All posts by sangwand

Giveaway: Tickets to “The Look of Silence” at Alamo Drafthouse, August 14-20

Be one of the first five people to correctly answer the Human Rights Documentation Initiative trivia question to win 2 tickets for a screening of The Look of Silence between August 14-20 at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Winners will be notified by email and tickets will be held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar box office.

About the film:
“The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to the Oscar®-nominated The Act Of Killing. Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.”

Trivia question:  What is one collection in the Human Rights Documentation Initiative archive that deals with the issue of genocide? Hint: Browse collections at http://lib.utexas.edu/hrdi/ut_collections.

Enter the giveaway here.

 

Giveaway: Tickets to “The Act of Killing” at Alamo Drafthouse, August 9-15

The Human Rights Documentation Initiative and Alamo Drafthouse Films are giving away one pair of tickets to a screening of The Act of Killing playing at the Alamo Drafthouse from August 9-15.

The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and executive produced by Errol Morris (The Fog of War) and Werner Herzog (Grizzly Bear), documents how death squad leaders in Indonesia are celebrated as heroes and challenges them to “reenact their real-life mass-killings in the style of the American movies they love. The hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.”

For a chance to win tickets, answer the Human Rights Documentation Initiative trivia question by 11:59 pm on Thursday, August 8.

Can I Get a WITNESS?

(cross-posted from Tex Libris)

I see pictures of people, rising up
pictures of people, falling down
I see pictures of people
they’re standing on their heads, they’re ready
they’re looking out, look out!
they’re watching out, watch out!

“This is the Picture” from Peter Gabriel’s So

 

 

 

 

The Libraries efforts in the field of human rights continue to flourish.

The Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) has announced a new partnership with human rights video advocacy organization WITNESS to preserve and provide access to raw video footage of human rights abuses and video productions collected from the organization’s partners.

WITNESS was co-founded in 1992 by musician and activist Peter Gabriel with Human Rights First and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation to provide support to grassroots advocacy through the use of video as an integrated tool in human rights campaigns.

This is the sixth partnership in which the HRDI has become involved. Other projects include work with the the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda, the Guatemalan National Police Archive, theTexas After Violence ProjectFree Burma Rangers and the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen.

As seen by the recent successes and widespread use of video by citizen journalists in the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the growth of civic media to fight injustice will continue apace.

You can see the full press release on the new collaboration here.

And here’s video of the Ted Talk where Gabriel explains the concept of WITNESS:

HRDI and WITNESS Partner to Expand Human Rights Video Archives

A human rights project established at the University of Texas Libraries has announced a collaborative effort with an international organization that focuses on video documentation of human rights violations.

The Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) will expand its collection with source materials provided by human rights organization WITNESS to guarantee long-term preservation of and expanded access to raw footage and video productions created by the organization and its partners.

Now marking its 20th anniversary, WITNESS shows its commitment to supporting ongoing human rights change by seeking strategic partnerships with diverse stakeholders who can help meet the growing needs of human rights activists using video to expose injustice.

“WITNESS is thrilled to be working with the University of Texas Libraries,” says Grace Lile, WITNESS’ Director of Operations and Archives. “This partnership will help ensure the long-term preservation of unique human rights video from grassroots human rights defenders.  Equally important, it will make this primary source material much more widely accessible for study, research and reflection.”

WITNESS was co-founded in 1992 by musician and human rights advocate Peter GabrielHuman Rights First, and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation for the purpose of empowering front line human rights advocates in the use of video to document human rights abuses across the globe.   Since then, WITNESS has partnered with more than 300 human rights groups in over 80 countries, trained over 3,000 human rights defenders, developed widely-used training materials and tools, and supported the inclusion of video in more than 100 campaigns, increasing their visibility and impact.

The WITNESS Media Archive was founded in 2004 and is today the repository for over 5000 hours of video from over 80 countries.  The archive has been a leader in developing practices and models for the archiving of video documentation in a human rights context, and in recognizing the importance of archives to the promotion and defense of human rights.

