basement—it’s always in the basement. [both laugh]

CN: It always seems like it’s behind the scenes, it’s like, I don’t know. Whenever I find out about archives, I always ask myself, “Why didn’t I know about this earlier?” This is just kind of a side note. Last year, at university, one of our professors was really involved with the Women’s Art Library [which functioned like an archive] that was in the school and everyone was like, “Where is that?” Our professor told us, “It’s in our own library.” It’s just in a different room in the library, and then you go in there and—people don’t even know it’s there. It just looks like a private workroom, like a quiet room or something, but then you go in and you ask the librarian, “This is what I’m looking for. Do you have any material on this woman artist?” You do have to kind of know what you’re looking for—in this specific archive. But people who had been there for years didn’t know.

SC: I think that part of that is that people who are drawn to archives are people who are sort of quiet and introverted and we just do our work and we’re happy. Like, I’m happy just watching tapes all day long or organizing things or just doing things quietly by myself. So we’re not, like, promoting the way that we should. We’re not telling the world about what we’re doing, we’re just quietly doing it and going home.

CN: Doing the good work.

SC: Yeah! Yeah, I think that’s one of our main weaknesses—that we just do our work, and we do a really good job, and we don’t remember that we need to continually stop and tell everyone what we’re doing.

CN: On your website, I love that you have educational tools—actually created foreducators—plans and prompts. That’s amazing, because it is an educational tool—it’s history—and then, you know, it’s another way to engage your students through video. It’s like stepping back in time, like you said earlier, and it’s great that you guys have these tools because it is an educational resource. That’s something I haven’t seen an archive do, especially online. Like, it’s ready to go! Which is great.

SC: Yeah. I mean, when I was growing up, you watched a video on the day that your teacher was sick or whatever.

CN: Oh yeah! If you had a sub, you watched–

SC: Right. A video was just to kill some time. But, really, video I think more and more is part of the way that we communicate, it’s part of the way we learn, and it needs to be part of the way that learning happens in schools, too.

CN: Yeah, for sure. This is kind of going back to the archiving project that you are working with Sixty on. In what ways are the public or artists and creatives in the community able to access the contents in the archive, whether that’s online or in person?

SC: Well, just given the nature of videotape and the fact that we need to digitize it, in general, if someone wants to see something that isn’t yet digitized, we just digitize it, because it doesn’t make sense to have them come in and be playing these tapes that may or may not work. We don’t want them to break the equipment. It’s easier for us to just digitize it, put it online, and then from then on anyone who wants to access it can. So generally, everyone accesses digital files online.

CN: Yeah, I’m sure that for them it’s easier, too, because they can pause it and revisit it–

SC: Yeah. The only downside I think for us is that we don’t always know what things are happening. Like, sometimes I’ll meet an artist and they’ll be like, “Oh, I’ve used your stuff for my projects,” and I’m like, “Oh. Okay. Well, I didn’t know.” I think it’s useful for us to know that that stuff is happening to sort of be able to demonstrate the impact of our work. So, the fact that it’s so accessible often obscures [data]—like, you know, we have Google Analytics so we can see that x number of people are watching the videos, but we don’t why they’re watching the videos. We don’t know if they’re just doing this for entertainment or if they’re using it in a class. We don’t know if they’re using it for an art project.

CN: You can see that people are watching them and using this archive, but you don’t exactly—because it’s not face-to-face collaboration—you don’t know in what capacity they’re using the material?

SC: Yeah. And I think that’s important. That’s always one of the first questions people ask. “Who’s using it? Why are people using your stuff?” You know, you have case-by-case examples—mainly local ones, because you run into someone and they tell you that they used it. But they don’t have to tell us! So in general we don’t know all of these cool things. It would be great to have all of the examples at hand of what people are doing with them.

