Online archiving server to store print, digital material

by Rebecca Fiore / Beacon Staff • January 23, 2014

Christina Zamon is head of archives and special collections at Emerson.
Christina Zamon is head of archives and special collections at Emerson.

Emerson has started working with Preservica, an online archiving company, to store and display its historical records—including campus blueprints, old college photos, and primary sources documenting the rise of American comedy— according to Christina Zamon, head of archives and special collections at Emerson.

These archives will be available to students and faculty in 2015, said Zamon. The college will launch a website for viewing the files, she said, and Preservica will handle the uploading and storage. 

Emerson’s special collections, which were donated by alumni or other organizations, include the Vaudeville Registry and the American Comedy Archives. The American Comedy Archives is an accumulation of videos, photos, and scripts from famous comedians which will now be accessible through Preservica. 

Zamon said student’s works will also be accessible through the database as a type of timeline. 

There are some files Emerson will store on Preservica that will not be available to students for legal reasons, she said.

“There will be restrictions on things like board of trustee minutes and other documents that the administration requires restrictions on,” said Zamon.

Emerson currently holds around 25 GB of digital records and over 5,000 linear feet of physical archives, she said. The college’s contract with Preservica will cost just under $10,000 each year, according to Zamon.

She said anything with open access will be available to all students, but files may be deemed restricted because of the administration’s laws. 

Jess Waters said she constantly uses many of the college’s resources. 

“I already used all of the tools available to me from the Emerson Library and the Boston Public Library,” said the freshman writing, literature, and publishing major. “Anything else I can get would definitely be helpful.” 

Some students said they do not like relying on digital databases for research papers and projects. 

Elizabith Costey, a sophomore marketing communication major, said she still prefers to hold a book in her hand. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate [online databases],” she said.  

Zamon said she believes the system will be very user-friendly, and the library staff will be trained to use it within the next year. 

The service runs on Amazon’s server infrastructure, according to Jonathan Tilbury, Preservica’s director of archives. Amazon also provides computing resources for companies like Netflix, Thomson Reuters, and General Electric. 

Zamon said the college chose Preservica because of its high technological security. 

Each file in the system is digitally copied onto two separate computers, then again onto two more computers, according to Tilbury.

“You already have about five copies. If any one of those computers crashes, the system would still have safe copies available,” said Tilbury.

According to Preservica’s website, the system is based on technology developed for national archives across the world. 

Tilbury said Preservica was launched 18 months ago, and is now used by organizations in 11 countries. 

Emerson is one of four colleges in the country using Preservica, said Zamon.

“Emerson College is ahead of the curve by preserving the history of what the students today are creating. The college should really be commended,” Tilbury said. “Amazingly creative things are made by Emerson students, and now they will be accessible forever.”