Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis (EVIA) Digital Archive

By McLane, Alec | Notes, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis (EVIA) Digital Archive


McLane, Alec, Notes


For information regarding the scope of this column, consult the headnote in the September 2011 issue. The dates of access for each review of an online source indicate the dates during which the reviewer was evaluating the resource. All Web sites were last accessed to verify availability on 1 November 2011.

Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis (EVIA) Digital Archive. Indiana University. Collaborative project between Indiana University and the University of Michigan, supplemented by funding from the Mellon Foundation. http://www.eviada.org. [Requires: Computer audio and video, Internet connection of at least 2000 kbps for high-resolution video, Web browser, JavaScript, Adobe Flash Player. Pricing: Free to registered individual users, groups, and academic institutions.]

This database of ethnographic video is not in the same category as traditional commercial electronic resources, and should probably not be reviewed in the same manner-where the range and depth of its content, and the ease of use, are balanced against price in order to help librarians make decisions on purchasing. Initiated through conversations between ethnomusicologists Ruth Stone of Indiana University and Lester Monts of the University of Michi gan on the need to preserve video recordings of their fieldwork in Africa, the EVIA Digital Archive project has sought to be much more than a mere presentation of searchable content, and its founders have attempted to create a structure where issues of preservation, documentation, and effective teaching tools are the main subjects rather than the means to an end.

With this in mind, it should be cautioned that the database's content so far is fairly modest, considering the enormous body of ethnographic video that exists and needs preservation. The specific reasons for the slow growth in content will be examined below, but one should bear in mind that the project was begun as a means to solicit video fieldwork from researchers and instruct them on the proper ways of digitizing and documenting their recordings, with the resulting digital archive serving as a sustainable body of teaching material-a kind of "if we build it they will come" model, rather than one that presents an already existing collection of material to the world.

The content, as of this writing, consists of nine "collections"-from Brazil, China, Ivory Coast, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Tanzania (two collections), and the United States-each contributed by one fieldworker. The "Collections" link from the EVIA home page describes a total of fortysix collections, which means there are thirty-seven still in production. These additional collections expand the geographic scope to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Russia, and several of them treat Jewish and African-American cultures in diaspora. In the course of the project, the "E" in EVIA has changed from "ethnomusicological" to "ethnographic"-clearly reflecting a desire to expand the scope of the material, despite the project's origins in the ethnomusicological community. While the contributors appear to be equally divided among ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, and folklorists, the overwhelming majority of the collections document performancerelated events-music, dance, ritual, and in a couple of cases, storytelling.

At the moment access to EVIA is offered for free "through selected academic institutions, groups, and by individual permission," according to its "Access to the Archive" page. From my own experience, I know that individual permissions have been granted at least to the entire membership of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and quite a few academic institutions have been given access, generally where the curriculum includes world music survey courses and courses that include discussions of ethnographic fieldwork. The project received funding from the Mellon Founda - tion, and the current phase, which began in 2009, attempts to move away from this funding and establish a sustainable service with income generated by subscriptions and "additional grant support. …

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