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Here’s what it’s like to restore 2,000 tapes of Alaskan history

Angie Schmidt thinks of her job in terms of time travel.

As an archivist at the Alaska Film Archives, she is constantly looking through old footage that people submit to the organization from their personal collections. “I think it’s about the closest job you could have to being a time-traveler, and that makes it really special,” she said.

Schmidt works to preserve all this footage, which ranges in format from 35mm film to Super 8 film, among others. First, she usually puts the film into the archives’ cold storage to halt the process of decay; then, she works on transferring it to a more current format.

Right now, she is working to restore a collection of 2,000 tapes for the “Alaska Review” project, which will help document events that took place in Alaska during the 1970s.

“It’s a constant struggle, it’s a constant race,” she said. “We’re always struggling to get scenes off of one decaying format to another format.”

Schmidt grew up in Iowa and lived there for 25 years, earning a degree in journalism from Iowa State University. She moved to Alaska to pursue a wildlife biology degree and worked in the photo lab at the library, which led to her current position.

This report originally appeared on PBS member station Alaska Public Media. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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