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Archivists Work to Save Fading Videotapes

Mary Kidd and her colleagues meet every week in a loft in New York City with a clear mission—to digitize and preserve old VHS tapes. The loft has racks of tape decks, oscilloscopes, vector scopes and wave-form monitors that help ensure a quality transfer from analog to digital.

Kidd and the others are archivists and preservationists for XFR Collective (pronounced Transfer Collective). And while the mood is light, there is a sense of a deadline. That's because VHS tapes probably can't survive beyond 15 to 20 years. Some call this the "magnetic media crisis" and archivists, preservationists, and librarians like the ones in the XFR Collective are trying to reverse it.

Sounds and images are magnetized onto strips of tape, but over time the tape slowly loses its magnetic properties. Most tapes were recorded in the 1980s and '90s, when video cameras first became widely available. That means even the best-kept tapes will eventually be unwatchable. The thing is, many people don't realize their tapes are degrading.

And some who do know —like Mary Kidd — haven't even gotten around to their own tapes. "Sometimes I do fall asleep at night thinking to myself, 'Oh my gosh, is this tape in the storage space that I own slowly turning into goo?'" So the volunteers devote themselves to this work because if they don't save these intimate, personal histories, it's possible no one will.

Possible Preaching Angle: Protection, Divine; Rewards; Memories; What we store with God is safe for eternity without loss, decay, or fading. As Paul told Timothy, "I … am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)

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