Conference notes: The Three R’s of Archival Video

Author: Erwin Verbruggen

 

EUscreenXL gathered in Rome last week for our conference on the users and usage of audiovisual archives: “From Audience to Users: Engaging with Audiovisual Heritage Online”. In this series of blog posts we’ll fill you in on what happened.

Last week was a busy one for audiovisual archivists! The week in which we celebrated  the World Day of Audiovisual Heritage saw no less than six events related to our moving image heritage – not to speak of the International Federation of Television Archives‘ world conference in Amsterdam, which we visited the week before. In Mexico, the SIPAD symposium was teaching a generation of Latin-American archivists how to care for AV heritage. In Switzerland, EUscreenXL partner EBU, the European Broadcasting Union, gathered a group to discuss the technical merits of archival operations, the importance of metadata (including for EUscreenXL) and strategic questions such as whether public broadcasters have a duty to provide archives.

Drawing made at the EUscreenXL Rome Conference by Montse FortinoIn Spain meanwhile, the Europeana network came together to discuss how it would update its ways of collaborating to continue being the hadron collider for cultural heritage. And as Ina’s training team was teaching novices to the field how to take care of moving image materials in its FRAME series, and the Federation of Film Archives’ executive committee met in Stockholm, we, archivists and academics linked to the EUscreen network, joined each other in Rome to discuss topics, tools and triangulations around giving access to broadcast and moving image materials that have withstood the tests of time.

The Rome conference we set up filled two days – one in which we focused on stories and examples from the field, and one in which we spent discussing in various workshops. Meanwhile, the conference was also the location for the General Assembly of the EUscreen network and for scholarly activities, such as a meeting of the European (Post)Socialist Television History Network and the editorial board of EUscreen’s VIEW Journal of European Television History and Culture. So in a nutshell: a lot of words being exchanged, a lot of bonds reinforced and a lot of ideas shared. This was truly a week in which the famed double helix of preserving and giving access to audiovisual heritage, as Peter Kaufman so eloquently put it once, was at the heart of the conversation.

Archives on YouTube

Italy’s Ministry of Culture has a representative for film culture. That is in and of itself a remarkable feat and – if you ask us – a sign of being an utmost civilized nation. Mr. Nicola Borrelli opened the conference, stressing the importance of film and audiovisual heritage for the country and mentioning it as one of the most important issues of the current Italian presidency of the European Union. Our morning speaker on the first day was Mr. Roger Felber.

An example of a clip British Pathé made more Relevant to contemporary audiences by changing its title.

 

Picture taken at the conference by Maria Drabczyk/Quirijn BackxMr. Felber is a British business man with an impressive track record, whose investment group owns the British Pathé collection. His opening talk may seem like a strange choice for EUscreenXL. Why put all this effort in developing a portal such as EUscreen to then open your arms to organisations who use YouTube? While it is true that the series of projects and collaborations that brought forth EUscreen predates the existence of the video mogul , it is of course no stranger to EUscreen’s members. Various organisations, such as Cinecittá LUCE, TV Romania’s archives and Sound and Vision, have made substantial amounts of video available through Google’s platform. While for archival curation many of us question its lack of rich metadata, for example, there are obvious advantages to using the platform – audience reach being high on that list. What we hoped to learn from Mr. Felber was how this reach can be seen, thought of, explored and improved upon.

The Three R’s

His experiences did not disappoint. As Mr. Felber admitted, his organisation does not move without it resulting in “cold, hard cash” – an approach that the mostly public service directed organisations in EUscreen are less prone to. Mr. Felber relayed the steps his organisation had taken to publish its 95.000 videos online in one go. After discovering many of their films had already made it online via private persons’ interests and unvetted activities, the organisation decided to make the jump. YouTube has a robust advertising scheme and a fingerprinting algorithm that allows content owners to redirect the advertising income from third party or individual uploaders they would’ve otherwise missed out on. A win-win situation for British Pathé’s rights holders.

