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Case Studies:Preserving a Century of Sound for the Kennedy Center

The Challenge

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts needed to do something with its sprawling and exhaustive collection of digital archives of National Symphony Orchestra recordings, dating back to the 1920s. Archivists weren’t always sure what artistic artifacts the collection even contained, much less how to best store, preserve, and organize the recordings for future use and monetization.

The Solution

Given the sheer number of highly valuable recordings and large file sizes, no out-of-the-box solution would do. AIS created a customized solution for tagging, searching, and access permissions based on the Microsoft SharePoint platform, while also integrating Remote Blob Storage to overcome the file size limitations of the standard SharePoint platform. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan ensures that the entire collection will be kept safe for the next century….and beyond.

The Results

With the archives now easily searchable and manageable, the Kennedy Center can now explore the opportunity to create new revenue streams by providing subscription-based access to these archives by the public – an option that would not be possible without the flexibility, scalability, and power of AIS’ customized SharePoint and StoragePoint RBS solution.

The ultimate goal of this project was to store 100 years’ worth of digital archives of NSO recordings in SharePoint. The recordings, each of which reached up to 2 GB in size, were to be taggable, searchable and accessible to only authorized users. Data was to be pulled in from an external system for automatic tagging of complex, customized metadata fields. Each performance had a pre-existing set of data associated with it in a third-party system that needed to be surfaced in SharePoint, next to the digital records.

The JFKC also had a new workflow process to account for the physical recordings sent to the archivists. The out-of-the-box SharePoint feature set would not satisfy the project’s requirements, so a customized solution was developed and implemented by AIS. This solution would digitally preserve nearly 100 years’ worth of NSO recordings originating in all manner of analog/digital formats and be safeguarded by a comprehensive disaster recovery (D/R) plan.

Beyond out-of-the-box

AIS designed a customized solution using the Microsoft SharePoint, but integrated Remote Blob Storage (RBS) to overcome file size limitations of the out-of-the-box SharePoint platform. Metalogix StoragePoint RBS solutions were also leveraged to solve any problems associated with the sheer number of recordings and their rather large file sizes. AIS guided the evaluation of third-party RBS providers and ultimately selected and implemented an RBS solution that enabled the system to perform and meet D/R requirements. Business Connectivity Services (BCS) were used for lookups to external data for tagging from simple to complex types.

We implemented out-of-the-box SharePoint features for the information architecture, with a key provision for tagging complex performance descriptions and enabling an equally robust search component to accommodate virtually any combination of metadata fields. Additionally, the JFKC needed to account for its original analog recordings. For this, SharePoint’s barcoding system was utilized to uniquely identify the inventory of analog performances before being sent out to keep reliable track of all outgoing and incoming source materials.

Through the implementation of StoragePoint Librarian, the system allowed JFKC to upload the digital recordings in bulk, reducing the amount of time required to otherwise upload files manually, one by one. The system was constructed to meet and work within any constraints of JFKC’s stated long-term SharePoint design. AIS developed multiple iterations of the solution to provide The Kennedy Center with tangible results early and often and then refined each iteration until final build completion.

A timesaver for both past and future

Today, management of the collection only requires a small number of business users to file and tag digital archives as they are submitted by the archivists in batches, using barcode verification to ensure that all of the physical media is returned along with the corresponding digital version.

AIS’ comprehensive and streamlined solution provides ease of use, allowing business users to facilitate the entire archival process, thus relieving the need for additional IT personnel, while at the same time freeing up existing IT personnel for other, more vital tasks.

Three man-days of work were circumvented with every batch of 100 historical recordings loaded into the system. Based on the initial archival of 2,000 historical recordings, a total of two man-months and three calendar months of work were saved. Each future batch of performance archives will save an additional three man-days, to be allocated to more strategic processes.

Finally, the system and all its valuable and irreplaceable artistic content are wholly safeguarded with a comprehensive D/R plan in place.

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