Henry Doorly Zoo Digital Preservation Case Study

Working through the Omaha Zoo Foundation, Universal Information Services' Digital Preservation Division was able to clean, restore, and digitize over 60 years of historical media.

“Preserving the legacy of our zoo and having the ability to access and use important documents and media in the future is imperative. I can’t stress enough how pleased I am with the work Universal did to ensure that future zoo directors, curators, veterinarians, and the public will be able to benefit from what we did over the last 60 years. And it’s not only zoos that Universal helps. While I was there they were providing equal efforts in assisting museums, historical societies, corporations, universities, and non-profit organizations.”

“Unless our history is preserved we may find ourselves victims to the coming digital dark age. We must be able to access our past so we can continue to improve the future.”

Lee Simmons Henry Doorly Zoo

Dr. Lee Simmons

CASE STUDY: Digital Preservation Fuels the Future for Omaha Zoo Foundation

The following comments and case study are provided by Dr. Lee Simmons

As director of the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska for nearly 40 years, we created many groundbreaking innovations in that time. Our pioneering procedures allowed us to improve husbandry, genetics, and medical care for zoo animals and plants that were in danger of becoming globally extinct. We captured much of what we did on film, video and thousands of photographs. Digital preservation of 16mm film by Universal Information Services

As technology advanced, our ability to simply review, analyze and use our historical media had been greatly diminished.

Having access to 16mm film projectors for playback is almost impossible. Even our early video formats are nearly impossible to find playback devices for, unless you also have an archive of historical video equipment within reach.

With this in mind The Omaha Zoo Foundation partnered with Universal Information Services to systematically clean, restore, and digitize our important history so current and future research and education could benefit from what we had accomplished.

With over 100 years of experience in the media monitoring industry, Universal Information Services has developed a best practices model for not only digitizing historical media, but restoring it so the resulting digital files can quickly and easily be re-purposed today and tomorrow.


By applying their Five Step Preservation Process, Universal Information Services helped our Zoo Foundation bring new life to important media that had languished for years in storage.

  1. They first met with me to establish a clearly defined set of objectives. Their interview process starts with what the Zoo Foundation envisioned as an end product, so they could better map out a procedure for surpassing that expectation.

  2. Once our objectives were established, Universal helped us analyze the scope of our project so we knew exactly what historical media we wanted to restore and what the costs would be.

  3. By utilizing a “chain of custody” process, Universal was able to take our historical media assets from our site to their production facility without ever losing command and control of our irreplaceable media. This was extremely important to us as improper handling, or even loss or theft, could devastate the important archive we had built.

  4. Once Universal had possession, they employed their team of professional production staff to evaluate the condition of our media. They then began the painstaking process of cleaning and restoring our media. As we learned, there are many companies that can digitize old media, but very few are willing to completely clean and repair your media prior to the transfer process. I feel this greatly improved the outcome of our digital transfers.

  5. How our digital files were to be preserved for the future dictated the digital formats Universal created from our analog media. We wanted to ensure that we could easily access the resulting files with commonly available software. We also wanted to be sure that the formats chosen would have a long life and could be transcoded easily in the future. Clearly, preservation is about making sure important media lives on for many generations to come.

The Value of Digital Preservation

As a result of the outstanding preservation work Universal provided, I have been able to share my historical media with other pioneers in the Zoological and medical fields. Whether providing them with a digital file, restored from film that shows a record setting diagnostic procedure in New Orleans, or delivering film from the early 1950’s documenting a nearly extinct wild cow, the preserved files are helping further the understanding, health, and preservation of animals around the world.

Dr. Lee Simmons
Omaha Zoo Foundation Board Chairman
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Director Emeritus

Digitally Restored and Transferred Media

MiniDV Transfer

16mm Film Transfer


White Bengal Tiger Digital Transfer from Negative

Polar Bear Photo Negative Digital Transfer

Orangutan Negative Transferred to Digital Tif file

Photographic Color Negatives

See, measure, share... it's that simple

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