This is devastating. Cliff Notes: Kim’s Video in NYC closed and sent their collection of 55,000 rare VHS tapes to Sicily, Two Boots in the East Village just sold all their VHS, and because huge amounts of videos aren’t being digitized, we’re losing them. I almost said, Get it together libraries! But rather I will say, Get it together people who think libraries/archives/film repositories don’t need more funding! So it might not seem like the biggest deal that it will be close to impossible to watch undigitized VHS movies like Costa-Gavras’s 1972 Uruguayan political thriller State of Siege at home, but what else are we losing? Whose responsibility is it to preserve these films, not just in archives, but, as the whole point of libraries, to make them available to the public, not just film snobs and those with time and access to museums?
Who makes the decision to digitize VHS (or any fading format) and make it available? At what cost? Why have we been relying on proprietary businesses (is that redundant?) to make these already-rare films available to us? What about aarrrrchiiiives? Here’s an article about how even libraries are ditching VHS.
And on a bigger scale, what does this mean for our cultural history? When will we get to the point of only watching movies available on Netflix, and thinking that’s all there is? See what I’m getting at? The example of VHS is just a fraction of a bigger issue. If outdated technology isn’t updated to be usable today, we’re losing a lot of great stuff, and narrowing our idea of what movies (and every other medium) are/were/should be.
I say thank you to all those who continue to ignore copyright law to digitize and preserve formats that others can’t or won’t…years from now, we’ll all thank you. I’m not AS worried about these films being preserved for posterity, I’m more concerned about us little people having access to non-mainstream films.
Get bootlegging, people!
In other news, the people over at UbuWeb have been posting avant garde videos, sound, what-have-you, oftentimes without permission, on their site for years. Yay!