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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
fall 2007| 50 |buddhadharma of work that must somehow be managed. Like impermanence itself, the process of staying ahead of impermanence is never-ending – and slow-mov- ing. “Roshi said that my job will never be done,” says King Dexter, who has been working to digitize the collection from his studio in Colorado Springs. “My main concern is digitizing and archiving the original as quickly as possible. Since most of the digital conversion has to be done in real time, the process is quite slow.” For San Francisco Zen Center, as with many urban organizations functioning in tight quarters, simply having enough room for an archive is an issue. “Do we want more shrine room space for practitioners or do we want to preserve old talks?” says Wenger. There’s always a trade-off. Even renting an extra office won’t solve the problem, because analog collections require climate-con- trolled storage for maximum longevity. A stable, controlled environment is important because tape gets damaged when exposed to rapid changes in temperature. If the air gets too dry, the magnetic layer flakes off and the tape can crack when han- dled. Water damage or high humidity causes the binder that holds the magnetic data on the backing to dissolve, and the tape literally goes “sticky.” Climate-controlled storage was a real obstacle for San Francisco Zen Center. “We didn’t have enough space, period, let alone a state-of-the-art facility,” says Wenger. Yet with the help of Mark Watts, who established an archive for his father, Alan Watts, Suzuki Roshi’s archive, still mostly on analog tape, was moved to Watts’ climate- controlled facility in 2000. The Shambhala Archives is housed in the base- ment of Shambhala’s headquarters in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a damp seaport city. The location doesn’t seem ideal, but it was the only space that could be made available, so the sangha worked hard to ensure that the climate in the basement wouldn’t pose a problem. The ceiling was retro- fitted with a rubber membrane. In the event of a leak from the building above, water is shunted to the floor, causing an alarm to activate. An air conditioner designed to run at temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit (when most people would want heat, not cooling) helps to cope with humidity, along with several strategically placed household dehumidifiers. These humble appli- ances kick in when expensive, high-grade sensors tell them to. Restoring an analog archive is a daunting ven- ture and can take a lot of ingenuity. Carolyn Gim- ian, founder and former director of the Shambhala Archives, was left with a mass of cassette and reel- to-reel audiotape and half-inch videotape. Jim Wheeler, a conservation expert Gimian met at an archiving conference, designed a low-tech, low- cost method for preserving half-inch videotape. “He sketched the design for this crazy contraption on the back of a napkin. It consisted of, among other things, the suction head from a Remington electric shaver.” Gimian had the device built and assembled a team of staff members and volunteers to painstakingly vacuum the dust off the original videotape so the images could be digitized. Master files are cleaned up (above) then remastered audio files are copied on a CD replicator (below). (Bottom right) Chris Levy of Shambhala Archives digitizes talks recorded on 1/4” tape. Photos:sanDrakiPis,FroMthEcollEctionoFthEshaMBhalaarchivEs