May 28, 2022

NPR: “Videotapes are Becoming Unwatchable as Archivists Work to Save Them” (XFR Collective)

From All Things Considered/NPR (National Public Radio):

Mary Kidd pops a VHS tape in the deck and rewinds. Two kids appear on the screen, dancing to music and laughing.

Kidd and her colleagues meet in this loft in Tribeca in New York City every Monday to digitize tapes like this one. The loft has racks of tape decks, oscilloscopes, vector scopes and wave-form monitors that help ensure a quality transfer from analog to digital.

Kidd and the others are archivists and preservationists, and they’re part of a group called XFR Collective (pronounced Transfer Collective). Most work professionally, but they volunteer their free time to do this. And while the mood is light, there is a sense of a deadline.

“In the heads of all Transfer Collective members, we do have kind of this ‘tick-tock,'” Kidd says.

That’s because research suggests that tapes like this aren’t going to live beyond 15 to 20 years. Some call this the “magnetic media crisis,” and archivists, preservationists, and librarians like the ones in the XFR Collective are trying to reverse it.

Read the Complete Report (approx. 800 words)

Listen Online

See Also: Collection of Some Material Digitized by XFR (via Internet Archive)

All XFR Collective materials are free to use and distribute under a CC BY-ND license.

See Also: XFR Collective Blog

See Also: Curated List of Preservation Resources (via XFR)

See Also: Video Format Identification Guide (via Video Preservation Website)

See Also: Format Descriptions for Moving Images (via LC)

See Also: Format Descriptions for Sound (via LC)

See Also: Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling A Guide for Libraries and Archives (via CLIR)
Published in 1995.


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.