Standard Tape Transcription Methodology

The physical transcription and concatenation of data from tapes requires robust and reliable technology, but the key difference between a successful transcription project and a “tape copy job” approach to a project is the methodology and essential attention to detail that is required to ensure that data are accurately migrated, documented and validated in the Master Database and that the resulting output cartridges can be used by the users with confidence. SAMIT can deliver this level of certainty to users with a phased approach.

A Phased Approach

From experience with various projects executed of varied size and complexity, especially where little is known about the condition and inventory of the tapes to be processed, SAMIT has adapted a phased approach encompassing 6 fundamental steps.

Following of these 6 steps, has proven to be a path that leads to a successful project outcome.
The basic steps we suggest are as follows and should be performed in the order shown:

  • Phase 1 – Data Inventory, Barcoding, Photography, and existing Catalogue Validation
  • Phase 2 – Deliberation and Project Design Phase
  • Phase 3 – Transcription and Output Phase
  • Phase 4 – Internal Quality Control and Labeling
  • Phase 5 – External; Quality Control -> By Client
  • Phase 6 – Acceptance and Disposal

Phase 1 – Data Inventory, Bar-coding, Photography, and Cataloging

For projects where little is known about the archive, a significant appreciation of the asset should be gained prior to embarking on a major transcription and preservation exercise. The reasons for this are many and very important and range from technical to commercial considerations.
Firstly, knowing what you have in your inventory allows one to know what is possible. Without this basic understanding, it is never really possible to make educated decisions about how best to archive and transcribe the data, what order to do the work in, what data sets are of importance due to being in areas of interest (or not) etc. In many cases, the upfront time & costs of a cataloguing exercise will be offset by significant savings later in the project.
At the end of this phase, on a step by step process, a complete database with up to 40 fields of metadata (standard lists are available) are catalogued for each tape. The final deliverable at the end of the project is a complete database with metadata and hyperlinked tape images so that the inventory can be investigated and queried by the end-users.

This is generally done on a job lot by job lot basis (Survey by survey or permit by permit. An entire database IS NOT created up front. But at the end of the project, it is essentially like having all of the tapes, well organized right in front of the user – except without the many hundreds of boxes the data would normally require.

Phase 2 – Project Design Phase

Once the project is complete, end-users will have access to a complete view of its data holding. This will allow many benefits including:
1. Identification of all assets in the collection
2. Sorting of data in meaningful ways
3. Production of reports for asset teams to evaluate their holdings
4. Identification of duplicate data sets
5. Segregation and/or consolidation of data with other databases for comparison
6. Identification of data that is no longer of interest due to its historical nature
7. Prioritising of data for processing.
8. and many others
Once this phase is complete, end-users will be in a much better position to create SLA’s as well as a detailed budget for each asset team (and JV partner) to consider the data holding.

Phase 3 – Transcription and Output Phase

Phase 3 of the project, performed in parallel with phase 2 can now be streamlined and minimized to ensure only the required data is transcribed. This phase gains many benefits from the previous phase, including a detailed catalogue that forms the basis for comparison with actual data as it is transcribed, as well as a potential to have predefined output ordering and prioritization. There are a myriad of benefits that are gained from the previous processes if carried out correctly.

Phase 4 – Internal Quality Control and Labeling

The internal QC process is one that includes the preparation of the data as well as the labeling and indexing of the output media in preparation for loading into data management system, robotic silos, Vaults or whatever the client has in mind for the data. This process is performed before external QC processes are carried out by client’s QC staff.

Phase 5 – External Quality Control by Client

The external quality control in the case of this project is carried out by a member of the client team. At this stage, the benefits of stage 1 and 2 can be seen in many ways. If a QC member wishes to look at an original tape for QC purposes, access to the web portal is made available instead of having to locate the real original tape just to read the label. In addition, the predefined output listed from stage 1 and 2 can be used to ensure the data has been output in the order specified by client earlier in the process – also done in the portal.
Quality control is an important part of any transcription project and when combined with the previous steps mentioned above, can be carried out more rapidly and with more certainty than had these steps not been taken.

Phase 6 – Acceptance and Disposal

Acceptance and disposal is a process whereby client can confidently destroy original tapes once QC is complete (If they wish). This can be done more easily, once again because of the fact that the phased approach was adopted. All of the data is preserved including tape images, summaries, and evidence of correct duplication.
There are a range of possible destruction methodologies that can be undertaken. No matter which one is chosen, the phased approach provides maximum confidence in the process allowing the project to come to a faster completion than otherwise would be the case.