In 2017 the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections (UALSC) conducted a survey of audiovisual materials in its collections. The Multimedia Archivist collected data on the content, quantity, format and condition of these materials. Deaccessioning collections was not a practice UALSC had routinely implemented in the past. However with the additional information collected during this survey obvious candidates for deaccessioning arose. The Multimedia Archivist was concerned about the long term preservation of these collections so it was imperative that UALSC take action. The backlog for the reformatting of audiovisual materials was large and the budget limited. The collections identified for deaccessioning were a low priority for preservation and returning these collections to their institutions increased their chances of timely attention.
The determination to deaccession these audiovisual materials was based on three criteria: content, copyright ownership and condition. Collections that fell outside our collection development scope were prime candidates. A few collections that did fall within our scope contained audiovisual materials whose copyright ownership was clearly held by other institutions. Finally, collections that contained formats that UALSC had limited ability to adequately preserve were also considered. Ultimately five collections that met these criteria were selected for deaccessioning. UALSC had not developed formal deaccessioning processes so in order to proceed policies and practices for deaccessioning were developed by the department.
The five collections included materials that were also held at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, the University of New Mexico, the Arizona Historical Society and the Pacifica Network. To the UA Poetry Center UALSC returned deposited copies of the UA Poetry Reading Series that were now held in the UA Poetry Center’s archive and readily available on the UA Poetry Center’s streaming site. Another collection contained copies of oral histories that were dubbed from master copies held at the University of New Mexico. Third, UALSC acquired a fanzine collection of a science fiction writer which included copies of a radio show he hosted on the Pacifica Network who holds the copyright for this program. Fourth, in the mid-1970s, the Arizona Historical Society funded an oral history project to document the history of Arizona. Copies of many of these interviews were found in UALSC’s Oral History collection. The Arizona Historical Society retains the master tapes and copyright for these materials. Finally, UALSC holds a small collection of a famous Arctic explorer which includes a 16 mm film of his voyages. The condition of this film is of particular concern as it was in an advanced state of deterioration. Another repository holds a large collection of his films and their return would reunite a split collection.
The archivists began a discussion with these institutions about the possible return of materials. Ultimately, deaccessioning these materials returns them to their rightful institutions and highlights the time sensitive nature for preservation of many audiovisual formats. It allows the Multimedia Archivist to focus on the unique audiovisual materials prioritized for preservation and migration within UALSC and it strengthens relationships with repositories within the state and forms new relationships with other repositories.
Lisa E. Duncan is the Collections Management Archivist at the University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections. Previously she worked as the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at the University of South Dakota Libraries. She received her BA in history and anthropology and MA in information resources and library science from the University of Arizona and is a Certified Archivist. Trent S. Purdy is the Multimedia and Digital Collections Archivist at the University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections. He received his BA in Media Arts and MA in information resources and library science from the University of Arizona and is a Certified Archivist.
Duncan, Lisa E. and Purdy, Trent
"Poets, Pioneers, Sci Fi Authors and Arctic Explorers: Deaccessioning Audiovisual Materials in the Archives,"
Journal of Western Archives: Vol. 10
, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/westernarchives/vol10/iss2/3