Library and Archives Canada Audiovisual Migration Strategy

Executive Summary

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) preserves over 530,000 hours of published and unpublished audio and video recordings. Music, television and radio broadcasts, oral histories and interviews, documentaries, parliamentary proceedings, and much more, are all captured in analog and digital formats on a variety of cylinders, disks, or tapes. This diverse collection shares a common fate: obsolescence. The absolute dependence of audiovisual recordings on their particular playback technology means that once the equipment is obsolete access is lost and the window of opportunity for preservation copying has closed. Failure to complete preservation copying of these recordings will result in the loss of this valuable and often unique documentary heritage and of the investment the institution has made in it to date.

To mitigate the risk of losing audiovisual recordings of national significance this Audiovisual Migration Strategy and an audiovisual migration action plan recommend migration of content to standard computer file formats.

Once migrated to an IT environment, audiovisual collection material can be managed and preserved in a manner consistent with the development of LAC's Trusted Digital Repository (TDR). Ongoing preservation entails continued cycles of migration from one logical file format to another as standards and technologies evolve. Successful on-going migration of digital audiovisual material will depend on the ability of LAC's TDR to manage preservation actions on this material.

LAC recognizes the imperative to act, and the risk of not doing so now: preserving digital documentary heritage is a strategic choice of the institution; a performance measure for audiovisual preservation was included in Part III-Report on Plans and Priorities 2008-09; (; the preservation of documentary heritage in electronic format is identified as a key risk area its Initial Corporate Risk Profile (2007); and the LAC Business Plan 2008-2011 ( highlights the stewardship of digital and digitized collections.

The principle objective of the Strategy is to produce digital preservation master copies of at-risk audiovisual recordings to maintain current and future access. However, migration presents the opportunity to simultaneously create digital versions suitable for online access, augmenting LAC's mass digitization for access initiatives. Priority for migration is assigned first according to the risk of format obsolescence, and then according to the significance of the content or to client demand for it.

An action plan has been prepared to implement this strategy which proposes a 10-year period of dedicated and intensive migration activity followed by an ongoing increased capacity for this work.

1. Introduction

The audiovisual recordings1 held by LAC present a unique perspective of Canada's documentary heritage. LAC's collection comprises audiovisual recordings created by the music, film, radio and television industries, government, academic and cultural institutions as well as private individuals. These recordings, which span a range of communication technologies, document the artistic, cultural, linguistic, social and political diversity of Canada in the modern historical era.
As of 2008, LAC's collection contains an estimated 530,000 hours of published and unpublished audiovisual recordings that are stored on over 30 different analog and digital formats.2 The accessibility of the information contained on these formats is completely dependent on the availability of specialized playback technology. Due to the rapid pace of technological development in the audio and video industries, new equipment and formats are constantly entering the marketplace. Equipment is available only as long as a format has commercial viability and as older equipment is supplanted by new technology, the expertise to operate and repair machinery also vanishes.
Therefore, if all audiovisual recordings are inaccessible without playback machinery then long-term preservation must concentrate on preserving the content of a recording instead of focusing on the preservation of the original format.3 Migration offers the means of overcoming technological obsolescence through the digital transfer of content from its original hardware/software to a new file format that retains the ability to retrieve, display and use the information. In this specific context, the migration of audiovisual recordings to a standardized digital environment is the only way to assure continued preservation and continued access to their intellectual content.

The rationale for the development of a distinct migration strategy for the preservation of audiovisual recordings is based on the challenge of continuing to provide access over the long-term. This strategy identifies the principles and priorities to be employed to migrate LAC's audiovisual collection, offering a joint solution to preservation and access problems by stabilizing technological dependency through the creation of audio and video digital preservation masters in standardized file formats and the automated generation of digital access copies.

2. Scope

The principles outlined in this strategy apply only to LAC's audio and video recordings.4
While this strategy addresses the migration of the majority of LAC's audiovisual collection, the migration of motion picture film5 has been deliberately excluded from this document. Motion picture film is not currently considered at high priority for migration due to the relative stability of film formats, standards and technology.6 As such, the strategy to migrate the motion picture film portion of LAC's collection will be elaborated in a separate document at a later date.
Additionally, this strategy does not address the integration and management of migrated audiovisual content into LAC's Trusted Digital Repository (TDR), which are issues governed and addressed by other LAC policies, strategies and guidelines. However, the principles of this strategy are designed to facilitate the eventual ingest of migrated audiovisual material into the TDR when this capacity exists.

