CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS – Community Digitization at the Leslie-Lohman Museum

Press release by Leslie-Lohman Museum, New York

Calling all queer collectors, media makers, artists, and hoarders! It’s time to get your old tapes out of the closet…and over to the Leslie-Lohman Museum, New York, so you can get those tapes digitized!

Community Digitization at the Leslie-Lohman Museum
August 21 – August 25

Do you have home movies or art projects trapped on audio or video tapes? Maybe you wish you could watch that video you made of that performance your best friend organized in 2000? Or the one you shot at a protest you attended in 1995? Or that experimental video art project you edited in 1987? SIGN UP SIGN UP to participate in XFR Collective’s week at the Leslie-Lohman Museum as part of the exhibition Arch during the month of August. Or just stop by our exhibit! See us at work, watch selections from our collection of digitized community videos, poke at old media hardware, or hang out and chat with us about media archiving.

Too often, works created by and offering documentation of queer communities get trapped on hard-to-play, degrading, magnetic media in basements, under beds, and (yes) inside closets because the cost to store, preserve, and transfer media is too high. It is vital that independent, queer, low-income, experimental, community based artists and artists groups have the tools and knowledge to preserve their own work. If we don’t lead to take care of our own work, it’s likely that no one else will.

XFR Collective, an all-volunteer archiving and education group, is hosting a video and audio transfer station in the Fritz Lohman Gallery at the Leslie-Lohman Museum. In addition to offering free digitization services by appointment, the station will also offer a space to discuss strategies for preserving personal and community media. Visitors will be invited to watch tapes as we transfer them, and to seek advice from XFR Collective members about preserving AV materials. We believe that it is important to include “preservation” as part of the conversation around queer visual history – we believe that archiving, preserving, and making accessible community media that lies outside of the mainstream is essential for the creation of a more inclusive understanding of our past and present.

Appointments. All appointments are facilitated by XFR members and volunteers trained in digitization and preservation. Transfer appointments are intended for both the process of digital transfer, and also as an opportunity to engage in a dialogue about the content of each tape and the question of how to care for digital files. Participants should be aware that the works they bring for transfer will be publicly viewable during the transfer, and they are expected to remain present for the duration of the appointment (approximately two hours). Visitors to the exhibition are also welcome to watch and ask questions while we work. If you are unavailable or unwilling to make a public appointment, XFR collective offers small scale digitization services. Learn more on our How We Work webpage.

To apply for an appointment please complete the following form: Completing this form does not guarantee an appointment. An XFR member will follow up with a confirmation email.

Formats. All media submitted must be original material that was created by the participant, or original material that the creator agreed to allow the participant to have digitized. All rights and permissions to material must be attended to by the participant. The following media formats can be accommodated: Video (NTSC only): VHS, Hi8, and MiniDV Audio: Compact audio cassette.

Process. For each appointment, XFR members will advise participants on best practices for preservation and transfer. Appointment times include both inspecting the tape, gathering necessary information, and digitizing the tape. To determine what work to select for digitization, participants are asked to consider a 2:1 ratio of digitization to assessment time. For example, two hours of tape transfer necessitates one hour of preparatory or troubleshooting time. Since old tapes can be susceptible to deterioration or mold, participants are advised to select the media you would most like preserved, but also to bring back up material in case your first choice of tape requires more in-depth conservation work than we will be equipped to perform at your appointment.

Storage and distribution. All materials that are digitized by XFR Collective will be made publicly available on the Internet Archive, a nonprofit institution whose mission includes offering “free and open access to all the world’s knowledge” and providing permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public to cultural heritage collections. All participants will be able to download preservation-grade digital versions of their materials from the Internet Archive. Selections from the digitized content posted on the Internet Archive may be informally screened at future XFR Collective events. Since access is an important part of XFR Collective’s mission, appointments will be prioritized for those that agree to online access. However, if you have concerns regarding access to your content on the Internet Archive, we are happy to discuss this in advance of your appointment. More information regarding XFR Collective’s use of the Internet Archive is available upon request.

What is XFR Collective? XFR Collective is a non-profit organization that partners with artists, activists, individuals, and groups to lower the barriers to preserving at-risk audiovisual media – especially unseen, unheard, or marginalized works – by providing low-cost digitization services and fostering a community of support for archiving and access through education, research, and cultural engagement. At its core, our collective aims to support the inclusion of all peoples in the preservation, and circulation of media created by artists, individuals, and organizations. For more information about XFR Collective visit our website.

The exhibition. Arch is an exhibition that presents new opportunities for liveness, audience engagement, collectivity, worldmaking, and preservation. During the exhibition’s four weeks, visitors will have the chance to interact with the work of four different collectives/artists — Savannah Knoop, micha cárdenas, XFR Collective, and Memory Foam — each of whom will occupy the Fritz Lohman Gallery for one week. From digitizing analog archives to excavating institutional histories to storytelling and time traveling, the exhibition focuses on practices that dually emphasize collaboration and temporality.