CLIR Recordings at Risk Digitization Project at MBLWHOI Library

By Karen Urbec (Institution Archivist, MBLWHOI Library)

The Data Library and Archives of the MBLWHOI (Marine Biological Laboratory Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) Library is the intellectual heart of the Woods Hole scientific community.  Marine scientists have been based here for their explorations of the ocean since the mid-1800s and the Library has been here supporting their work since the beginning. The Marine Biological Laboratory’s Library was established in 1888 and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library was established in 1930. Together, the joint library supports the scientific community in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, including the Woodwell Climate Research Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, and the Sea Education Association.

The Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin is one of the first deep-ocean submersibles, giving researchers access to more of the ocean than we have ever seen before. It was commissioned in 1964 and has remained state-of-the-art through regular upgrades and improvements. The name Alvin honors WHOI scientist Allyn Vine, who was instrumental in the vehicle’s early planning. Alvin has participated in significant scientific discoveries in such fields as geology, chemistry, and biology that have transformed our understanding of life on Earth. Today, HOV Alvin can reach a depth of 6,500 meters, which will allow ocean researchers to directly observe 99% of the ocean floor. The archival audiovisual collection includes moving images of Alvin’s design and fabrication, and early trials and ocean floor videos.

Screenshot from film #5
Screenshot from dive 289
Screenshot of pressure test of Alvin’s hull

The Council on Library and Information Resources Recordings at Risk Grant allowed us to begin digitizing our aging Alvin videos. With the funding available, we were able to digitize over 400 films, which date from the early 1960s until the early 1980s. We can now provide access to these important documentary images that were otherwise unavailable due to the fragility of the original media. To expand our outreach, we are posting edited films on social media every week. We look forward to having the opportunity to continue digitizing this entire collection, so that these historic scientific images will be available and accessible to all.

See these links for a few sample videos on Facebook, here, here and here.

You can browse the entire digitized collection here.

[Feature image courtesy of Rika Anderson]

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