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WGBH Boston Pilots Fedora Based Moving Image Archives Project

By Thornton Staples With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the WGBH Media Library and Archives has embarked on a 20-month project that will (1) utilize scholarly input to design and pilot an online media archive content delivery system for research and classroom use, and (2) construct a preliminary business plan with the aid of a business consultant. This project is Phase Two of a three-phase project to design and implement a digital library that is intellectually appropriate and technically workable, and that provides a financially feasible and sustainable model for delivering public broadcasting moving image and audio content to scholars and educators.
Working with three prominent scholars, WGBH is designing a web-based system to address scholars’ needs in terms of searching, selecting and accessing archival moving image materials. In conversation with the scholars, the Media Library and Archives staff discovered that academic researchers want not only to pinpoint items relevant to their work, but also to get an overview of collections and their relationships to other materials. For example, scholars researching in media collections may seek information about the provenance of a particular slice of footage, who shot it, who owns it, and how it was used - or not used - by producers for a particular WGBH program or web site, and they want to do this all online.WGBH has selected Fedora as the back end for this project because it allows them to express and manipulate this information so well. As an archive of film, videos, images and documents which are constantly used and re-used by their productions, the relationships between their archival materials is often highly complex. For example, a WGBH production collects hundreds of images, interviews and stock footage in its research phase, much of which never makes it into the final documentary film. These “outtakes” are stored in the archives and re-used by other productions or for their web sites.
Fedora will allow them to express both the sources and many uses of a particular production element, as well as its intellectual relationship to other elements in the collection.WGBH is developing a custom PHP front end, using the Zend Framework, that communicates with the Fedora repository using Matt Zumwalt’s REST interface. Fedora services are used to translate the internal PBCore metadata into a variety of formats for exchange and reuse by other archives. An OAI-PMH provider will supplement the web page to allow compatible harvesters to integrate with the WGBH catalog. WGBH is also committed to making the process of searching the audio-visual collection easier by encoding interview transcripts in the TEI ( format. WGBH has also deployed the Solr search server to make integrated full-text and field-based searching simple, which combined with useful features like faceted searching and relatedness matching will make a powerful search experience for the user.
In addition to the Mellon prototype project, the WGBH Media Library and Archives will implement a Fedora back end to their IMLS funded Vietnam Archives project. This project will make archival moving image materials from Vietnam: A Television History available online for educators and the general public in the spring of 2010.
About WGBH
WGBH Boston has long been one of the major producers of education television in America. They produce one-third of PBS’s prime time broadcasting, including Nova, FRONTLINE, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, Masterpiece, Arthur and Curious George, and The World and The Takeaway on public radio. They have also long been pioneers in producing educational multimedia. The WGBH archives are currently available to researchers by appointment, with selected materials available on the web at