“The HRDI holds a deep respect for WITNESS’ work around human rights video agency, advocacy and archiving, so it’s truly an honor to play a pivotal role in the preservation of and access to the powerful human rights narratives that WITNESS and its partners have brought to the fore of public awareness over the past twenty years,” says HRDI archivist T-Kay Sangwand. “The collections that we have received so far complement the HRDI’s existing holdings, particularly on armed conflict and genocide in Central America and Africa.“

The collaboration with WITNESS is the sixth such by the HRDI since its launch in 2008. Previous work includes the project’s founding partnership with the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda to archive and provide access to documents of the 1994 genocide in that country, as well as a recently publicized project to undertake similar work for the Guatemalan National Police Archive, a cache of records including documentation of torture, disappearances and other human rights abuses from the period of authoritarian rule in that country. The HRDI also collaborates with the Texas After Violence ProjectFree Burma Rangers and the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen.

“As a large research library with a robust digital preservation infrastructure, the University of Texas Libraries is well equipped to ensure the long-term preservation of and access to WITNESS’s rich material,” continues Sangwand. “This not only helps fulfill the university’s mission to provide the resources our faculty and students need for teaching and scholarship, but also enables the public, particularly the communities documented in the archive, to easily access the materials.”

Examples of materials from the WITNESS archive:

For further information, or to learn more about accessing the collections, please contact either T-Kay Sangwand from HRDI at sangwand@austin.utexas.edu or Yvonne Ng from WITNESS at 718.783.2000,yvonne@witness.org.

About the Human Rights Documentation Archive

The University of Texas Libraries established the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) at the University of Texas at Austin with a generous grant from the Bridgeway Foundation in 2008. Working with activists, scholars, and organizations to identify electronic and analog resources that are particularly vulnerable to loss, the HRDI aims to preserve the most fragile records of human rights struggles worldwide, promote the security and use of human rights archival materials and further human rights research and advocacy around the world. lib.utexas.edu/hrdi

About WITNESS

WITNESS is the global pioneer in the use of video to expose human rights abuses. We empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change. Founded in 1992, WITNESS has partnered with more than 300 human rights groups in over 80 countries, trained over 3,000 human rights defenders, developed widely-used training materials and tools, and supported the inclusion of video in more than 100 campaigns, increasing their visibility and impact. Videos made by WITNESS and our partners have told dozens of critical human rights stories, and have galvanized grassroots communities, judges, activists, media and decision-makers at local, national and international levels to action. www.witness.org

Source: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/about/news/libraries-and-witness-partner-expand-human-rights-video-archives

HRDI Shares Best Practices

Photo: “Memory and Documentation” sign from Ibuka archive, Rwanda. Taken on 2009 HRDI trip.

(Cross-posted at Tex Libris)

In September, UT Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative representatives Christian Kelleher and T-Kay Sangwand traveled to Columbia University to participate in an advisory group meeting for theCenter for Research Libraries (CRL) MacArthur Foundation funded project, Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study.  The Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study aims to understand the human rights documentation landscape – technologies, documentation creators and end users – and to identify tools and practices for improving documentation’s uses for advocacy and scholarship.

In addition to Kelleher and Sangwand, the advisory group consisted of librarians and archivists from Columbia University, Duke University and human rights organization, WITNESS, as well as practicing lawyers and professors from the University of Texas School of Law. During this day-long meeting, the group discussed how human rights documentation is used from the point of creation by an organization/activist to how it ends up in an archive for educational purposes and a courtroom for legal purposes. Based on their experience of establishing digital preservation partnerships with organizations that create human right documentation, Kelleher and Sangwand shared some of the challenges that can prevent such documentation from ever arriving to the archive (namely, trust and ownership disputes) as well as the HRDI’s approach to overcoming this challenge – the use of the post custodial archival model that allows organizations to maintain physical and intellectual ownership of their materials while depositing digital copies at UT for long-term preservation. Through presentations by legal experts (including the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice  Co-Director, Dan Brinks) on how human rights documentation may be used in U.S. and international courts, the HRDI was proud to learn that its metadata and preservation standards meet and even surpass the general recommended criteria for documentation authentication in a court of law.

