The third session of our conference, “Historical Views on Curation”, was dedicated to the presentation of papers relevant to the upcoming issue of VIEW, the Journal of European Television History and Culture. VIEW is the first peer-reviewed, multi-media and open access e-journal in the field of European television history and culture. It offers an international platform for outstanding academic research and archival reflection on television as an important part of our European cultural heritage.
The speakers, Matteo Treleani, Lisa Kerrigan, and Jean Christophe Meyer, presented their research findings on the use of archives in new productions, and the session was opened and moderated by Claude Mussou, head of InaTEQUE (INA).
Misusing Archives | Matteo Treleani
Matteo Treleani (@mtrele) is an Associate Professor in Communication Studies at the University of Lille 3. He holds a PhD in semiotics from Paris Diderot University and a Master Degree from Bologna University. From 2008 to 2012 he worked as a researcher at the Institut national de l’audiovisuel. He has been a lecturer at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Sciences Po and University of Luxembourg. He is author of Mémoires audiovisuelles. Les archives en ligne ont-elles un sens? and co-editor of Vers un nouvel archiviste numérique. Photo by Sebastiaan Ter Burg / CC BY-SA.
Treleani addressed the critical topics of use – and specifically the misuse – of archival materials in documentaries and television programs. He pointed out that often, older audio visual material is re-edited to bring past events closer to the present viewer. Treleani used several examples to illustrate examples of practice, for example, the colorization of old material is often a means of filling the gap between past and present.
During his presentation Treleani posed some interesting questions, such as; is the colorization of Marlene Dietrich’s blond curls a good or a bad approach? Or does it matter if a street presented in a documentary is actually located in a different country than the documentary would suggest? Should images be used for what they represent and is the re-use a way to manipulate the viewer?
Treleani concluded that the ‘rhetorical use’ of footage can work to increase the appeal to present viewers. However, the re-use of footage can potentially rob the material of its original contextualization and authenticity.
Plundering the Archive and the Recurring Joys of Television | Lisa Kerrigan
Lisa Kerrigan (@kerriganagain) joined the British Film Institute (BFI) as a television curator in 2008, having previously worked for the British Universities Film and Video Council and at the BBC, where she catalogued Radio 4 news and current affairs. She selects television programmes for preservation in the BFI National Archive and assists with BFI projects as well as writing for BFI DVD booklets, the Mediatheques and the BFI website. She is currently working on Visions of Change: the evolution of the British TV Documentary, a season of television documentaries from the 1950s and 1960s which will be accompanied by DVD releases. She is one of the organisers of Home Movie Day London. Photo by Sebastiaan Ter Burg / CC BY-SA.
Kerrigan presented her research into the BBC 2 series ‘Plunder’, which ran during the mid-1960s as part of the discussion series Late Night Line-Up. The series was devoted to archival material from the BBC and centered mainly on showing excerpts from programs dating back to 1955 and earlier. A large number of programs from before these times are missing, which makes ‘Plunder’ all the more unusual. Kerrigan focused on the production of the program, which allowed television to “live in its own past.”
The archival excerpts in the program were presented by Michell Raper. The excerpts could include interviews or interlude films. She showed some great examples, such as a recording by Orson Wells about the hazards of being a critic, and footage from the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco. Kerrigan was also involved in a recent BBC and British Film Institute produced documentary series called Visions of Change on the evolution of the British TV documentaries.
Histoire Parallèle/Die Woche vor 50 Jahren – Lieu de mémoire? | Jean Christophe Meyer
Jean Christophe Meyer is a Senior Lecturer for German Studies, French Studies and History at the University of Strasbourg (France). His research is focused on the History of European Sports Media, of French television and the History of French-German Relations. His thesis is entitled Television Broadcast Football and its Reception by the Press in France and Germany (1950-1966): The Completion of the “Great Stadium”, a Conveyor of National and European Identity. It was realized in “cotutelle” under the joined direction of Professor Sylvain Schirmann (Institut d’Études Politiques – Strasbourg, France) and Professor Franz-Josef Brüggemeier (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany). Photo by Sebastiaan Ter Burg / CC BY-SA.
Meyer’s talk focused on the television show “Histoire Parallèle / Die Woche vor 50 Jahren.” The show aired on La Sept and Arte from 1989 until 2001 and presented newsreel materials exactly 50 years after they were released. The show would end with a fifteen minute interview with a scholar, usually a historian, by the French historian Marc Ferro.
Meyer pointed out that the show was very unique in its transnational character. It largely covered the time period of World War II and provided the viewer with parallel images of different countries’ involvement in the war, and a view of their different forms of propaganda. At the same time it provided a parallel between the present and the past, allowing viewers to experience the war in the present. Marc Ferro’s format allows for the contribution of archive material to European memory.
All of the papers in this panel addressed use, reuse and in some cases misuse of archival materials. The use of archival materials out of context often places greater demands upon the audience; will they know what they are looking at; how is the context being framed for them; is what they are seeing ‘real’? These debates also touch on issues of curation and how archival material can be contextualised by experts and by users themselves.