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Yale University is Currently Digitizing 2000 VHS Tapes to Preserve Content and Present it to Posterity via Streaming Means.. or is that VHStream, Tapeheads?! DIG IT! **UPDATED**

If you’re a regular VHSubscriber here in Lunchmeat Land, you’re probably familiar with the efforts of Yale University’s David Gary and Aaron Pratt: the analog enthusiasts that helped to collect nearly 3000 VHS tapes and video era related material to preserve for posterity in the Yale University Library. If you haven’t heard about that, you can get all caught up with the exclusive in-depth Lunchmeat interview RIGHT HERE, Tapeheads! Now Yale is leading the way of official VHS preservation once again with another painstaking project for posterity: the digitization of nearly 2000 VHS tapes that have been collected since the 80s for the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. As the original article on WSHU. org states, tape preservation technician Frank Clifford is down in the depths of the video-filled basement of Sterling Library daily, feeding slabs of magnetic magic to playback machines, converting them to digital means for future viewers. He doesn't know what's on the tapes until he pops them in. Isn't that half the fun of VHS collecting, anyway? I'd have to say HELL YES. The eventual plan is for Yale to offer all of the digitized VHS content via Beinecke Library’s website, streaming all of the non-copyrighted content for the public; the content with attached copyrights will be viewable to all Yale affiliates.


Frank Clifford hard at work in the Yale Sterling Library basement converting VHS. All the best magnetic magic happens in the basement. It's like an unspoken rewind rule. PHOTO CRED:

In the original piece announcing this project and the analog preservation intentions, there is a claim that all VHS tapes will only last about 50 years, hence the need to digitize the content. Otherwise, it could be lost forever. Though that full-on degradation remains to be seen, it’s still a good idea to preserve this stuff for generations who may become interested in the way the world worked when VHS was king, and still don't have a VCR. The content itself has been procured a number of ways e.g. purchases, auctions and donations, but all of the pieces are held in high esteem by Yale, and for good reason. A few of the tapes were once in the possession of Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky, and there is also a highlight in the interview on an early tape from Tony Geiss, who did significant work on the seminal children’s TV show Sesame Street. The content on the Geiss tape is described as “a nightmare version of The Muppets”. I just hope they can stream that for every voracious Videovore to consume... and soon!


So VHStoked to be able to share this image again, and with even more amazing analog-inclined news. The VHS preservation efforts of Yale are truly groundbreaking. It's exactly what this format, along with all the content and resulting culture, need to help the future VHSee.

Overall, the possibilities of what can be uncovered in this collection are truly and excitingly endless. With all of the significant masterful minds that have handed over their slabs of home video history to Yale, we’re apt to uncover early works from influential artists which can help illustrate their humble beginnings, or perhaps, their precocious propensities. Both will be vital to helping future minds understand how their world used to rotate and... rewind, of course! One major question I do have, however, is what happens to the tapes once they've been converted? Do they go back on the shelf and sit until that 50 year mark where they're thought to become dust? Or is there a better alternative? Could these practically priceless tapes be dispensed among collectors? Could they become authentic artifacts housed in a museum? Will they become part of the amazing collection that Aaron and David helped create at Yale? It's a question to ponder, indeed. Because, as we all know, just because you have a digital copy, doesn't mean the physical source becomes trash. At least, there is hope we all know that. **UPDATE** The question has been answered, Tapeheads. Yale Kaplanoff Librarian David Gary received some info from Molly Wheeler, an Archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and she is quoted as saying, ""We will retain all of the tapes after digitization is complete. Once the content is deemed irretrievable, we will still maintain them for their artifactual value."" Still, the fact remains: Only time and the radical work of Yale University and tape transfer hero Frank Clifford will unwind the tales these tapes have to tell. Yale hopes to have everything VHSquared away and streaming by the end of 2016. Stay tuned to as we'll be updating as soon as we hear something's available. Or, just VHStay tuned to the Yale Beinecke Library website. That's where it'll all be, mang. Yeah, we can't wait, either.

Groove and Groove and Hang out in the Basement.

Josh Schafer

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