The meeting’s discussion on the creation, preservation, and use of human rights documentation will be synthesized with the study’s findings in CRL’s final report due out in late 2011/early 2012.

Introducing an Online Tutorial for Archival Research on Human Rights at UT-Austin

The papers of author and activist Gloria Anzaldúa.
The papers of author and activist Gloria Anzaldúa.
(Image courtesy of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin)

The Human Rights Documentation Initiative is excited to introduce the online Tutorial for Archival Research on Women’s Human Rights, a new tool created by a UT iSchool student, Amelia Koford.  While the tutorial is geared towards students and faculty who are researching women’s human rights rights at UT, the tutorial can be useful to anyone who is unfamiliar with the archival research process and questions of ethical engagement with archival material. The link to the tutorial is given below. You can also find a link to it from the UT Collections page on the HRDI website.

================================================================

By: Amelia Koford

The archives at the University of Texas at Austin are invaluable resources for scholars, students, and activists interested in human rights. It can be challenging, however, for people unfamiliar with archives to locate, access, and interpret these resources. This semester, as a project for my dual master’s degree in Information Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, I created an online tutorial to help people conduct archival research.

The tutorial focuses on research topics related to women’s human rights.  However, it can useful for anyone conducting archival research at UT-Austin.  I invite you to explore the tutorial here: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/cwgs/womens-rights/Archival-Research-Tutorial

Background
The idea for this resource came from a conversation with Dr. Kristen Hogan, Project Director of the Embrey Women’s Human Rights Initiative in the UT-Austin Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.  I wanted to find a project that would let me use my skills as an information professional to support feminist scholarship and activism.  I sat down for a brainstorming meeting with Dr. Hogan, who explained that the Embrey Women’s Human Rights Initiative was funding the development of several new Signature Courses on women, gender, and human rights.

Signature Courses at UT-Austin are interdisciplinary classes designed to introduce undergraduate students to college work. The newly developed courses would promote student and faculty engagement with women’s human rights frameworks. One of the innovative components of these courses would be the incorporation of research using the archives at UT-Austin. However, for many students and faculty, archival research would be an unfamiliar and potentially daunting undertaking. Perhaps, Dr. Hogan and I thought, an online tutorial could help them bridge this information gap.

I was drawn to this idea because I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed as a first-time archives user.  During my first year in the School of Information, I learned the particularities of archival research through trial and error.  “I can’t bring my backpack into the reading room?”  “I need to look at something called a finding aid?”  “I should have done some background research before I came?”  I learned the answers to these questions piecemeal, from kind and patient staff members at the archives.  By creating an online tutorial for archival research, I sought to answer some of these questions up front and demystify the archives experience.

Writing and developing the tutorial was extremely rewarding. It gave me the opportunity to learn about information literacy, human rights education, and archival theory and practice. I was able to connect with inspirational archivists, librarians, scholars, and activists who helped me edit the content and gather images to illustrate the website.

Applications
The tutorial helps researchers find and use both the physical archives on campus and the digital archives preserved by the Human Rights Documentation Initiative.  It offers tips for conducting background research, analyzing and interpreting archival material, and considering emotional and ethical questions.

Although the tutorial was designed to support Signature Courses on women, gender, and human rights, it is useful for anyone conducting archival research at UT-Austin.  Some potential uses for the tutorial are:

  • As an assigned reading for undergraduate or graduate students before they begin an archival research project.
  • As a guide for individual students choosing to use archives as sources for class assignments.
  • As a resource for professors seeking to incorporate archival research on women’s human rights into their courses.
  • As a teaching tool in the classroom.
  • By students, staff, and faculty at UT-Austin and neighboring colleges.
  • By activists and other community members not affiliated with UT-Austin.

