Folklorists have long been excellent documentarians of traditional arts and culture. As technology improves, folklorists have moved from tape to digital means of documentation, and their archives have expanded to store a wide range of media types. However, a lot of this media is locked up in archives and is not digitally accessible for public sharing or wider dissemination. Even if material is captured digitally, it is often not attached to contextual metadata and is not edited or shared.

We are missing out on using multimedia material as a cultural reservoir of information for existing and new audiences. This “reservoir” is not a one-way stream, but can stimulate important feedback on social media and websites. This process can allow community members to be active participants in building the public representation of their communities and their cultural resources, widening and improving the ways that they are remembered, experienced, and shared. We are missing a rich opportunity for innovative outreach and public programming, community involvement, and greater accessibility to local culture.

In this report, we outline a workflow to help folklorists actively use their archival and documentary materials. We focus on documentation that has been captured with digital video cameras. First, we look at setting up your workflow — how do you develop plans for organizing, inventorying, and storing video materials? How can you navigate the current state of video and the different formats available to you? What’s the best equipment and software to handle all these files? Second, we discuss metadata in detail — how do you set up a system to inventory your material and add contextual details that will help others understand the content of your material? Third, we dive into ingesting media, or how to actually get those files from your camera onto your computer. Fourth, we look at taking that raw footage and producing material that can be published and shared. What are some platforms you can use to get your content online? Throughout this report, we focus on PC platforms and use of the Adobe Creative Cloud.

An important note: with the rise of consumer video cameras, we often hear people asking for a video solution that is quick, cheap and easy. To us, professional video is not any of these things. We don’t mean to discourage you, but rather to encourage a realistic perspective on video and to consider committing significant resources to this important form of documentation.  It is possible for a novice to understand and use the concepts and processes described here, so that archiving and sharing one’s video documentation becomes part of our activities as folklorists.

This consultancy was supported by the American Folklore Society’s Consultancy and Professional Development Program, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a collaboration with the CT Cultural Heritage Arts Program of the Institute for Community Research.