Audiovisual Archives in the Age of Access


The second workshop I put together in the context of the BOM-Vl project (one of my “jobs”). It’s invitations only, but if you’re really interested, just send me a mail.

Audiovisual Archives in the Age of Access.
New Concepts & New Policies

5 February 2009. 14:00 -17:30
De Zebrastraat, Zebrastraat 32/001, Gent.

The increasing use of digital moving image technologies, combined with their convergence with other media forms through different platforms and network technologies, poses great challenges to film and video archives worldwide. Archivists are not only dealing with the integration of rapidly developing technologies into their professional practice but also with a constituency of users whose expectations have been raised by the massive accessibility of audiovisual documents on DVD, Blu-Ray, P2P networks and video sharing sites such as YouTube. In this “age of access”, to use a expression coined by Jeremy Rifkin, a generation of users is trained in the belief that any and all primary materials should be a mere Google search away. But however versatile, cost-effective and easy-to-use these access tools are, there is still no known solution for long-term preservation of digital data that matches the performance – and experience – of film, and questions of longevity and (historical and technical) integrity are the subjects of tense debate. Digital culture has become the arena in which conflicting priorities in response to the demands of preservation and access have risen again, sharper than ever.

Wherever the answers to these complex philosophical, ethical and strategic issues may lie, there can be little doubt that “digital access” has become the keyword in the politics of the audiovisual archive. This has led to a reassesement of the archives’ role, practice and policy, as well as to an exploration of new business and financial models. For some, Public Private Partnerships may be a way forward. To quote Paolo Cherchi Usai: “We have come to the point where the identity and independence of moving image and recorded sound archives is confronted by the imperatives of the commercial world. In principle, everyone agrees that national collecting institutions should be independent from commercial imperatives. In practice, the commercial world is already within our gates, and it has been within our gates for quite some time. This is no longer a matter of whether or not we want to deal with it; it is a matter of how we can we deal with it without betraying our cultural mission”. How do cultural heritage institutions – and in extenso cultural policy – deal with these new paradigms? What are the opportunities and threats? Which sutainable partnerships and models of cooperation exist and how can they be set up? What is the role of national policy in this? What are the ramifications of this digitization for the public? What is the impact on archival institutions, and its continuing pursuit of its core mission and values?

These questions will be discussed during a workshop, organised in the context of the BOM-Vl project. Four international guests will enlighten their perspectives on the issues at hand.

14.00: introductions
14.20: Jeff Ubois + Q&A
15.00: Emjay Rechsteiner + Q&A
15.40: break
16.00: Thomas C. Christensen + Q&A
16.40: George Ioannidis + Q&A
17.20: Questions/Debate

Jeff Ubois is a Berkeley, California-based consultant on archival issues for Intelligent Television in New York; for Fujitsu Labs in Sunnyvale, California; and for the Preserving Digital Public Television Project at WNET/Thirteen in New York. Earlier, he was staff research associate at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California, Berkeley. For the Internet Archive, Jeff has worked on managing orphan works, the collection and retention of digital library usage data, and the launch of the Open Content Alliance.

Emjay Rechsteiner is program manager at the Dutch Filmmuseum for the project ‘Images for the Future’. He received an MA in Communications from the University of Amsterdam, and attended Film School at the New York School of Visual Arts. He has produced and co-produced several (awardwinning) movies and numerous commercials.

Thomas C. Christensen is M.A. in film studies from the University of Copenhagen. He has taught film studies at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Aarhus. In 1998 he was appointed Curator at the Danish Film Institute. He has supervised several full digital intermediate restorations and a series of DVD publications. In 2002-2004 He was involved in the EU project FIRST. Since 2003 he has served on the FIAF Technical Commission. He is currently involved in the EU project European Film Gateway.

George Ioannidis is a senior researcher, managing research and development in the Digital Media / Image Processing Department at the Center for Computing Technologies (TZI), University of Bremen, Germany. He received the Dipl.-Ing degree in 1993 and the Dr.-Ing degree in 1999, both from the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Greece. He managed and worked in many national and international research projects on digital libraries, such as GAMA (Gateway to Archives of Media Art).