3. Objectives

The primary goal of this strategy is to create a pragmatic approach for the systematic migration of LAC's audio and video recordings, thereby ensuring preservation, supporting access and increasing use of this portion of Canada's documentary heritage.

The implementation of this migration strategy will advance the following objectives:

Preserve at-risk audiovisual content through the creation of new digital preservation masters;
Maximize the volume of audiovisual recordings migrated through the employment of mass digitization techniques and the pursuit of a variety of collaborative approaches to migration;
Increase access and facilitate the use of LAC's audiovisual collection for all Canadians and those interested in Canada through the provision of digital access copies;
Support the outreach initiatives of LAC's Programs and Services Branch through the provision of digitized audiovisual content.
To achieve these objectives, LAC will migrate as much of its audiovisual collection as possible in the next five years.

4. Principles

This strategy is guided by the five preservation principles of LAC's Preservation Policy Framework7:

  • LAC safeguards and maintains the documentary heritage under its care;
  • LAC considers the physical and technological preservation needs of documentary heritage materials and the institution's capacity to provide sustainable access to them as criteria in acquisition and retention decisions;
  • LAC takes a holistic view of the relative value of, and risks to, the various parts of the collection when assessing the priorities for care of the collection;
  • LAC applies risk management practices to ensure safe, secure and sustainable access to the collection;
  • LAC collaborates with others to preserve Canada's documentary heritage.

5. ​Strategic Approach

The informational content stored on obsolete audiovisual formats rapidly becomes unreadable and thus inaccessible as appropriate playback equipment disappears. Activities related to the long-term preservation of and access to audiovisual recordings must prioritize the preservation of content over the preservation of the physical carrier as the preservation of the format also implies the maintenance of playback equipment for access. Long-term preservation of playback equipment and the parts and expertise to maintain this machinery is not a viable alternative.

Migration offers the means of overcoming the technological obsolescence of audiovisual recordings by digitally transferring a recording's content to a new standard file format. The goal of this migration is to preserve the complete integrity of the audiovisual recording and to retain the ability to retrieve and display its content.

This approach aligns with LAC's Digital Preservation Policy, which endorses migration as the preservation strategy to ensure the longevity and accessibility of the digital materials in its collection.8

6. Approach Implementation

The migration of audiovisual recordings to a standardized digital file format will be implemented in the following manner:

  • LAC will use the best possible accessible version of an audiovisual recording as source material for digital migration;
  • Digital migration will be carried out without subjective alterations, improvements or reductions that compromise the integrity of the original;
  • Audiovisual recordings will be migrated according to accepted digitization parameters and approved procedures to an appropriate standard file format to create new preservation masters;
  • Migration will be carried out under controlled conservation conditions and, for reasons of authenticity and accountability, appropriate audit trails will be created and event metadata captured during the process;
  • Digital access copies will be generated at the same time as the digital preservation masters or derived from the digital preservation masters.

The intended goal of this strategy is to establish the approach for the migration of the entirety of LAC's audio and video collection. However, the technical realities associated with the availability of playback machinery and the lack of equipment repair expertise present obstacles to achieving that goal. In order to mitigate these risks, LAC will adopt a format-based approach to the prioritization of the audiovisual collection for migration.

A format-based approach prioritizes the migration of audiovisual formats that are most at risk based on an assessment of the technological obsolescence of the playback equipment.9

Where LAC is unable to migrate all of the recordings of a given format, then prioritization within a given format will have to occur with consideration given to the following:

  • Institutional responsibilities and agreements that include but are not limited to legal deposit requirements, donor agreements and partnerships;
  • Audiovisual recordings that are assessed as having extraordinary value in the context of LAC's Collection Development Policy. Weight will be given to audiovisual recordings that showcase content representing the historical, geographic, linguistic and cultural diversity of Canada;
  • Audiovisual recordings that have never been migrated to another physical format that is at lower-risk of technological obsolescence;
  • The physical condition of each recording;
  • As the ultimate goal of migration is to sustain and increase the accessibility and use of LAC's audiovisual collection, consideration will be given to recordings that are in high demand;
  • The overall cost to migrate a recording, weighed against each of the previous criteria.

7. Delivery Options

Migration will be planned and managed in a collaborative manner to achieve the shared goals of collection preservation and access, and according to LAC's strategic objectives. LAC recognizes that the migration of audiovisual recordings can be undertaken in-house or elsewhere. An appropriate combination of the following implementation strategies will be explored:
I. In-house Migration
LAC will maximize in-house migration operations by reengineering workflow and automating processes.

