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Carla Arton, director of technical operations at Indiana University's Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, on a lift between shelves of film reels at the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility. Photo by James Brosher, IU Communications

Carla Arton to the rescue

Film digitization specialist prepares for second phase of IU's ambitious preservation project

(This article originally appeared in the IU Bloomington newsroom:

By Marah Harbison

Carla Arton at Indiana University’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative has been tasked with overseeing the digitization of 12,500 hours of film.

Just watching all of that film nonstop, for 24 hours a day, would take nearly a year and a half. Yet the plan to convert each reel of film to a digital format, run quality control on every single file, perform color correction and post-production restoration on key titles in the collection and make many of the films accessible via the IU Libraries' website is slated to be completed by the university’s bicentennial in 2020.

I think a lot of people who get into film archiving really just want to work with film because the physicality of it is really unique. It’s satisfying to wind through film and fix broken splices and perforations. You feel like you’re taking care of it.

Carla Arton, director of technical operations at Indiana University's Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative

No other library or university has ever attempted to complete this type of project in such a short time span, according to Arton.

“IU has really made a name for itself as a leader in the field of media archiving,” Arton said. “The support we receive from leadership is almost unheard of. We have a very unique situation here, and being able to be a part of it is very special.”

But Arton is no stranger to large-scale archiving projects. The current director of technical operations for the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative and former film digitization specialist at the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive worked on a similar initiative for audio as an archivist for the Library of Congress.

That project, titled National Jukebox, digitized 10,000 popular songs from the early 1900s and refined Arton’s skills in audio archiving. Holding a position at the Library of Congress is a dream job for most archivists, but Arton said she missed working with film.

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