CN: Yeah, I’m sure it’s countless. Like you never know how many–

SC: Yeah. Right. I mean, Tom, the founder, ran into Dick Simpson, who’s a professor at UIC and an author and activist, and he told Tom that he’s been using one of Tom’s documentaries, “Vito,” in his classes for 25 years. And Tom never knew that. That type of thing is really cool and an honor, but it’s also frustrating that we can’t get that information easily.

CN: Yeah, and also what you just mentioned—especially when writing grants or approaching foundations—having that information and examples of how it’s being used. Because educationally and creatively I’m sure it’s just a never-ending resource. There’s so much material online— I was looking through it today. Is it searchable by the name of the person creating it? Is that how it’s navigated?

SC: [It can be searched by] sort of any words you want. We log them on a shot by shot basis—sort of describing everything—with the idea that someone might want to find a shot of, you know, the Sears Tower in the ‘70s, or someone might be interested in the fact that, at that location, Studs Terkel is talking about the neighborhood of Uptown. So it’s all sorts of things—it’s the images that appear on-screen, it’s what people are talking about; it’s the larger concepts like feminism or something like that. You just search online [on our site]. You can find a whole variety of things, which is really exciting. And our videos have gotten more than 18 million views online, which is [a lot] compared to other archives where there’s the archive and there’s the reading room and researchers come in. I can’t imagine that at most traditional, small archives that it’s more than a dozen researchers per year or something that are coming in. But I feel like we’re almost at a disadvantage because we don’t have that list of like, “So-and-so came in and then they published this book and here it is” and, “So-and-so did this with it.” We’re just like, “Here they are—2 million views,” or whatever.

CN: That’s really great, but yeah, there are the pros and cons–

SC: I mean, it’s so accessible but it’s also just not knowable to us. And I also think there’s a little bit of a value in scarcity? That when the materials aren’t as available, I don’t know— I mean, I feel like sometimes people get excited when something is, like, unseen. Well, okay. If we’re going to do a screening or something like that–

CN: Do you do screenings?

SC: Yeah. Yeah, we do some screenings. But most people don’t go, because I think you’re like, “Oh, I could just watch it online.” That’s reasonable. That’s totally reasonable to think you could just watch it online. But the fact that the videos are just so easily accessible takes away some of the cache. You know, lots of times I’m motivated to go to a screening because it’s like, “Oh, some obscure print that you can’t get anywhere else!”

CN: Yeah, like where else are you going to be able to see this film?

SC: Right, right. So it’s a little bit of a paradox that the more accessible we make things the less cache they are just because they’re not a secret.

CN: Yeah, yeah. There are pros and cons, definitely. I think it’s really great, in a way, that it’s so accessible because—going to archives myself—you have to kind of be the type of person to just go in and approach someone in person, and you have to know what you’re looking for a lot of the time. And just going into any kind of space that isn’t entirely public, in a way, can be sometimes intimidating. It’s hard finding what you need, knowing how to navigate—especially physical files. Sometimes you feel uncomfortable handling the materials. Of course, one of the reasons that millions of people watch the videos [on your site] is because it’s probably so much more comfortable for a lot of people to access them in that capacity, rather than coming in.

SC: Yeah, there’s such a high barrier to access at a traditional archive. I mean, you have to actually go there, to that specific city that you might not live in, and there’s usually limited hours. There have been collections that I’ve been interested in but I’ve felt, like, because I don’t have a legitimate research purpose, you know—it’s just stuff I’m interested in, but I’m not writing a book on it or doing anything—I don’t know if I can actually go and watch those things–

CN: I’ve thought, “Oh, I’m not in school anymore, so is it okay that I’m here?” What if they ask, “What’s the research for?” And I’m just like, “Me?”

SC: Right. And some archives are open to it and others aren’t—but, yeah. When we started digitizing our collection—we started digitizing in like 2004, 2005—the goal was always to create an online archive. And this was before YouTube launched!

CN: Oh! Yeah!