II. Partnerships and Collaborative Arrangements
LAC will actively seek partnerships and collaborative arrangements to accelerate the pace of migration and to promote new research and access opportunities. Migration done through partnerships may be done on or offsite.
III. Supply Arrangements
LAC will seek supply arrangements with private suppliers of audiovisual migration services.

8. Risk Management

The objective of this strategy is to ensure the preservation of audiovisual content stored on obsolete audio and video formats. Maintaining the status quo and non-implementation of the Audiovisual Migration Strategy will increase risk to that portion of the collection, eventually dooming that content to inaccessibility. Ultimately, LAC will risk not being able to fulfill its mandated responsibility to safeguard the documentary heritage of Canada.10

8.1 Key Risks (KR)

LAC's Initial Corporate Risk Profile (July, 2007) identified 8 key risks that could potentially have a major impact on achieving the institution's strategic objectives. The issues addressed by this strategy can be mapped to 4 of the 8 key risks.
Key Risk Number 3: Preservation of digital and analog documentary heritage. The risk, for LAC, of not being able to assume all of its responsibilities in terms of the preservation and access to documentary heritage in electronic and analog format, due to lack of the appropriate financial, human and technological resources, or a lack of trustworthy partners.
  • There is a risk that LAC will not be able to preserve audiovisual recordings in time due to the obsolescence issue facing each of the many audio and video formats in the collection. This risk will increase over time as the technological and human resources required to guarantee access will become more difficult and more costly to acquire and maintain.
Key Risk Number 4: Long-term accommodation and technological infrastructure. The risk, for LAC, of not being able to assume all of its long-term responsibilities in terms of the preservation and access to documentary heritage under its care, due to a lack of appropriate material and technological infrastructure.
  • There is a risk that a lack of appropriate technological infrastructure will render audiovisual recordings in LAC's collection inaccessible. A wide variety of increasingly obsolete equipment will have to be maintained for the foreseeable future in order to ensure collection usability.
Key Risk Number 6: Financial sustainability. The risk, for LAC, of a lack of resources or budget to ensure its core activities or the establishment of the necessary conditions to meet its growing obligations.
  • There is a risk that a lack of financial resources will prevent LAC from implementing a program of migration of the scale and duration necessary to successfully preserve access to the audio and video collection.
Key Risk Number 7: Availability and competency of human resources. The risk, for LAC, of not being up to ensuring the transition of its institutional knowledge to its new generations of employees or not being able to recruit or renew its human capital with staff that have the appropriate knowledge and skills.
  • There is a risk that a shortage of specialized expertise will endanger LAC's ability to preserve access to audio and video recordings. Already scarce expert knowledge will have to be continually transferred between employees as it is unlikely that LAC will be able to recruit staff with the ability to operate and repair the obsolete equipment required to access audiovisual recordings.

8.2 Risk Assessment

The 8 corporate key risks were assessed and plotted on a matrix, illustrated below, to indicate their likelihood of occurrence and their impact on business. All of the key risks associated with audiovisual migration are situated in the red zone which indicates management effort is required and essential to enact measures to mitigate risks to a tolerable level.
​3 Significant     ​Yellow             ​Red               
KR #3: Preservation of digital documentary heritage (Loss of access to the AV Collection)
KR #4: Long-term accommodation and technological infrastructure (Lack of Technological Infrastructure)

KR #6: Financial sustainability (Lack of resources for implementation)
​2 Moderate Green Yellow Red
​1 Low ​Green Green     Yellow
​1 Low ​2 Medium ​3 High

8.3 Risk Mitigation

Mitigation of the risks associated with migrating a collection of audio and video documentary heritage, as outlined in this strategy and in the action plan, will rely on:
  • a strategic approach to considering the preservation and access requirements of the entire collection, within established institutional policies and approaches
  • implementing a format-priority approach to migration
  • identifying standard target preservation formats
  • applying technology to automate, wherever possible, migration and metadata capture
  • facilitating ingest and management of digital collection material by Trusted Digital Repository services
  • obtaining financial and human resources necessary to accomplish migration of the entire collection over time
  • establishing equipment and infrastructure acquisition and maintenance programs, and
  • project management and governance to ensure efficiency, economies of scale, alternate service delivery, and collaborative ventures.



9. Considerations

Implementation of the Audiovisual Migration Strategy will mean that a wide variety of audio and video formats are transferred to file formats for preservation. This approach will reduce the risk of losing long-term access to this content but eventually these files will also require migration. However, the standardization of file formats in an IT environment will simplify future content transfers and allow costs savings to be derived through automation.

