Ever wonder what exciting new projects the many employees at NARA are working on? The “What are You Working On?” blog feature aims to introduce a variety of NARA employees and highlight some of the exciting projects we are working on around the agency.
What is your name and title?
Jessica Sims (I go by Jessie) and I am an Audio-Video Preservation Specialist.
Where is your job located?
Audio-Video Preservation Lab – Archives II – College Park, MD. Some folks don’t even know we exist, but we do and are located in the basement!
What is your job in a nutshell?
In a nutshell, I make new copies of old sound recordings and videotapes so that they can be accessed by researchers and staff and preserved for the long term. Due to the inherent instability of audio and video records, our goal is to create high-quality master preservation files of the original content in digital form that will not only serve as a preservation master of the original, but also may be easily accessed for research purposes.
For both analog and digital formats, the more the media is used and migrated, the more at risk the overall recording becomes – so we take our job very seriously when it comes to ensuring we make the best possible transfer of our records.
What are you working on right now? (Why is it cool/why does it matter?)
We currently have a few exciting things going on in the A/V Lab! I am working on an audio preservation project from the Ford Presidential Library as well as a video preservation project in our SCIF.
To give a bigger picture of things going on in the Lab, we are updating our storage infrastructure to support the increasing amount of data we create in the Special Media Labs. With the help from staff in Information Services, the Audio-Video Lab has recently acquired 30 terabytes of working storage on spinning disk with an additional 350 terabytes of permanent storage using a managed LTO-6 tape library. Storage is a very important aspect of our job because we create very large, uncompressed preservation files. All derivatives are sent to the online catalog, but we continue to run into the issue of running out of storage because we are creating more and more digital content.
While this upgrade most definitely helps us for the time being, the Special Media Labs as well as the rest of NARA will continue to need more storage as we create more data and we will need to move our focus to an agency-wide level infrastructure update at some point in the very near future to support our mission to preserve and make accessible NARA’s records.
How long have you been at NARA? Have you worked at any other NARA location?
I’ve been at College Park for six years – prior to coming here, I worked at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in the Audiovisual Archives. At the Library, I wasn’t a full-fledged government employee just-yet, I worked for the Foundation.
What has changed since you started at NARA?
A lot has changed since I started, including making a complete analog to digital transition which means we have strictly a digital workflow in the Lab. We have just implemented new video editing and encoding workstations after significant R&D and we are providing more files to the online catalog than we have been able to do in the past.
Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?
A few years ago, we received a handful of Tokyo Rose glass disc recordings in the Lab that needed to be reformatted for preservation. While fragile and not in the best shape, these recordings were pretty awesome! Used as propaganda during World War II by Japanese radio to lower the morale of GI’s in the South Pacific, the programs we received were hosted by Orphan Ann; she would often refer to troops as “wandering boneheads of the Pacific Islands,” and provide playful banter and sappy American love songs during the program.
There’s speculation as to whether the broadcasts actually hurt morale of the GI’s, but nonetheless, it was a pretty entertaining program to listen to!
What are your passions or interests outside of work?
Outside of work I love to cook, bake, and run. I have a dog (named Jazz) and he is the perfect running partner, so we spend a lot of outdoors time together.
What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?
The last book I tried to read was Game of Thrones - I love the HBO series, but just can’t get through the book! I would have to say the last book I loved was a collection of short stories from NPR’s National Story Project: I Thought My Father was God and Other True Tales. All true-life stories, this book gives a wonderful insight into the human experience of life and was absolutely wonderful.
Are there any other cool facts that you would like folks to know about you??
I’ve done a number of triathlons and while I’m not currently training for one, I continue to keep up with my workouts at the NARA gym with a group of friends. We meet for spin on a regular basis and it’s a nice time to catch up and enjoy our time together.
I’m also a huge Lord of the Rings fan and have read the books and seen the movies many times!