Indiana University digitization initiative preserves more than 100,000 items in first year with Sony's Memnon Service

With project now ahead of schedule, IU opens Memnon’s Bloomington facility to take on additional clients

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Just one year into its massive digitization initiative, Indiana University has already rescued from ruin more than 100,000 precious audio and video recordings, thanks to a successful collaboration with Memnon Inc., a Sony company.

Today, IU announced that it has extended the use of the facilities, created for its Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) project with Memnon, to enable Memnon to accept digitization work from new clients including other universities, museums and commercial broadcasters. This move strengthens Bloomington’s position as a hub for high-volume media digitization and preservation work.

“Our true partnership with Memnon has been incredibly fruitful for IU’s ambitious goals,” said Laurie Antolovic’, MDPI executive director, and Indiana University associate vice president and deputy chief information officer. “The massive bicentennial MDPI project is now well ahead of its expected pace, and we are delighted with this progress and the quality of the services that Memnon has provided.

“We are thrilled that we have been able to extend our relationship with Memnon which will see many more of our treasured recordings preserved; we are also excited that Memnon will be able to provide similar services to other institutions from the Bloomington facilities,” she said. “We are making Bloomington the premier digitization hub in the United States, creating high-expertise, professional jobs in Indiana.”  

Michel Merten, Memnon co-chief executive officer and founder, has high praise for his IU partners. “The IU team has developed an extraordinary level of expertise in how best to document, sort and prepare large-scale collections of very diverse content, formats and conditions,” he said. “As a result, we were able to optimize our digitization efficiency and hit this milestone faster than expected.

“After having successfully digitized more than 2 million hours of audio, video, and film collections worldwide, we are pleased to be able to offer our services to other North American groups,” Merten said.

IU has long known it had to do something to save its deteriorating media collections. The Bloomington campus alone is home to at least 3 million sound and moving image recordings, photos, documents, and artifacts. Many are degrading, most are on obsolete formats, and a large percentage of them are highly valued for research.

In 2013, IU President Michael A. McRobbie announced the creation of the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, which is charged with digitally preserving and providing access to all significant audio and video recordings on all IU campuses by the IU Bicentennial in 2020.

Soon after, MDPI partnered with Memnon to help with the gargantuan task, which totals 280,000 audio and video recordings. The five-year, $15 million project is funded by the IU offices of the president, the provost and the vice president for research. 

The MDPI project is now located on the first floor of the Innovation Center on the Bloomington campus. In this space, engineers work to preserve the recordings, which are found in a variety of formats: from open-reel tapes to 78 RPM shellac discs on the audio side, to VHS and Betacam SP for video recordings. Every recording is then digitally preserved in the IU Data Center and made discoverable via the IU Libraries.

“It’s gratifying to know that IU’s massive archive of one-of-a-kind audio and video recordings—many of which are invaluable cultural and historical gems—will be so well preserved for future researchers,” said Mike Casey, MDPI director of technical operations. “As expected, Memnon lives up to its reputation as a world leader in digitization and preservation services. I’m pleased we have extended our contract with them.”