This benefit to future migrations can only be achieved if LAC's technological infrastructure is updated to handle the demands that will be placed upon it by the ever increasing amount of digitized audiovisual content that will be generated upon the implementation of this strategy. LAC's Trusted Digital Repository must be scaleable and robust to manage audiovisual content once it exists in digital form.

Finally, to aid in both current and future migration efforts, LAC will have to increasingly seek out partnerships and supply arrangements.  

10. Appendix

10.1 Audiovisual Collection Content Summary by Format

The following table presents an overview of the main audio and video formats that have been acquired by LAC. This summary provides a count by format as well as some highlights of the significant holdings representing both the archival and published areas of the collection.
Media Format No. of Archival Recordings Content Descriptions
of Archival Collection
No. of Published Recordings Content Descriptions
of Published Heritage
Total no. of Recordings
Audio Wire 29
  • Prayers and ceremonies recorded in a Montreal synagogue
  • Speeches and talks by Jean-Berchmans Michaud
0   29
Audio Dictation
  • Election campaign talks from the Liberal Party of Canada
  • 1961 conference entitled The Artist in a National Community
  • Telephone conservations between diplomat Arnold Cantwell Smith and diplomats from other countries
0   54
Audio Piano rolls 0   222
  • Music in a variety of genres
Audio 8 track 18
  • Mohawk prayer recorded at the time of the Oka Crisis
  • Published recordings of music of all genres released by major record labels, small independent labels, individual musicians from the 1960s-mid 1980s
Audio Reel to reel
  • Peter Stursberg oral history interviews
  • Opportunities for Youth/Great War in Canadian Society interviews from 1974 with people about their memories of life in WWI
  • Carleton University Institute For Canadian Studies oral history interviews with Canadian Broadcasters
  • Speeches and interviews with Pierre Elliott Trudeau 1969-mid 1970s
  • Radio Canada International Broadcasts
  • Randy Bachman, Oscar Peterson and Paul Bley recordings
  • Opera
  • Spoken word
Audio Cassette
  • Single most comprehensive record of unedited speeches and interviews of the Prime Ministers from 1968-2003
  • Oral history interviews of CBC staff
  • Interviews done in Inuktitut and other languages for the Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project
  • Oral history interviews of war veterans for Royal Canadian Legion
  • Interviews of Supreme court judges
  • Published recordings of music of all genres released by major record labels, small independent labels, individual musicians
  • Spoken word
Audio Digital Audio Tape
  • CBC and Radio-Canada radio concerts and documentary series produced for the networks
  • Jim Vallance, Ben Mink, Dan Hill and Raffi fonds
0   1,744
Audio Digital Audio Stationary Head (various) 509
  • Duke Street Records
0   509
Audio Disc (various) 69,117
  • CBC/SRC programs from 30s-60s are the single most comprehensive collection of Canadian radio for that period
  • Radio Canada recordings from 1945-1980 in various languages
  • Glenn Gould and Raoul Jobin recordings
  • Published recordings of music of all genres released by major record labels, small independent labels, individual musicians
  • Spoken word recordings
Audio Mini disc 40
  • Interviews recorded by CBC Radio producer Bob Carty for use in CBC Radio network documentaries
0   40
Audio CD (various) 702
  • Jean Chretien and Paul Martin speeches and interviews recorded by the Privy Council Office
  • Published recordings of music of all genres released by major record labels, small independent labels, individual musicians
Video 2" Quad 7,255
  • CBC
  • SRC
  • Episodes of TVA's program Les Moineau et les Pinson
  • CTV
  • Columbia Picture Television
  • Programs produced by Pierre Berton's production company, My Country Productions
  • 1976 Olympics
0   7,255
Video 2" Helical 4,223 Unique copies of:
  • CBC
  • SRC
  • CTV
  • Global
0   4,223
Video ½" EIAJ 1,072
  • Interviews by Joan Murray with Canadian artists
  • Recordings of ballets from Toronto Dance Theatre
  • Art videos from Art Metropole
  • Videos from the Marshall McLuhan fonds
  • Videos funded by the Canada Council
0   1,072
Video D1 14
  • Video copy of feature film The Undertakers Weeding
  • Television programs in the series Femme, une historie inédite
0   14
Video D2 2,155 Unique copies of:
  • CBC
  • SRC
  • CTV
  • TVA
0   2,155
Video Betamax 1,792
  • Public hearings of the Beaufort Environmental Assessment Review Panel in 1983
  • Videotaped proceeding of National Research Council lecture series, "Physical Sciences in the '80s
0   1,792
Video Optical disc 6
  • Masters for the Beyond the Printed Word exhibition
  • Feature films
  • Television programs
  • Documentaries
  • Educational/training videos
Video 1" Reel
11,360 Unique copies of:
  • CBC
  • SRC
  • CTV
  • TVA
  • Inuit Broadcasting Corporation
  • Government of Canada productions used to promote and communicate policies and programs
0   11,360
Video ¾" U-Matic
  • House of Commons daily proceedings from 1977-mid 1990s
  • Proceedings of Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries
  • Productions by the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation
  • Productions funded by the Canada Council
  • News conferences held at the National Press Theatre in the 1990s
0   45,768
Video HI8 (various) 134
  • Footage related to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
  • Ben Mink fonds
0   134
Video Betacam (various) 18,818
  • Productions funded by Telefilm
  • Productions funded by the Canadian Television Fund
  • Unique copies of CBC Newsworld
  • Unique copies of TVA news stories from 1982-1989
  • Canadian Public Affairs Channel programming in French and English
  • CBC coverage of events at Expo 86
  • Brian Mulroney non-broadcast footage
  • Interviews with John Turner
0   18,818
Video DVCAM 20
  • Matt Zimbel fonds
  • Raffi fonds
0   20
Video VHS 17,535
  • Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry (ex Somalia)
  • National Press Theatre Conferences late 90s-2006
  • Oral history interviews of veterans for the Royal Canadian Legion
  • Recordings of National Arts Centre performances
  • CBC Newsworld
  • First five years of TQS
  • TV-5
9,189 Legal deposit of:
  • Feature films
  • Television programs
  • Documentaries
  • Educational/training videos
  • Music videos
Video Mini DV 13
  • Oral history interviews with former CBC presidents
0   13
Video HDCAM 4
  • Master videos of recent Canadian fiction short films
0   4
Video DVD (various) 486
  • Productions funded by the Canadian Television Fund
  • Productions funded by Telefilm
  • Jean Chretien and Paul Martin speeches and interviews recorded by the Privy Council Office
  • Feature films
  • Television programs
  • Documentaries
  • Educational/training videos
  • Karaoke
  • Music videos


