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Which format do you use to store your memories? Are they on a series of VHS tapes somewhere in your parents’ garage? Do you inexplicably hold on to a drawer full of film negatives from the late 80s? Is your shoebox of old mixtapes still in that box you haven’t touched since you moved into your new apartment? Chances are, you have hours upon hours of video and audio recordings that have been rendered unusable by their very nature. Well, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is here to change that.

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Last year, the REcollection Studio opened its doors to the public on the third floor of the Oakland branch. If you’ve never ventured past the second floor of the library, the Pennsylvania Room is worth a lingering visit. This is the place to come to quench your thirst for genealogical research, to explore the Pennsylvania history collection, and to dig into the Pittsburgh Photographic Collection. But walk past the room’s timeline of technologies—stacks of newspapers, rolls of microfilm, drawers of microfiche, rows of desktop computers—and you’ll find the REcollection Studio nestled in the back corner.

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The awesome thing about this studio is the level of equipment the public has access to. Sure, you can take an old roll of film into your local drugstore and maybe (and that’s a big maybe these days) get it developed. But wouldn’t you rather sit down and spend some time with those pictures of your grandad from his Navy days? Wouldn’t you rather that recording of your great-grandmother be digitized by someone who’s not a total stranger? Every computer in this room is loaded up with all the software you might need to transform your outdated formats into digital files, and you have access to high-quality scanners and hardware that could cost thousands to buy on your own. The library operates this room with a DIY model, and a trained staff member or volunteer is available to guide you through the process. All you have to do is book an appointment, and you’re one step closer to giving your memories new life in a digital world.

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If you want to learn more about this innovative library service, don’t miss this Saturday’s Historic Pittsburgh Fair. Get preservation advice from archivists, bring in your old film reels for Home Movie Day, make crafts with historic materials, and even play a round of Pittsburgh Trivia. Swing by Oakland from 11am-2pm on November 3rd for a time to remember! (Get it?)

Tess Wilson

Tess Wilson is a public librarian who loves talking loudly about data literacy and online privacy. Beyond her library work, she is an arts educator and an advocate for mentorship. She's a collector of many things, from small rocks to big books.

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