OPS 1-2 - Digitizing moving images of the researcher in the field

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Pamela M. Henson, Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Visual evidence can be a powerful tool in ecological research, especially moving video, since it can capture the gestalt of the area being studied.  Archives contain historical film footage of scientific expeditions in the 20th century, as well as videohistory interviews of scientists at work in the field. Smithsonian Archives contains film footage of 20th century expeditions across North America, Central and South America, and Africa, as well as marine voyages.  Some are narrated, others are silent.  Other film footage documents animal behavior in the field, from frog ponds to rhinos mating.  The Archives also holds videohistory interviews of scientists at work in the field, demonstrating field research techniques. All of these types of moving images document environments visually and aurally, often capturing background information of little interest to the original researcher, but of great interest to later studies.


The technology is now available to easily transfer all types of film and videotape to digital video files. Digital video provides a safety copy of fragile film and video, ensuring conservation. When this historic film and video footage has been digitized, it can be easily reproduced in consumer formats and studied for information about environments, behavior, communication, population density and interactions. Digital video can be reproduced, cut, reorganized, and manipulated in far more ways than film or video can. Programs now exist for digital indexing, as well, making access to specific topics far easier than in sequential film and video. Rarely seen moving images of environments that have changed drastically in the last hundred years can now be made available online to a wide array of researchers and manipulated to make the information it contains far easier to access.