  • Audio signals can be recorded on to carriers that were designed to carry video signals (for example, VHS, Betacam, HI8). Any audio material recorded on a traditional video carrier has been counted as a video recording for the purpose of this migration strategy.
  • Not included in this count are approximately 9,000 multimedia kits. Multimedia kits consist of two or more physical parts in different formats. Cataloguing conventions in Published Heritage did not dictate that the format of the various parts be identified. This material will have to be surveyed to ascertain what formats they actually contain. The legal deposit of multimedia kits commenced in 1978 and it is therefore assumed that the majority of kits that contain audiovisual materials are on formats that are at a lower risk of obsolescence. 


1 Bill C-36: The Library and Archives of Canada Act
( defines recording as anything that requires a machine in order to be used, regardless of format or medium.

See Appendix 10.1 for an overview of the formats and contents in LAC's audiovisual collection.

Exceptions should be made where a creator's choice of original format is a deliberate component of the artefactual value of a recording (for example, experimental video art).

As defined in Managing Audio-visual Records in the Government of Canada, ( audio recording is an auditory signal encoded on a physical carrier while a video recording contains both visual and auditory signals recorded on a magnetic tape.

As defined in Managing Audio-visual Records in the Government of Canada, ( motion picture film contains visual information and sound recorded as a sequence of photographic images on a perforated plastic strip.

While it is recognized that certain portions of LAC's motion picture film collection are at high risk of physical deterioration (acetate film) and format obsolescence (non-35mm film gauges), motion picture film as a whole is judged to be at a lower risk of content loss than the audio and video recordings. Additionally, the standards and technology for the digitization of motion picture film are not yet at a stage where digital migration can be considered as a preservation option.

The LAC Preservation Policy Framework is currently under development but these principles were developed after considering LAC's business and strategic directions as they apply to collection stewardship.

The LAC Digital Preservation Policy,
Section 2.C.1.6 states "The primary strategy employed at LAC is a file format migration strategy."

The format-based approach to migration prioritization is elaborated in the LAC Audiovisual Migration Action Plan: Phase 1, 2009-2014. The Action Plan details the obsolescence level of each format held by LAC and ranks each format for migration.

LAC's mandate is elaborated in the Library and Archives of Canada Act (

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