"What Are You Working On, Courtney Egan?"

Ever wonder what exciting new projects the many employees at NARA are working on? The “What are You Working On?” blog feature aims to introduce a variety of NARA employees and highlight some of the exciting projects we are working on around the agency. Check for this blog series on Wednesdays!

This week, we introduce Courtney Egan, an Audio-Visual Preservation Specialist.

What is your name and title?

Courtney Egan, Audio-Video Preservation Specialist

Where is your job located?

Archives II in College Park, MD

What is your job in a nutshell?

I make new copies of old videotapes so that they can be accessed by researchers and preserved for the long term.

Courtney Egan in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab.
Courtney Egan and the robotic videotape migration system. Right now the machine is set up for ¾-inch U-matic tapes. Next to the machine is cartload of the 3/4" U-matic tapes that went through the robot and have been transferred and had new file copies made of them.

What are you working on right now?

For the past couple of years I have been working to implement a robotic videotape migration system for ¾-inch U-matic  tapes.  U-matic tapes were very popular in the 1970s-1980s and were considered very good quality at the time.  Now the tapes are beginning to degrade and the machines to play them back are becoming difficult to service or even to find (they aren’t manufactured anymore).  The robotic system can play back 4 tapes at one time and can migrate close to 50 tapes in one batch.  NARA has several thousand U-matic tapes in the Reference Room and it was decided that those should be targeted for reformatting first.  We are currently working through the collection and are making new, stable file copies of each tape.  We are also delivering a Windows Media file to ARC so that researchers can access this material on the internet.

How long have you been at NARA?  Have you worked at any other NARA location?

I have been at NARA for about 2 and half years now.  I haven’t worked at any other NARA locations.

What has changed since you started at NARA?

Even though I’ve only been at NARA a short time, a lot has changed since I arrived.  We have moved to a digital workflow, implemented new video editing and encoding workstations, and have started to provide more and more content to ARC so that it can be made accessible online.

Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?

We come across interesting records all the time, probably one of my favorites was a Disney PSA featuring the Seven Dwarves and providing information on how to prevent the spread of malaria.

What are your passions or interests outside of work?

I am really into movies.  Some of my favorites are The Departed, Amelie, Snatch, Wall-e and Up.  I also just recently saw The Guns of Navarone and The Longest Day, both about World War II and both very good.  Last year’s group of foreign film nominees was excellent – Secret of their Eyes and A Prophet were both must-sees.

What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?

The last book I read and loved was ‘The Draining Lake’ by Arnaldur Indridason- it’s one of those Scandinavian crime novels/mysteries that are all the rage these days.

Meet more NARA employees: http://www.archives.gov/careers/employees/

4 thoughts on “"What Are You Working On, Courtney Egan?"

  1. I feel like I’m learning so much more about the great work we do here at NARA. Thanks for “What Are You Working On Wednesdays”!

  2. Sounds like you’re making good progress Courtney! Also, I had the Seven Dwarves PSA regarding malaria on a VHS tape as a kid before several other Disney shorts. I loved it!

  3. Great feature this week! It appears the robotic videotape migration system (we should call it “BIG BLUE”) is the largest honkin piece of NARA equipment displayed in a “What Are You Working On Wednesdays.” Way to go, Courtney!

  4. Those were the days. I remember well when our high school video lab switched over from open-reel to U-matic tapes…

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