Howard Besser


Founding Director of New York University`s Moving Image Archiving & Preservations Program

The Challenges of Future Special Collections: Handling diverse media types coming from dispersed locations

In the past, any new special collection has come from a single source (generally the paper files from an individual’s home or workplace, or file cabinets from an organization). In the future, the special collections from an individual will come from that person’s computers, phones, website, and social media accounts. And the “papers” of an individual will include many different data types (documents, photos, videos, tweets, websites). Organizational special collections will also include diverse media types coming from dispersed locations (as most contemporary organizations maintain multiple social media accounts and websites, and use rich forms of media to connect with the public).

In this Talk, Howard Besser will discuss how diverse media types coming from dispersed locations will affect special collections practices, and will have a profound impact on selection, management, preservation, and access of special collections material.

Howard Besser is founding Director of New York University’s Moving Image Archiving & Preservation Masters degree program. Previously, Besser was a Professor of Library & Information Studies, where he taught and did research on multimedia, image databases, digital libraries, metadata standards, digital longevity, web design, information literacy, distance learning, intellectual property, and the social and cultural impact of new information technologies. He has also been in charge of information technology for two art museums.

Besser has been involved with digital preservation since the 1990s, has taught classes and dozens of workshops on the subject, and has published numerous articles on it. In 2009 he was named to Library of Congress’s select list of “Pioneers of Digital Preservation”.  He has also been involved in the creation of several library metadata standards (PREMIS, Dublin Core, METS), and has published more than 50 articles dealing with information technology and cultural institutions.

Besser has been working with still and moving images for more than 40 years, and in the mid-1980s he began working extensively with digital images.  Around 1985 he was likely the first person to direct-scan an oil painting, and soon after led a team that created the first client-server networked image database (UC Berkeley’s ImageQuery).  He has been at the forefront of numerous multi-institutional digital image exploration projects: from the Getty sponsored Museum Educational Site Licensing project, to the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program’s Preserving Digital Public Television project.