I hope the tutorial will increase the visibility and accessibility of UT-Austin’s human rights archives and facilitate human rights research, teaching, and advocacy.

Amelia Koford is a second-year graduate student pursuing dual master’s degrees in Information Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at UT-Austin.  She works at the Perry-Castañeda Library and has also worked at the Seminary of the Southwest Booher Library.  Previously, she served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member at College Forward, interned at the West African Women’s Association in Senegal, and studied English and French at Grinnell College.

The HRDI and Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (El Salvador) pay homage to Monseñor Romero

Photo of Monseñor Romero tribute mural in El Salvador International Airport“If they kill me, I will be reborn in the Salvadoran people.”
– Monseñor Romero

Photo of Monseñor Romero tribute mural in El Salvador International Airport
Credit: T-Kay Sangwand

Today, March 24, 2011, marks the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Romero, originally conservative in his outlook, developed a strong human rights conscience as he witnessed the government’s violent and repressive actions against the Salvadoran people as well as the assassinations of his fellow priests who stood in solidarity with them. Romero, too, became an outspoken critic of the government and urged members of the army to follow God’s higher orders and cease their brutal violence against the people. On the orders of the Salvadoran Army, Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980 while giving Mass. Soon thereafter, El Salvador launched into a civil war that lasted twelve years. Thirty-one years after his death, the memory and legacy of Monseñor Romero and his commitment to social justice remains strong.

Tejiendo la Memoria Histórica
In honor of this 31st anniversary, the HRDI has posted three short radio programs on Monseñor Romero, produced by our partner, the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI, Museum of the Word and Image) in El Salvador. MUPI produces a weekly program “Tejiendo la Memoria” (Weaving Memory) that explores an aspect of Salvadoran social, political, or cultural history using the museum’s extensive archival holdings as the basis of each program. Today we are excited to debut three programs that have previously only been heard on the radio waves of El Salvador.

Links to Audio (Note: All audio is in Spanish.)
Monseñor Romero: La Voz de los Sin Voz
(Monseñor Romero: Voice of the Voiceless)
Monseñor Romero Vive! (Monseñor Romero Lives!)
Monseñor Romero y la Amistad (Monseñor Romero’s Friendship)

Each program incorporates audio from Monseñor Romero’s sermons, including material from the day of his assassination. The programs, although a short 5-7 minutes, contain rich insight into the life and work of Romero as told through interviews with his close friends and fellow clergy. “Monseñor Romero y la Amistad” contains an interview with Romero’s close friend Mrs. Santos Delmi Campos who tells us that just a few months before Romero’s death, he entrusted a box of 400 photos of his life to her for safekeeping. Thirty years later, Mrs. Campos donated the photos to MUPI, which formed the basis of the exhibit “Monseñor Vive!

In El Salvador, MUPI conducts the invaluable work of preserving the tangible remains of historical memory and teaching the country’s history to new generations through its exhibits and active outreach to students and youth. The HRDI is proud to aid in MUPI’s educational mission by making its materials available online for the Salvadoran diaspora and beyond.

For more information
Monseñor Romero’s collection of photos at MUPI
El Faro
‘s interview with Alvaro Saravia, a Salvadoran Army Officer, involved in the assassination of Monseñor Romero

The H(uman)R(ights)DI Guide to SXSW

It’s that time of year when the South by Southwest Festival consumes Austin with a plethora of activity around new media/technology, music, and film. There’s something for everyone, including archivists and activists. Here are some highlights to look out for. We’ll be updating this as SXSW progresses, so check back often! (Last updated: Tuesday, March 15)

Also, Colorlines dropped the HRDI a mention in their guide to SXSW! See their list for more recommendations.

Tuesday, March 15
Interactive

Film

  • 6:00pm: Fambul Tok, the Book (truth and reconciliation in Sierra Leone) book signing at Resistencia Books (1801 S. 1st St.)

