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Memory Lab

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The Memory Lab is a do-it-yourself space that provides equipment for digitizing materials such as home movies, audio tapes, recipe books, and family photographs. The Lab educates and empowers customers to preserve their personal history and family stories for generations to come. Accepted formats at the Lab include VHS tapes, cassette tapes, photos, documents, photo negatives, and slides. Lab access is free, but users are required to sign up for three-hour appointments. The Memory Lab is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Missouri State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

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Why should I care about personal archiving?

Digitizing personal records has numerous benefits. First, it can help keep you organized. Personal collections never stop growing and can include everything from home videos to family recipes. Digitizing these materials will increase their usability and make them easier to locate.

The digitization process also aids in taking care of these items. Although digital copies of analog materials are not perfect, they do provide one more location where your treasured items can be stored and taken care of for future use.

Lastly, the preservation of your personal collection is important because it helps tell your story. The documents and recordings that we or our ancestors produce are part of a larger legacy that leaves a cultural history. Digitizing your collection at the Memory Lab is an important step in the process of preserving that history and passing it along to future generations.

Preparing for Your Appointment

There are a few things you can do to prepare for your Memory Lab appointment and make the most of your time. First, make sure the items you want to digitize are accepted at the Lab. To do this, review the Formats Accepted section of this page. 

You should also ensure you have a storage solution accessible before your appointment. You can use a USB drive, an external hard drive, or a cloud solution such as Google Drive. If you are using an external hard drive and plan on digitizing VHS or cassette tapes, your external hard drive must be in exFAT format to make it compatible with a Mac.

You can also prepare your materials to make sure they are ready to be digitized once you arrive. This may involve removing letters from envelopes or photos from frames. It is also a good idea to watch or listen to any VHS or cassette tapes if you have a way to do so at home. This will help you know which sections you want to digitize before your appointment.

What to Expect at Your Appointment

Upon your arrival, you will sit down at the Memory Lab, be given instructions related to your materials, and begin the digitization process. Remember, the Lab is a do-it-yourself space. Staff will be on hand to assist you should an issue arise, but the digitization process is meant to be fully completed by the user.

The speed at which your materials can be digitized is largely up to you and the Memory Lab’s equipment. Scanning documents and photos takes about two to three minutes each considering setup and actual scan time. Digitizing audio and video takes longer because the recordings are digitized in real time. For example, if you have an hour-long VHS tape you want to digitize, it will take an hour to capture that video, plus some additional time to save the file and convert it to a compatible format. 

Digitization Instructions

Memory Lab users utilize printed instructions to learn about and complete the digitization process. To view and download PDFs of these instructions ahead of your appointment, click on the format(s) of your materials below:

Rules and Policies

In addition to abiding by MCPL’s established policies, users of the Memory Lab must adhere to specific policies intended to enhance their experience. Users will be required to read and sign a Memory Lab policy document before beginning their appointment. View the Memory Lab’s policies.

Memory Lab Release Form (PDF, 177KB)

Resources

Contact Info

For questions about the Memory Lab, email MCPL staff at memorylab@mymcpl.org.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I walk into the Memory Lab, or do I have to make an appointment?

Appointments are required for patrons hoping to use the Lab. Book an Appointment

Can I just drop off my items and pick up the digital copy later?

No. The Memory Lab is a do-it-yourself space. We provide the equipment and directions for you to convert your materials.

How do I save my material after it is digitized?

You are responsible for providing your own storage solution for your digitized material. You can use a USB drive, an external hard drive, or a cloud solution such as Google Drive. Please note, if you are using an external hard drive and plan on digitizing VHS or cassette tapes, your external hard drive must be in exFAT format to make it compatible with a Mac.

Can I store my digitized files on the Memory Lab computer?

No. You must bring your own storage solution for your scanned files. The files will be removed from the Memory Lab computer after each appointment.

What should I bring for my appointment?

You must bring the materials that you are digitizing and a storage solution such as an external hard drive, USB drive, or login for a cloud storage solution. You are also welcome to bring a book or something to pass the time if you plan on digitizing long sections of audio or video.

What formats can I digitize?

The Memory Lab can currently digitize cassette tapes, photos, single and multi-page documents, photo negatives, photo slides, VHS tapes, and 8mm film (reels only).

How much can I accomplish in a three-hour session?

The speed at which your materials can be digitized is largely up to you and the Memory Lab’s equipment. Scanning documents and photos takes about two to three minutes each considering setup and actual scan time. Digitizing audio and video takes longer because the recordings are digitized in real time. For example, if you have an hour-long VHS tape you want to digitize, it will take an hour to capture that video, plus some additional time to save the file and convert it to a compatible format.

Are food and drink allowed at the Lab?

No. For the protection of Memory Lab equipment and your materials, food and drink are not allowed.

What is the Lab’s age policy?

Customers aged 13 and under must have a parent or guardian present with them while in the Lab. Patrons aged 17 and under must have signed parental consent.

Do I need to sign a release form to use the Memory Lab?

Yes. View the Memory Lab’s release form (PDF, 177KB). The Lab will have printed forms that you can fill out before your appointment, or you may review and fill out the form at home and bring it with you to your appointment. 

Will the Library keep my digitized material in a library archive?

No. Mid-Continent Public Library will not be archiving material digitized at the Memory Lab. It is strictly for personal use by patrons. Any material left on the Memory Lab computer after appointments will be deleted.

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