Conduct a Site Visit

We recommend a visit to any potential site, in order to collect as much information as possible about the participating organization and its collections. This is especially important if the planning is being done long-distance via email and phone.
(A sample site-visit request is included as an appendix.)

The goals of the site visit are to:

  • Meet the key staff
  • Confirm the organization’s willingness to participate (though you don’t necessarily need to confirm that they are actually your choice for the workshop)
  • Communicate the scope/goals of the workshop
  • Get a sense of the organization and its collections
  • Gather information and documentation about possible collections for the workshop
  • Check out the facilities (space), supplies, and equipment available for the workshop
  • Take pictures
  • Discuss potential dates
  • Lay out the space needs and volunteers required for the workshop

Agreement on goals and scope

As noted above, the overall goal is to help the organization gain intellectual and physical control over a collection that is unprocessed or minimally processed. At the site visit, you need to determine how best to be of service to the organization and collection. They need to understand the basic workshop process for film and video, and that the pairs ordinarily use laptops to collect data which is then merged after the fact.

In one prior workshop, a video collection was chosen that consisted of a series of community-based productions. Each production consisted of its own edit masters, submasters and production elements. The organization had a very minimal Excel spreadsheet for the collection, and each tape and container had a unique identifier. During the month prior to the workshop, the spreadsheets were improved to allow for more granular description, and the day before the tapes were sorted by production. On the day of the workshop, each pair of volunteers was given a production and a corresponding Excel spreadsheet, and they inspected and cataloged each tape. At the end of the workshop, the spreadsheets were merged, the tapes were boxed for storage, and box numbers were added to the spreadsheets.

In a prior workshop involving film, [describe what is done]

Each organization will be different and each collection will have different needs, but the tasks will be similar. The workshop will model basic collection management tasks that can be undertaken by volunteers and staff members after the workshop is finished.

Learning about the organization and collections

In order to develop a shared sense of the goals and scope for the workshop, it is essential that the committee representative gather information about the basic state of the collections and the organization’s current practices. More detailed information about the collections will also be gathered in subsequent conversations. Key questions about the overall practices and about the collections under consideration for the workshop include:

  • How are the collections currently arranged and how much is known about their content, production history and provenance?
  • How are the collections stored? Shelves, boxes? On site, off site? Any issues with retrieval?
  • Do the items have unique identifiers or any other numbering system?
  • Does the organization have an existing computer database or spreadsheet? What cataloging standards does the organization follow, if any?
  • Are the collections under consideration part of the database or spreadsheet?
  • Are there any known problems with item condition?
  • In the case of video materials, is there playback equipment available to aid in identification (depending on the format, age and condition of the items)?
  • Does the archive have any film equipment?

At the time of the site visit it is helpful, if possible, to review any and all documents that the organization may hold regarding a potential workshop collection, including:

  • Inventories
  • Collection descriptions or finding aids
  • Condition reports
  • Photos
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