Music

  • 8:00pm: Benefit: Mama Said Knock You Out: A Night of Women in Hip Hop at the Historic Victory Grill (1104 E. 11th St.)
    Lineup includes: Las Krudas (queer feminist hip hop from Cuba), Invincible (Detroit), hosted by Tiger Lily (Riders Against the Storm), dj t-kay (dublab / KOOP 91.7 fm). Funds raised will train 20 women of color to become DONA-certified Birth Companions (Doulas).  The four-day training will be made available free of charge to participants in exchange for a commitment to make their services as birth companions available at no cost to other poor women of color in our community.  The Birth Companion Project is one piece of MOCR’s broader campaign to increase access to birthing options for poor women of color in the greater Austin area.
  • 11:00pm: Bituaya at Speakeasy (412 Congress Ave. #D)
    “Bituaya is a result of the socio-political and cultural merges experienced by Venezuela today. All the rhythms of the Afrocaribbean come together to embody the urbanity of Caracan hip-hop, mixed with electronica elements…Having a nexus with Revolutionary Latin America, the world-wide Hip-Hop phenomena, and Venezuela’s own Afro-caribbean influences, Bituaya’s music is a completely unique experience.”

Wednesday, March 16
Film

  • 12:00pm: Fambul Tok at State Theatre (719 Congress Ave.)
    “Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level — succeeding where the international community’s post-conflict efforts failed. Filled with lessons for the West, this film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals — and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities.”

Music

Thursday, March 17
Film

  • 12:00pm: Incendiary: The Willingham Case at Rollins Theatre (701 W. Riverside Dr.)
    “In 1991, Cameron Todd Willingham’s three daughters died in a Corsicana, Texas house fire. Tried and convicted for their arson murders, Willingham was executed in February 2004 despite overwhelming expert criticism of the prosecution’s arson evidence. Today, Willingham’s name has become a call for reform in the field of forensics and a rallying cry for the anti-death penalty movement; yet he remains an indisputable “monster” in the eyes of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ignored the science that could have saved Willingham’s life. Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY documents the haunted legacy of a prosecution built on ‘folklore.'”
  • 5:00pm: Fambul Tok at Alamo Drafthouse (1120 S. Lamar Blvd.)
    “Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level — succeeding where the international community’s post-conflict efforts failed. Filled with lessons for the West, this film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals — and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities.”
  • 6:15pm: Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour at State Theater (719 Congress Ave.)
    ““WHO TOOK THE BOMP? LE TIGRE ON TOUR” is a concert film that follows the infamous feminist electronic band on their international farewell tour. Covering 20 live performances, the film celebrates Le Tigre’s infectious political dance music while examining the sexism and homophobia of the contemporary pop machine.”
  • 7:00pm: END: CIV at MonkeyWrench Books (110 E. North Loop)
    END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations.”

Music

  • 1:00-5:00pm: The People’s Party / Fiesta Popular at MonkeyWrench Books (110 E. North Loop)
    Two day festival featuring hip hop and music that speaks of resistance. Lineup includes: Rebel Diaz, Las Krudas, Riders Against the Storm, One Be Lo, Gabi, The Cipher, and more.

Friday, March 18
Film

  • 7:00pm: END: CIV at Resistencia Books (1801 S. 1st St.)
    END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations.”

Music

  • 1:00-6:00pm: Books and Bands at MonkeyWrench Books (110 E. North Loop)
    Lineup includes Matt Bauer, Dana Falconberry, Redding Hunter, and more. RSVP on Facebook.

