The Balkans brim with history. The Balkan’s Memory project attempted, for the last three years, to reach out and bring tools to the region to preserve it. An ambitious goal, uniting film and television archives from across all different countries in the region.
In Sarajevo, the project celebrated its achievements with a final conference, at the majestuous Hotel Europe – home to European diplomats and others with interests in the region. Squarely positioned next to the city’s Ottoman-style old town, it was the perfect location to talk about the future of the past.
Balkan’s Memory is a project led by the French Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (Ina), the Mediterranean Permanent Conference for the Audiovisual (COPEAM), the Croatian Audiovisual Centre and the National Film Archive of Albania (AQSHF). With support from the European Commission, it set up a series of conferences and symposia in Zagreb, Tirana, Belgrade, Podgorica and Skopje (the latter also home to this year’s FIAF conference). Together they explored the various skills an audiovisual archive needs to go well into the 21st Century.
What Archives Need
Both Sead Bajrić and Ella Pavlovic from Bosnian broadcaster BHRT stressed the importance or re-establishing a network and links that over the years had gotten lost. As ministers Denisa Sarajlić-Maglić, Deputy Minister of Civil Affairs, and Minister of Culture Ivica Sarić stressed, especially in a time where the budgets for culture areas low as they are, it remains important to research common activities in the region. Especially in the Balkans, which experienced events that didn’t contribute to the preservation of anything, it’s most important to look ahead and apply best practices for preserving cultural objects.
As Delphine Wibaux (Ina) explained, archival practices can be summed up and taken up in a three-year project like this quite nicely. The assumption at the start of the project was that to preserve a region’s audiovisual heritage, what’s needed is a combination of political wilingness, money, knowledge & competences. Out of this assumption came 3 main actions that, in cooperation with EBU, were implemented by:
- Raising awareness among decision-makers on the necessity to invest in archive preservation
- Analyzing the situation of av materials
- Exchanging know-how between the archives.
The project set out to achieve these actions by executing complete appraisal of archives collections of PSM and Film archives and the region. Another outcome was that out of the project an operational team arose as a think tank of public service media heads of archives.
What Archives Can Learn
Daniel Teruggi (Ina) set out to give an overview of the history of archival concepts and the relationship between giving access and digitizing collections. Traditional notices of archives are in direct contradiction to the digital paradigm, in which access has become the most important driver for digitisation, rather than storage and long-term record keeping. Mimi Gjorgoska Ilievska stressed the importance of archives exchanging networking & training. Examples of this need were given by Blago Markota (HRT), Dana Mustata (RUG) and Christel Goossens (EBU).
Markota detailed how the Croatian broadcaster’s policies are informed by working in an international context, with domain networks such as FIAT/IFTA, EBU and the Europeana family through EUscreen. Mustata explained how the Television Studies Commission of FIAT/IFTA aims to use the gathered brainpower of media academics to inform archive collection’s selection policies and methods of providing access to the public in a supra-national setting. Eastern European content specifically is extra hidden under behind a language barrier. The commission set up a Training & Studies grant for young researchers. Its next workshop will be held at TVR Bucharest in March 2015 on the topic of Unlocking Broadcast Archives in Eastern Europe. Ms. Goossens talked about the EBU’s partnership programme, which was set up to provide EBU members who find themselves in difficulties with scholarships, consultancy and ‘solidarity packages’. The broadcasting union received funds from the EU to develop public service media broadcasters’ strengths in the Balkan region, the results of which will be presented in 2015. Ms. Ilievska closed the training part with an overview of film-related activities done by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), namely the Film Restoration Summer School, and the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (ACE) , which set up a series of workshops to improve film archive management policies.
What Archives Can Achieve When They Collaborate
Saša Tkalec from the Croatian Conservation Institute moderated the panel on collaboration, in which the
European Film Gateway was presented by Aleksandar Erdeljanović from Belgrade-based Yougoslavian Cinematheque. Erwin Verbruggen explained the ins and outs of the work we do in EUscreen.
Jean-Gabriel Minel told the riveting story of how Ina built a moveable digitisation station that was shipped across the seven seas to aid archives across the French territories to digitize their collections. Snežana Radonćić from RTCG and Aleksandra Cerović from the Cinematheque in Montenegro showed a successful collaboration between their organisations for film preservation.
The final round table them discussed the different existing ways of financing and on which criteria they select the projects they want to support. Eriona Vyshka from the Albanian film archive AQSHF moderated. Antonia Kovacheva, whose organisation BNFA has had to move 19 times over the past decades, presented her dream of financing the preservation of film collections in Bulgaria. One nightmare came true last week, when a tabloid spread the news that one of Bulgaria’s blockbuster movies was lost – while it was simply available in the film archive. Nobody had called them to verify the story. Sanja Ravlić from the Croatian Audiovisual Centre explained how she is pushing and lobbying to include audiovisual heritage in the strategy of Croatia’s funding for digitizing cultural heritage. Camille Martin (Ina), one of the co-organisers of the conference, finally presented the Save you Archive programme, which is financed by FIAT/IFTA.
The End – A New Beginning
As such, the event was jam-packed with information and brought archive keepers together from across several borders, sub-domains and specializations. We are specifically looking forward to seeing the results of all this knowledge sharing as more open and accessible Balkan archives in the near future!