A day in the life: The Archive Assistant
Hi everyone, My name is Casey Lynch and I have been working at Dig Media for 4 months as the Archive and Admin assistant. I found out about the role through the Salford City Council Kickstart scheme, where I was helpfully guided to pursue it thanks to my love of music and interest in music history.
When I was told there was a role available within a musically oriented archive, I did a bit of googling on the company and found a teaser video on Youtube for a documentary Dig made on Jack Henry Moore (a pioneering director, publisher and filmmaker). Watching the trailer and seeing the amazing life he lived, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Dig Media team. I also found out they had some extremely interesting content from Jack’s which would be a privilege for me to be able to see and work with. Historically significant tapes that few people have ever seen before. I was very happy to get the job!
For the first month of my Kickstart placement I had the privilege of going through Jack’s physical archive documents. It was extremely interesting and some of it very personal. I felt as though I had started to familiarise myself with Jack and had got to know him more with each letter I read. He had a life some could only dream of. He was in contact with hundreds of people, a real socialite, he would receive letters from people all over the world. People writing in multiple different languages pertaining to all types of situations.
It was also made clear to me through these letters that he was a man in demand and a real revolutionary within the field of early video and camera equipment.
He was also a rebellious figure having certain views that for his time were deemed unacceptable and strange but as we glance back with a modern perspective we can see the change he fought for, through his pioneering efforts in video recording, being an openly gay man at a time when it was socially unacceptable or being associated with multiple and different organisations based within the collective counterculture movement of the time such as The International Times, The Arts Lab, multiple LGBT movements across the globe and of course the main collective he was a part of: Videoheads.
He was a key figure in the establishment of venues including the groundbreaking ‘UFO’ Club in London to the arts house ‘Melkweg’ in Amsterdam which still exists to this day. Jack would put on shows as the in-house DJ there, where he would experiment with lighting and video and people would say he almost looked like a technology wizard surrounded by these mesmerising screens. His performance designs were so revolutionary they appeared to be magical to the crowds seeing them for the first time.
Once I had read through a large chunk of Jack’s documents and other ephemera, I had a decent grasp of Jack’s life and timeline. I was allowed to begin logging and cataloguing the archive. I’ve catalogued 3409 objects so far (2800 of those are video tapes). I give each item a ‘unique identifier’ and write down any metadata (small bits of data like ‘title’, ‘owner’, ‘format’ etc) already existing on the tape, or its case, and enter this into a huge excel style database. This process took 3 months and was an extremely long process which requires a lot of concentration, persistence and organisation. Once the job is completed we will possess a fully catalogued archive which is easily navigable allowing us to find any tape or object we require.
I’m in the fourth month (out of six) of my Kickstart placement and I have now been given the task of digitising some of the tapes from the archive. We have started using a cost effective collection management system (cms) which we sourced via the UK’s National Archive website which will allow us to begin the process of uploading the metadata of our vast collection so that it will be visible online as a catalogue to peruse (we’ll be announcing more about that in due course).
So far I have enjoyed working at Dig Media and can easily say it has been one of the greatest opportunities in my life so far and one of the most transformative. I have grown as a person and expanded my skills and knowledge of not only the archival side of the job but also my knowledge of music history and the history of counterculture throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. I feel privileged to work on a project as great and significant as this with a team that has been nothing but patient in educating and training me to become a better more professional person within the work environment, I look forward to what we shall do in the future.
Archive and Admin assistant