Saturday, March 19
Film

  • 2:30pm: Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour at Vimeo Theater (501 E. 4th St.)
    ““WHO TOOK THE BOMP? LE TIGRE ON TOUR” is a concert film that follows the infamous feminist electronic band on their international farewell tour. Covering 20 live performances, the film celebrates Le Tigre’s infectious political dance music while examining the sexism and homophobia of the contemporary pop machine.”
  • 5:30pm: Incendiary: The Willingham Case at Rollins Theatre (701 W. Riverside Dr.)
    “In 1991, Cameron Todd Willingham’s three daughters died in a Corsicana, Texas house fire. Tried and convicted for their arson murders, Willingham was executed in February 2004 despite overwhelming expert criticism of the prosecution’s arson evidence. Today, Willingham’s name has become a call for reform in the field of forensics and a rallying cry for the anti-death penalty movement; yet he remains an indisputable “monster” in the eyes of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ignored the science that could have saved Willingham’s life. Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY documents the haunted legacy of a prosecution built on ‘folklore.'”

Music

  • 12:00am: Bituaya at Copa (217 Congress Ave.)
    “Bituaya is a result of the socio-political and cultural merges experienced by Venezuela today. All the rhythms of the Afrocaribbean come together to embody the urbanity of Caracan hip-hop, mixed with electronica elements…Having a nexus with Revolutionary Latin America, the world-wide Hip-Hop phenomena, and Venezuela’s own Afro-caribbean influences, Bituaya’s music is a completely unique experience.”

Sunday, March 20
Music

  • 12:00-4:00pm: Benefit: Fire for the People at Workers Defense Project (5604 Manor Rd.)
    Line up includes Rebel Diaz, YC the Cynic, C Rays Walz, The Reminders, Scheme, and more. Funds raised will go towards Workers Defense Project programming which helps win back wages, pushes for better safety conditions for workers, and creates systemic change that empowers the whole community.

Past

Friday, March 11
Interactive

Saturday, March 12
Interactive

Sunday, March 13
Interactive

Film

  • 6:00pm: Party to launch funding for ACT UP! (Aids Coalition to Unleash Power) documentary with directors Scott Robbe, Ellen Spiro and Executive Producer Gus Van Sant

Monday, March 14
Interactive

Film

  • 1:15pm: Fambul Tok at Alamo Ritz (320 E. 6th St.)
    “Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level — succeeding where the international community’s post-conflict efforts failed. Filled with lessons for the West, this film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals — and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities.”

Preserving the Video Archive of the Free Burma Rangers

FBR Videographer, Monkey (From Prayer for Peace)FBR Videographer, Monkey (From Prayer for Peace)

By: Mark Cooper

HRDI’s launch of the Free Burma Rangers Collection introduces the small, public face of a much larger partnership between the HRDI and the Free Burma Rangers (FBR). The twelve short videos on the site, ranging from five to ten minutes with two half-hour documentaries, total less than two hours of content. But this small selection represents the HRDI’s work over the past two years to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of the over 1,000 hours (and growing) of video documentation created by FBR during the past decade of their operations in Burma.

The partnership between the HRDI and FBR began in 2009 with the goal of digitally preserving FBR’s archival records and documentation, in particular their video materials. FBR trains, equips and supports humanitarian relief teams whose members come from many of the diverse ethnic groups within Burma. Since 1997, over 130 teams have conducted 400 relief missions into areas under attack by the Burma Army, providing aid to internally displaced peoples (IDPs) who have been driven out of their villages by the Burma Army.

Along with medical aid, clothing and educational supplies, each FBR team carries a small, handheld video camera for the purpose of recording the team’s operations, the living conditions of the IDPs, and evidence of human rights violations committed by the Burma Army. With so many teams operating concurrently, FBR produces an enormous wealth of video. To date, they hold over 1,200 MiniDV tapes, most of which contain a full hour of field documentation; few of these tapes have been backed up or digitally copied.

Digital Video Preservation: From Burma to the Archive
The task of digitally preserving FBR’s videos began with working through the quirks of capturing digital information encoded on physical tape media. I experienced this first-hand when I joined the HRDI team in July 2010 as a Graduate Research Assistant, continuing the work begun by my predecessor Nicholas Rejack (Read about his experiences on the project). In July, I traveled to the FBR offices in Southeast Asia, where I worked capturing video and inventorying the collection at my small desk crowded with three MacBook Pros, a tape deck, cameras, stacks of hard drives, and piles of MiniDV tapes to be captured, sorted or cataloged. Over the course of my six weeks on site I captured over 400 MiniDV tapes, totaling 5 terabytes of video.

