The Collective Working to Save VHS Tapes Before They Decay

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Even if you are still holding on to a VCR, your VHS tapes won’t last forever. Videotape is magnetic, and as a result, the data recorded on it won’t be readable forever. Magnetic tape’s life expectancy is only between 10 and 30 years [PDF]. Some archivists and enthusiasts, though, are trying to combat this inevitable loss, according to NPR.

The XFR Collective (pronounced like “transfer”) is a nonprofit organization devoted to digitizing “at risk audiovisual media.” Its mission is partial to work that is rarely seen, marginalized, or otherwise unheralded, whether it’s documentation of police brutality in minority communities or old public access television features that few people probably saw in the first place.

The people who spend their time saving the collective's video and audio tapes in a more permanent form are volunteers, and the media is then uploaded to the Internet Archive (with the permission of its creators). So far, the XFR Collective has transferred 155 tapes and 67 hours of video from VHS to digital format—all in real-time so that the individual transferring the data can troubleshoot and monitor the progress of the recording.

Unfortunately, digital forms can become obsolete, too, and these videos may eventually need to be transferred to yet another format, like film. The digital versions of these home movies and small-time television and film programs might just be a stop-gap to keep the data alive until a more lasting solution comes along.

[h/t NPR]