POST: Ghosts in the Machine 2

Scott Weingart (Carnegie Mellon University) has published a post on his blog reflecting on the “materiality and cost” of Holocaust remembrance, following a tour of the USC Shoah Foundation. Weingart ties his interest in acting as his family’s historian and genealogist into a larger reflection on the institutional workings of preservation, particularly in a digital sense. As Weingart explains, the Shoah Foundation focuses on remembering Holocaust survivors and witnesses, which means that the foundation “conducted video interviews: 100,000 hours of testimony from 50,000 individuals, plus recent additions of witnesses and survivors of other genocides around the world. Where Yad Vashem remembers those killed, the Shoah Foundation remembers those who survived.  What does it take to preserve the memories of 50,000 people?

Weingart goes on to detail the preservation process the Shoah Foundation undertook, including digitization of 235,000 Betacam SP Videocassettes and subsequent hours of correcting errors. Of particular note was his breakdown of the costs of this undertaking, which provides a unique inside look into a large-scale digitization process. He then circles back to address the question he posed at the beginning of his blog post:

“So how much does it cost to remember 50,000 Holocaust witnesses and survivors for, say, 20 years? I mean, above and beyond the cost of building a cutting edge facility, developing new technologies of preservation, cooling and housing a freight container worth of hard drives, laying fiber optic cables below ground across several states, etc.? I don’t know. But I do know how much the Shoah Foundation would charge you to save 8 petabytes worth of videos for 20 years, if you were a USC Professor. They’d charge you $1,000/TB/20 years.”

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This post was produced through a cooperation between​​​ ​Emily Deal, Melanie Hubbard, Paula S. Kiser, Anu Paul, Aparna Zambare (Editors-at-large for the week), Caitlin Christian-Lamb (Editor for the week), Sarah Potvin (Site Editor), and Caro Pinto, Roxanne Shirazi and Patrick Williams (dh+lib Review Editors).

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