November 2012, Volume 16, Number 5

Powerful Partnerships

Robot Revives Classic Videos

Richard Butmankiewicz and Lou Ellen Kramer
Richard Butmankiewicz, from Lighthouse Point, handed off his home movies and a box of videos to Wolfson Archives Manager Lou Ellen Kramer to be digitized and preserved.
Before arriving at MDC in the fall, SAMMArobot was previously used in Tanzania by the United Nations to digitize videotaped testimony about the genocide in Rwanda.

There’s a new MDC employee working evenings, weekends and even holidays at the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives. The SAMMArobot, an automated videotape migration system used by the Library of Congress and other heritage institutions to preserve moving images, will be digitizing the priceless visual history housed at the Wolfson Archives in the next two to three years.

With 35,000 hours of videotape and 23 million feet of film documenting Florida history throughout most of the 20th century, the Wolfson Archives faced a formidable task in providing broader access to its collection. The SAMMArobot automates parts of this huge job. It can be loaded with batches of between 48 and 80 videotapes and can convert up to seven tapes simultaneously, producing video files that can then be made available to digital filmmakers or online services such as YouTube.

This particular SAMMArobot was previously used in Tanzania by the United Nations to digitize videotaped testimony about the genocide in Rwanda. After the completion of that project, it was reconditioned and then purchased by the Archives thanks to a gift from the late Lynn Wolfson.

By acquiring the SAMMArobot, a digitization project originally expected to take decades will be done in just a few years. “The SAMMArobot will make it possible to bring our collection to the public a lot faster than we ever imagined,” said Archives Director René Ramos. “Once again we are grateful to the Wolfson family for ensuring the continued survival of Florida’s moving image history.”

To learn more about the Archives, which often feature home movie days, visit


— RR

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