SC: I mean, this was when online video was still considered, like, “Ehh. I don’t think it will take off.” Many people were like, “Oh, it’s too small, and it’s too slow, and no one will watch videos online.” So what we were doing was pretty radical, the idea that we were like, “No, we’re going to put all these videos online, and people are going to watch them.” Everyone was like, “Ehh, I don’t think so.” [both laugh]

CN: Yeah. “We’ll see!” Little did they know.

SC: Right! So I think we’ve often been—especially, you know, Tom—a visionary in terms of understanding intuitively, before everyone else, what the potential of the technology is. I mean, that’s what drew him to video and what drew him to online video and communication.

CN: Is he still involved?

SC: Yeah, that’s why I keep pointing over there because that’s his chair. That’s where he sits.

CN: [laughs] I assumed it was like a picture.

SC: [It’s] an invisible presence over there. But he’s not here today. He’s the President of the Board and is involved a lot, especially in video editing as well as the fundraising and overall management. I’d say that he really kind of acts as the artistic director in many ways. So we, on a weekly basis, try to put out [a video]—we cut short videos out of the archival material that relates to, you know, something going on in the news, providing historical context or, you know, just stuff that we think is interesting that’s been in the archive. So we’re constantly digitizing, we’re watching hours and hours of footage. No one else can see all of that, so we try to put out five minutes [of a video] a week to show people, like, “This is the stuff you should watch–”

CN: So what you put online, that’s not the full–?

SC: No, we put everything. There’s just thousands of hours of footage online, but then we cut these five-minute pieces every week and send those out via email and social media to sort of show, “Oh, you know, police violence is in the news. Well, let’s look back at the city of Chicago’s relationship between the police and protestors,” and do a piece on that or something like that.

CN: That’s really cool. Just like a little clip of an excerpt.

SC: Yeah. So we’re constantly producing those videos, too. Tom is very much involved in producing those pieces, since that’s sort of like what he’s done for his whole life. But I think those are a really important way that we connect with our audiences and show people the value of our work.

CN: Yeah, that’s a great idea, to take selected pieces and link them to what’s going on. I had another question, kind of going back to the archiving project a little bit—you may have already answered this. How do you envision the archive acting as a tool and a resource for creatives in Chicago or elsewhere, and what do you think can, or what do you think is, learned from interacting with the materials?

SC: Well, I think that one of the exciting things, for me, is that our content is so diverse and there are just so many ways of using it that I can’t even imagine, and that we just kind of have to be— friend of mine called us—“agnostic” archivists. You know, that we just save everything.

CN: I love that.

SC: It’s interesting because a lot of times the footage that we save that people end up responding to is stuff that, like, Tom and I don’t think is important. Like, Tom had all these boxes—he was making a pilot for a show about technology in 1981 or 1982 called “Wired In,” but they didn’t end up making the show—so he just had all of these boxes of tapes that they shot for the pilot—just footage of various technology stuff, like kids using early computers, Apple headquarters, the inside of the Ms. Pacman factory. And it’s b-roll—it’s not put together at all. It’s just literally, like, walking around that factory, for example—you see the machines. Nothing’s happening other than just showing you what it looks like. And we literally almost threw that away. I remember the day that we were like, “Should we throw this away? Let’s throw it away. Eh, I guess we can keep it. I don’t know.” And that footage has been insanely popular.

CN: Really?

SC: That’s been some of the most popular footage of ours, the footage of the inside of the Ms. Pacman factory. And again, it’s not edited, it’s like 20 minutes of just, you know, long shot of the room, close-up of the room—just what it looks like, just what it was. And we thought it was totally unimportant, but to many hundreds of thousands of people, it’s very important and it’s what they want.

CN: That’s so interesting.