Mr. Felber then – without the use of PowerPoint or presenter’s notes – kept his audience captivated with his story of how the group focused on creating impact with the collection. He bundled British Pathé’s lessons for audience reach in a maxim consisting of three R’s: Regularity, Relevance and Reliability. Publish materials with a dependable regularity, make them relevant to the people who need to see them and make sure you can be considered a reliable source.

An important lesson for British Pathé – and a rather frightening idea to the researchers in the room – was that changing the titles of the videos made them more find- and clickable – a lesson mirrorred by recent developments in the publishing world, where ‘clickbait’ titles and title-focused enterprises such as Upworthy are all the rage.

British Pathé puts music under all its silent clips, unlike this film fragment from the Cinematek in Brussels.

 

Picture taken at the conference by Maria Drabczyk/Quirijn BackxIn the panel that followed suit, project coordinator Eggo Müller welcomed Sonja de Leeuw and Mark Williams at the table to discuss specific parts of the online delivery process. Topics included questions such as audience specificity – a general audience consisting of many smaller niche audiences – and the true meanings of audience engagement. Markedly different were the approaches to media the academic researchers in the room voiced – their primary concern is that of the untouched, true original.

Another hot topic for discussion – recurrent in the EUscreen family – was that of allowing free access to a collection that is used for footage licensing. The balance was decidedly positive: besides generating extra income via YouTube’s advertising, the British Pathé collections have become much more known because of its publication, and footage sales have increased in never before served territories.

Linda Kaye closed the Q&A session with  a comment on the resources of the metadata. In British Pathé’s tumultuous history, its original paper archive was once tossed in the bin, rescued from there and now available for researchers at the British Universities Film and Video Council. A challenging anecdote to close this session, that reunites the need for a broad audience reach with the importance of the daily grinds and duties of archive operations.

 

Drawing made at the conference by Montse Fortino.
Pictures taken at the conference by Maria Drabczyk/Quirijn Backx

The Value of Audiovisual Archives

Try imagining all the world’s existing audiovisual material: all the films ever made, plus the television footage ever shot, plus all the sounds once recorded – add the scientific and military observations and home videos, the (super) 8 mm recordings, the YouTube generation’s creations. Then, try to visualise not the kilometers of celluloid or optical disks or hours and lifetimes it would take to see it all, but what the possible value of all those sounds and images would be.

Do they indeed, as the author of the just released report Assessing the Audiovisual Archive Market, Peter B. Kaufman, proposes, form a sort of crude oil – ready to be refined, reassembled and made into a new creative product?

In the same way that oil, pumped from the ground, is refined and then used to fuel transportation and industry, or iron, mined from the ground, is smelted into steel and used in construction, so audiovisual materials mined from the archives form part of the backbone of information, com- munication, and our creative knowledge economy, worldwide.

Assessing the Audiovisual Archive Market

Assessing the Audiovisual Archive Market: Models and Approaches for Audiovisual Content Exploitation was commissioned by PrestoCentre, the international competence centre for digital audiovisual preservation. It explores the ways that a audiovisual archives have been “examining, appreciating, and even embracing business and commercial interactions in the digital age”. The report takes a look back at 124 years of audiovisual archiving and how the challenge of preserving moving images and sounds has reached increasing levels of complexity.

This increased complexity, not in the least caused by the advent of digital production and storage methods, leads to a mirrored exchange between the access and preservation tasks of the contemporary archive: twin missions, as Kaufman calls them, that “twist around each other like the double helix of a modern memory institution’s DNA.” The paper investigates the forms and methods audiovisual archives have been approaching to fund this double mission and how they have shifted some of their attention towards possible cooperation with businesses and even taken advantage of existing commercial opportunities.

new opportunities for cultural heritage institutions to develop business models, revenue streams, and business knowledge — and in the process gain an even greater appreciation for the role they play in media, society, and our economies today — abound. This paper, focusing as it does on such opportunities, may provide activists in the field with inspiration and support.

In order to define the value of an audiovisual collection, one needs to get a clear idea about the costs involved – by mouth of one of the interviewees, the report states that “use has begun to define value”. Inversely, an item that is not well preserved, cannot be found and thus not used by anyone, ever again. The paper stresses the importance of access as a form of open access: the value that lies in use, sharing, reuse can only be realised when unrestricted online access allows participant from different online realms can use web tools to popularise and contextualise the assets. The paper intends to suggest that in the double helix between preservation and access, “support for one is support for both”.

