- Ethnographic Video for Instruction & Analysis (EVIA) Digital Archive Project
The EVIA Digital Archive is a valuable set of collections of digitized and annotated ethnographic video hosted by Indiana University and the University of Michigan. The archive comprises field recordings by ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, folklorists, and dance scholars from around the world. All collections are peerreviewed by a similarly eclectic editorial board, to maintain high standards of recording and annotation. The primary objectives of the archive are to preserve ethnographic video by digitizing the recordings and to make those recordings available online for educational purposes. Accompanying annotations serve to add descriptive and analytical details that help situate the recordings in their cultural contexts. Funding has come from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Michigan, the Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities at Indiana University, and other small grants for content and software development.
In its early days, depositors to the archive had to attend a summer institute for two weeks. There they edited and annotated the requisite ten hours of footage, though having discussed this with one of the depositors, I learned that it frequently ended up taking longer than two weeks to complete a collection. The Annotator’s Workbench is an open-source software tool developed by programmers at EVIA, which now makes it possible to contribute to the archive without having to travel to a summer institute. Information on how to deposit is available on the “About Us” pages of the site.
Gradually, the archive is being made accessible via selected university IP ranges [a block of numeric addresses for computers on the Internet through the university network]; individuals not affiliated with those universities can currently request access via the website for free. Each user must set up a personal account to gain access. This is where the pedagogical application of EVIA becomes most apparent. Playlists of clips can be compiled in users’ accounts so that they can be instantly accessed when signed in. Browse and search functions use a set of controlled vocabulary categories and keywords to assist users in finding relevant footage. For those who are unsure how to incorporate footage from the archive into their lessons, there is a webpage that provides a suggested lesson plan to help instructors get started.
Music is the main performing tradition represented, with dance coming a close second. In addition there are a few collections that focus solely on oral histories, which may be of particular interest to readers of this journal. The “Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories (2002–2009)” comprises approximately 800 hours of interviews in the Yiddish language with 350 individuals who were born in the early twentieth century and live in Eastern Europe. Another example is the “Oral History of Daisy Turner (1984–1985),” which provides a rare look at the personal and family history of a woman born to two former slaves who migrated to New England after the Civil War. As with many of the other potentially fascinating collections, however, both of these remain to be completed and made accessible.
The EVIA project principally aims to preserve tapes that are in critical danger of deteriorating beyond use. The archive also serves as an important tool for educators to use when introducing students to performing traditions from around the world. Furthermore, the accessibility of the archive in any part of the world where there is an Internet connection provides an opportunity for the repatriation of recordings. This raises an exciting possibility for the [End Page 257] future use of the archive by communities where the footage was originally gathered. The biggest drawback with the archive is that to date only nine of the forty-six collections listed on the website have been completed and are available for access. Nevertheless, the sustainability of the project depends not only on the continuing hard work of the EVIA Digital Archive staff and depositors, but also on the extent to which educators choose to incorporate this resource into their lessons. [End Page 258]