Migrating the Ted Koppel Collection: A Case Study in Digital Stewardship
Beginning in 2022, the Syracuse University Libraries Department of Digital Stewardship (partnering with stakeholders in the Special Collections Research Center and Libraries Information Technology) undertook a multi-platform migration of the of the materials comprising the Ted Koppel Collection. Working with our various vendors, this work has enhanced the search functionality of the accompanying website (located at https://koppel.syr.edu/) and the overall accessibility of the video content, while ensuring that researchers have long-term access to these significant local assets. Focusing on the migration of this set of materials not only highlights the Libraries’ ongoing efforts to improve and expand the use of these objects, but it also offers an example of developments in our digital library program.
The multi-platform migration of the Ted Koppel Collection stretches across three, software-as-a-service (SaaS) repository solutions administered by a third-party vendor that make up a significant proportion of the technical infrastructure underpinning the digital library. The change reflects changing technologies and a model that increasingly integrates SaaS into the Libraries’ and the University’s overall technical infrastructure. This approach reduces local costs for the administration of software and frees Libraries’ IT staff to support other initiatives. It also helps us establish strategic partnerships with vendors who continuously improve and innovate their products while advancing our goals around accessibility, usability and perpetual access.
The first platform migration was completed in 2022 when the Libraries moved its more than 23,000 audiovisual files (approximately 3.8 terabytes of content) to a Libraries-specific version of Kaltura, a cloud-based platform that facilitates the conversion and distribution of audio and video formats online and allows them to be played on nearly any device. The Libraries uses Kaltura to organize and publish collections content while managing the often complex, multi-layered access restrictions to materials (due to both copyright and donor agreement). For the Ted Koppel Collection in particular, the migration allowed the Libraries to auto-caption the 7,000+ video objects in the collection, enhancing accessibility of these materials to our campus community.
The Libraries’ staff also worked extensively with its vendor partners to reduce duplicate storage costs, improve access controls, and promote interoperability with a complementary new digital library platform: Quartex, which the Libraries adopted in 2021. This product serves as our asset manager for image-based materials, a comprehensive description and vocabulary management tool, and a public portal to more than 35,000 digital objects that have been migrated to the new platform so far, including the integrated digital video of the Ted Koppel Collection. This SaaS tool allows us to manage and describe all digital artifacts (objects, collections, exhibits, etc.) from one place and publish content to multiple websites at our discretion.
For the Ted Koppel Collection, we established a link between the access files (stored in Kaltura) and the episode descriptions that we migrated from the previous system into Quartex. We then used the site building tools to rebuild and update the online Ted Koppel Collection on the new platform, debuting in August 2023. This was the first “stand-alone” collection to be migrated, allowing digital stewardship staff to use the collection as a model to inform the migration and development of future, bespoke collection websites, including the Marcel Breuer Digital Archive (https://breuer.syr.edu/) and Our Stories: A Virtual Black History Museum (https://ourstories.syr.edu/) .
Like the previous version of the website, the new site allows users to browse content from five distinct series led by the veteran journalist: Nightline, the Koppel Report, Koppel on Discovery, Upclose and Viewpoint. In addition, it provides access to twenty-two special news reports and 645 source video files. While the videos themselves are subject to certain copyright restrictions, the various facets of information describing these episodes are open to all. Moreover, the robust exporting features of Quartex will allow us to share the descriptive data created by Libraries’ staff openly with researchers who may be interested in undertaking more computational analyses of the collection. Site users can also access the portal to browse and find content based on broadcast locations and review episode contributors by their role in the creation of a program (i.e., host, reporter, interviewee, appearance, etc.). Going forward, the Libraries continue to collaborate with the vendor to introduce even more granular access controls so that campus affiliates have access to all the collection features permitted by copyright and donor agreement. Additionally, heightened search engine optimization (SEO) features will be embedded on portal pages, making the content even more discoverable to users worldwide.
The third and final platform migration serves the ongoing digital preservation needs to ensure access to these materials for years to come. Across the industry, digitization for preservation of audiovisual content is standard practice due both to fragility of the original media and increasing obsolescence of playback machines. So, this preservation measure was applied to the Ted Koppel Collection in 2012 when the Libraries began creating digital surrogates of VHS copies for both preservation and access. While highly compressed MP4 copies are used to stream episodes to end users, production quality digital masters were also created to ensure collection content could be reused in any video production environment then and into the future. These preservation masters tend to be very large and occupy a significant digital storage footprint, which can be very costly. As such, the digital masters we created over a decade ago were originally placed in a “linear tape open” (LTO) system, which can efficiently and economically preserve content through standard preservation practices of file migration and duplication.
As with many technology landscapes, digital preservation and storage environments have seen rapid change over a relatively short period of time. Currently cloud storage is relatively inexpensive, and when combined with Preservica, the Libraries upgraded, SaaS digital preservation system, moving them to the cloud will automate redundant copies. Using cloud storage reduces the administrative and physical load on Library IT staff and expands the capabilities of our Digital Preservation Librarian to actively preserve the Libraries’ vast digital content holdings and protect the Libraries’ ongoing investment in its collections. In the case of the Ted Koppel Collection, our digital preservation librarian is working closely with Library IT and our new Digital Media Librarian to restore, repackage, and complete the Koppel migration trifecta through transfer of these digital masters to Preservica and the Amazon Cloud.
For more on the digital library as a whole, please visit Syracuse University Libraries’ Digital Collections at https://digitalcollections.syr.edu/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions about the content in the Ted Koppel Collection may be directed to the Special Collections Research Center or via email at email@example.com.