SC: So I feel like when other people use our stuff, it’s always unexpected to me, but it’s always really cool. It’s never what I would do. Like, we did this project with Yollocalli Arts Reach, which is an arts program for youth in Little Village, on the South Side. So we wrote the grant—we got a grant from HIVE, this funding organization—and our conception was like, “Okay, so we have all of these disadvantaged minority teens and they’re going to use our videos and to think about problems in their neighborhood and they’re going to want to talk about, you know, gang violence or poverty or immigration or these heavy things. They’re going to want to use our footage to, like, help them talk about those things.” So we wrote the grant and we got the funding. And the Yollocalli teens’ teacher, fortunately, just basically didn’t really come up with a very strict curriculum—he just said, like, “You guys are going to use Media Burn. Do it.”

CN: That’s awesome. How old were they?

SC: High school age, and then a few months later I got to come in and see the projects and all of them had created video art; just, like, experimental, abstract imagery—just crazy, surreal, weird stuff. Like, literally none of them were interested in what we thought these kids would be interested in. We thought, “Oh, they’re going to want to know about, ‘oh, my Mexican grandma,’ or ‘I want to hear about Mexico’.” They were not even remotely interested in any of those things. And that was really exciting, you know, to just have them do something totally different than what we wanted. That’s just really great to me. Similarly, our project with Chicago Archives + Artist Project, last year, we were paired with On the Reel Film, which is two filmmakers, Erin Babbin and Michael Sullivan. So, again, we sort of collaborated together to think about ways that we could combine their footage with our footage, and they were going to make a piece. So the way we started was, they thought about subjects in their collection—you know, their own archive of their own work as well as their own home movies—and they said, “Bulls” or “San Francisco” or whatever. And so I would respond to the topic with some of our footage that might relate. Then, at the end, they edited all the footage together. So this footage was our footage, which is archival video; old home movies of her mother and grandmother—so like Super 8 footage, stuff like that—as well as, then, that production company’s footage of stuff they had shot for documentaries—so professional, home movies, and our archival stuff. So they made this multi-channel piece that we showed at the Cultural Center, and I kind of thought that you were going to look at it and you were going to see three things. You’d see film, video, and digital. Or you’d see professional footage, amateur footage, and archive. But instead, the piece, as it turned out, unified it. Like, you didn’t feel the difference. Everything actually felt so much more similar. Erin found that—in the footage her grandmother had shot, that she had shot, and that we had of the Golden Gate Bridge—everyone shot the same shot! You know, decades and decades apart, everyone shot the same shot. I didn’t get to see the piece in advance, and we were going to discuss it afterward, so we prepared a little bit after for what the discussion was going to be. It actually just surprised me so much that it wasn’t what I thought was going to be— I thought it was really going to be about these differences in media and like media history. I thought it was kind of going to be, like, “Well, this showed me this thing about this era and this thing about this era and we look at different eras differently because of the media that we had to record them,” and I found that none of those talking points even applied because it really unifiedeverything.

CN: That’s so interesting.

SC: So anyway, that’s just a long-winded way of saying that it’s great to me that, in general, I’m always surprised by the way people use [the videos] and that’s the best part of it.

CN: It just sounds like the possibilities are endless—like there are so many things you could do with [the archive] just because it’s such a vast, varied collection. So, I was going to ask, I know that a lot of the collection is documentary video. It was interesting when you said that the teens made experimental art film—is there a lot of that in the archives, the video itself being the art piece?

SC: Yeah, I’d say a certain percentage—especially on that show “Image Union” that I was talking to you about—there’s a lot of that. Then certain collections, like people who used that in their work, like this woman Barbara Sykes—she kind of did a lot of that. I’d say most of it is more straightforward non-fiction in nature, but there’s definitely a percentage. I don’t know what that percentage would be.

CN: Yeah, for some reason when I thought of video art, I was thinking of like, a video of an artist, like doing [a performance]. Then I thought, “Oh, video art,” like the video as the art piece is probably included in the archive as well.

