Chicago Archives in the Time of Covid: Governors State University Archives

04 Jan 2021 10:17 AM | Doris Cardenas (Administrator)

Enjoy the next story in our web series submitted by Paul Blobaum of Governors State University Archives.


In March 2020, Governors State University extended its Spring break one week, and returned to online delivery.  The Library has been closed since March, and there are no plans to reopen. After being solo for 3 years I had just hired a FTE in December 2019 with the plan to take over Archives coordination following my planned retirement in 2021.  We kept ourselves busy wrapping up GSU 50th Anniversary observance projects, not the least of which is a major historic video digitization project of over 125 reels, begun in April 2019.  We had planned to use Media Communications students to do final production work, collect metadata, and publishing to our digital repository; but I wound up having to do it myself.  I taught myself to edit digital video MP4 and MOV files using open source software (Avid Composer First), on my Archives remote workstation using VPN and Remote Desktop.  Following numerous technical problems, I was able to publish very large files using modified URLS in Dropbox to our Digital Commons repository, OPUS, at  Archives projects were farmed out to library staff needing work projects they could do at home, so we are able to do projects that would never get done for another 50 years, such as data entry of legacy tractor-feed printouts of video and audio tape collections, inventory and metadata for 50 years worth of 35mm color slides, and metadata for digital collections.  Also, I taught myself the open source programs OBS Studio a Virtual Dub, and have been digitizing VHS historic VHS tapes from the archives at home, resolving numerous technical issues with audio/video synchronization by trial and error, and pluck.

Online learning and working remotely will continue well into 2021.  We venture to campus when we have to, to use Microfilm or to locate physical materials in the processed and unprocessed collections.  In May I began hosting a Tuesday afternoon coffee hour for our library staff colleagues on Zoom, which continues.  On a hot July evening, I hosted a Russian Fulbright scholar who was doing research on American suburbs from 1950s-1960s at the University of Kansas.  The scholar made a special overnight trip to Chicago just to see the Park Forest 1950s Museum housed at St. Mary's Church in Park Forest, and I volunteered to pick him up from the University Park train station, give him a tour, and return him to the train station so he could catch a train to Omaha Nebraska the next morning. We took off our face masks just for the photo.  The year has been surreal but we are getting a lot of long standing projects done!!  

Left: Alexandr Zhidchenko, University of Kansas Fulbright scholar.  Right: Paul Blobaum, Governors State University

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