Even under the best of conditions, MiniDV can be a finicky format. Capturing the same tape on the same equipment can result in often slight, but occasionally large, variations in quality. The challenges grow exponentially when the tapes have been carried through the extreme field conditions in the jungles of Burma, with each new tape seeming to present a new difficulty to resolve.  However, though the format presents its challenges, the preservation process is aided by metadata embedded within every frame of the DV video. Using programs like DV Analyzer from Audiovisual Preservation Solutions, error correction information can be extracted and analyzed to potentially identify whether errors stem from defects on the original tapes or from problems with the playback device. This can inform when performing a new capture could improve video quality, ensuring the best possible copy is preserved. In addition, every frame includes an embedded date and time stamp marking when it was originally shot, allowing for precise creation date metadata and for verifying and narrowing the date ranges written on tape labels.

Though the HRDI team has digitally captured a significant portion of FBR’s video archive, over 750 hours thus far, the challenges of long-term digital preservation do not end after a tape has been captured. Digital preservation is an ongoing process that aims to ensure the preservation of both the files themselves and the ability to read and interpret the information they contain. In this case, it involves not just maintaining the 1s and 0s of the video files but making sure they will continue to be readable in the future. The preservation process encompasses not just storage systems with significant redundancy and error checking, but also the maintenance of detailed technical metadata and ongoing monitoring of format obsolescence and evolution. Anyone who has struggled to find a working floppy drive to open an old document file, only to find the file format is no longer supported by current programs, understands the effect of a break in the preservation lifecycle.

The FBR Collection Online: A Look into the Archive
The online videos, each edited from raw FBR mission footage, provide glimpses into FBR’s video archive. Prayer of Peace: Relief and Resistance in Burma’s War Zones follows FBR teams operating in Karen State, Burma. The half-hour documentary is told through the personal stories of FBR team members and IDPs, including a medic, a team videographer and a father attempting to get medical care for his sick daughter. In Hiding: A Year of Survival Under the Burma Army (contains graphic content) depicts the lives of IDPs in the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Arakan States over the course of 2004-2005. It features documentation of villagers fleeing their homes and living in hiding, the devastating effects of Burma Army landmines, and testimonies from IDPs. The extensive preparation of FBR teams is detailed in Steps to Freedom (contains graphic content), which follows the teams as they train and enter attack areas across Burma.

The preservation of FBR’s complete archival record will be an ongoing project for the HRDI, as FBR continues to generate documentation on a massive scale. Advances in technology, such as FBR moving from MiniDV to file-based video recording, will present new challenges and preservation concerns. However, through this partnership, the FBR video archive will remain secure and provide one means through which the people of Burma tell their own stories, in their own voices. The videos will remain under restricted access to protect the safety of those depicted and not compromise FBR operations. They will be opened to researchers and documentarians at FBR’s discretion, and will be preserved for use by FBR and its partners to bring attention to the situation in Burma.

In Prayer of Peace, the FBR team videographer known as Monkey describes why he wanted to use a video camera. He says, “I started this work in 1998. At that time the Burma Army came and the villagers fled into the jungle. As they fled I took photos with a still camera. When people looked at the photos I couldn’t explain. I wanted the photos to open their hearts. I tried but the photos were not enough. I thought, if I had a video camera it would be better. Instead of me speaking for them they speak themselves.”

Mark Cooper is a second year master’s student at the UT School of Information. He is specializing in digital moving image preservation and recently interned at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Previously, Mark worked as a Producer / Director at Penn State Public Broadcasting, where his projects included feature documentaries on water infrastructure and domestic violence broadcast nationally on PBS.