SC: Yeah, there’s a lot—especially in the ‘70s, people were using electronic means of manipulating the video signal, so there’s a lot of just abstract, moving colors and sounds. It was a pretty major genre in the ‘70s—and [there are] other things, like performance art that’s videotaped–

CN: That’s what I was picturing.

SC: Yeah, that’s definitely one part of it. But there’s also just abstract imagery stuff, too.

CN: I’m probably going to be—for the rest of the day—going through [the archive] just watching random videos. [both laugh] It’s so interesting to me, hearing and talking about these videos, and it just reminds me or makes me think of a lot of films now. I watch a lot of scary movies—and a lot of films now are like, found footage. And even the bad ones are so interesting to me because a lot of it is slower, in a way? Like as if it’s shown in real time. I have a lot of friends that are into film and video and they are really interested in slow video. And it’s just interesting to think about the shift in that [speed] and maybe the interest in that, like this archive, really shows that. Like you were saying, how they recorded all of this material at the Ms. Pacman factory and it was just them walking through it—and how, I feel like nowadays, even just watching people online or just watching things happen in real time is becoming more and more popular.

SC: Yeah, I go to a lot of film festivals and the slow cinema thing has really been an increasing thing over the last decade or so. And I find it really compelling. It’s like, you have space to sort of think and look at things at a level of detail. When shots are going really fast, it’s like you’re absorbing a big picture and you don’t have the chance to really be looking around and think, “What is this?” “What [does] this person keep on their desk?” –just little things like that. Your brain slows down and moves into those spaces. I often find that when you watch something that is the most ostensibly boring—you know, stuff where there’s little plot and it’s very long—it can be the most engaging sometimes.

CN: Yeah, to me there’s an element of voyeurism in it that’s really interesting—that I think may be why a lot of people do like that? Like the same way reality TV is compelling to people, like the really bad reality TV—there are so many reality TV shows now and some of it is just like, “What is even happening?” You’re just watching them work, day to day, at a desk, making one trip. They try to make it more exciting by making conflict. I don’t watch them a lot, but the part of the shows [where it is] just them sitting at their desk or talking to someone or they go out for a coffee—the part that’s not the conflict, or even the narrative, is the most interesting in a way.

SC: Yeah. I mean, just yesterday or the day before I was watching a follow-up to “An American Family.” Have you heard of it? It was on PBS in 1973. It was just a documentary that followed a family for a year. But so it was on national [television]— this is 30 years before there was reality television. And it was like, waaaay before anything like this.

CN: Did you say ’73?

SC: Yeah, it was shot in 1971 and aired in ’73. Yeah, and this is back in the era when there were only four TV channels, so like everyone—like, many, many people around the country watched the intimate lives of this family. It was called “An American Family.” It was just very unprecedented—just very intimate, like the real things that happen to them. So anyways, in this one scene that I saw, the father is talking to the lawyer—the mom and dad got divorced during the course of the show—and the father is talking to the lawyer and he’s making a budget. They’re literally going line by line of how much he’s going to offer for the alimony and it’s like, “This much for food, this much for clothing, this much for beauty parlor trips”—which is funny that that was, like, important back then—“this much for school supplies,” whatever. But going down line by line. What I said right afterwards is that in 1973 that would have been really boring to me, but 40 years later, it was so fascinating seeing how people lived 40 years ago. Because it was different! Because women just had to go to a beauty parlor. Like that was essential. That wasn’t just like, “Oh, that would be nice to have.” Like that was an essentialexpense.

CN: That’s so interesting!

SC: Yeah! Just stuff like that—seeing how much everything cost—for example, healthcare. They set aside $50, for five people, for healthcare, per month.

CN: [laughs] That makes me really sad.

SC: Yeah! That made me really sad!

CN: That’s nuts.

SC: Yeah. Right. That’s all they needed for healthcare. So just going through that list told me so much about the era, and about this family, and what life was like before I was born. Even though, I mean, it’s fairly boring—someone going through a budget, like on the surface that sounds boring—but it isn’t.

CN: Yeah, in context, if I were watching someone do that now, I would be like–

SC: It would seem boring to you—I mean, that was my reaction. I was surprised they included it, because in that time it probably would have seemed really boring. Now it would be like, “My Netflix is $9.99 and my Comcast is–” You know, it’s going to seem like, “Yeah, okay, everyone’s–”

CN: Yeah, everyone has those expenses.

SC: Yeah, it seemed like it would have seemed quite boring at the time, but it was so amazing that it was in there because of how interesting it seemed 40 years later.

CN: This is just like my own curiosity. How long does it take to digitize, let’s say, an hour’s worth of footage, or half an hour?

SC: Well, so if it’s an hour, it takes at the bare minimum an hour, because it takes real time to play it back—you can’t speed it up. But the reality is that often things go wrong. You know, like you’re going to have to fiddle around with the levels to get it to play right, or you’re going to find out that the content isn’t what you expected, or it’s not going to play at all and you’re going to have to stop and bake the tape. Baking basically is, like, you put it in a food dehydrator to remove moisture–

CN: Really?

SC: Yeah. And then we put it in there for 48 hours and you might be able to play a tape that couldn’t play.

CN: 48 hours? Do you just move on to another? You’re probably working on multiple things at a time.

SC: Yeah. Yeah. And you have to actually take it out of the cassette. You have to disassemble the cassette to do that, because the cassette would melt if it was [baked]. Yeah, so that often happens, or you’ll be playing the tape and then the heads will clog—you know, it gets all staticky, and you’re going to have to stop and clean the heads inside the machine to fix that, and then re-start. So there is a lot of stopping and re-starting and other problems. If the tape plays perfectly, it’s like a little bit more than an hour for an hour of content. If it doesn’t, you might be looking at two or three hours. High-8 tapes, those ones from the ‘90s, those little camcorder tapes, are really the worst format ever invented and they barely play at all. I remember we even sent some out to this company, Specs Brothers, that specializes in restoring things that have been, like, underwater and in fires and whatever, and they couldn’t do anything for them either. They sent them back and they said, “The only thing you can do is keep playing them until they clog the heads and then just digitize it that way.” So I had an intern who had to digitize a two-hour tape in like, 30-second increments.

CN: Oh, wow.

SC: He would like, play it, stop, clean the heads, play it, stop, clean the heads, and had to do that for two hours. So it probably took, like, six hours to do that one tape or whatever. So the process takes a long time, and then the cataloging process takes even longer. Footage is really not useful unless there’s words attached to it that you can search.

CN: Oh yeah, like metadata or tags.

SC: Yeah, without the metadata no one’s going to find it and no one’s ever going to watch it, so that’s why we describe everything in such detail on a shot by shot basis or scene by scene basis.

CN: Are the descriptions online, with the videos?

SC: Yeah, and there’s like a time code so you can jump ahead and say, “Oh, I want to click on 37:12 and have it jump to that.”

CN: Oh, that’s so nice.

SC: Yeah, it’s very useful. Otherwise people would not find the footage or use it at all. So that takes a very long time. It takes, you know—it just depends on how much different stuff is going on in the content, but that can take several hours per hour [of footage]. And then there’s also the processes of backing up the files and uploading things and linking them to the website and all of that stuff. So we typically say that the process—from start to finish, on average, for an hour-long tape—is about five hours per hour of video, from the time we have it to the time it’s actually on the website and viewable and backed up and stuff.

CN: I know you said this earlier—so everything online, is unedited, by you. I mean, it’s the whole footage of what you could salvage.

SC: Yeah. I mean, we tend to put complete things on our website, on MediaBurn.org, and then edited things on our YouTube channel.

Featured Image: Sara Chapman and Tom Weinberg holding video tapes and moving them around as they move into their new office in 2014. They are standing in front of shelves holding more video tapes from the collection. Image courtesy of Media Burn.