It also underlines the need for the audiovisual archiving field that in dealing with the multi-billion dollar business partners who are currently so important for finding, exploring, discovering and buying media on the web, the field of archives and museums needs to be well aware of its value and importance, as well al the sensitivities we share and the experiences we’ve had.

No agent has been retained to represent the interests of libraries, archives, and museums, in the way an author or musician might retain one. No lawyers have been hired to pore over the body of agreements to date and highlight best practices for the community. No working group focused exclusively on improving public-private partnerships has been assembled and charged with a mission and a deadline. If the commercial sector is investing hundreds of millions of Euros, and a hundred billion are needed, we had better get started.

7 Recommendations

The report offers 7 Recommendations and proposes the development of four new tools for a smarter (re-)use of audiovisual archival content. The recommendations are:

  • Audiovisual archives should consider themselves part and parcel of the knowledge economy.
  • Audiovisual archives should recognize that multibillion-dollar businesses are growing based on materials they curate; and as a result their institutions deserve to participate in the revenue these materials are generating, in the knowhow that they are contributing, and in other direct and indirect benefits these materials are making to the world.
  • Audiovisual archives more than anything need something approximat ing an old-fashioned guild, where collective knowledge can come to rest, and where business savvy from attorneys, dealmakers, and others might be fielded and centralized.
  • The field needs to hire, in effect, an advocate — perhaps a sanhedrin of wise men and women who can look after its collective interest and help it argue on its own behalf and on behalf of the public sector.
  • When approaching business relationships, audiovisual archives should consider the arrangements from the perspective of their commercial partners, recognizing that the strongest players in the audiovisual marketplace are in the business now for the long term, making strategic rather than tactical investments in the sector.
  • Archives should recognize in particular the value of their building comprehensive metadata resources and optimizing their audiovisual resources for search and discovery.
  • In the audiovisual archive world, archives have been dealt a strong hand. They need to recognize that audiovisual material now and over time will be the most sought- after assets to monetize.

The reasoning behind these recommendations and the well-recommended, 30-page report, are available for download as a PDF in the PrestoCentre library.

Related reading

  • Economies of the Commons 3: Sustainable Futures for Digital Archives – http://ecommons.eu – Conference outcomes, November, 2012
  • EUscreen Publishes its Second Online Access to Audiovisual Heritage Status Report – http://blog.euscreen.eu/?p=3235 – July, 2012

SOIMA2013 Expert Course

Safeguarding Sound and Image Collections

DATES 23 September – 16 October, 2013
PLACE Nairobi (Kenya) with study visits to partner institutions

Today sound and image records account for a large portion of the world’s memory and are found in diverse cultural institutions. As documents of intangible heritage and contemporary culture they are of immense value; yet, archives, museums, libraries and other cultural institutions around the world are struggling to conserve their sound and image collections in both analogue and digital formats. Moreover, conservation of sound and image materials is complex and requires specialized guidance, skills and infrastructure. While digitization offers new possibilities for wider access and preservation, many institutions lack expertise to assess the technological implications and to make informed choices that do not strain institutional resources and at the same time respect the authenticity and inherent values of this heritage.

The course will provide an overview of issues related to the preservation and access of sound and image materials e.g., photographs, films, video and audiotapes, and digital materials. It will discuss the value, meaning, selection and use of sound and image collections in various institutional contexts, exploring the potential of sound and image media in transmitting knowledge and cultural traditions. Initial sessions will especially focus on identification of various formats including the playback equipment, life expectancy of media and ways of detecting deterioration. Additional course topics will include: current knowledge and practices for documenting and cataloguing, media handling and storage, risk assessment of collections, emergency preparedness and response, criteria and technologies for migration and reformatting, planning preservation projects, outsourcing options, digital preservation and management. Issues such as curating and access, copyright laws, legal deposit, and institutional and national preservation policies will be discussed in context with participants’ working realities. Adaptation to technological changes and related cost-effective preservation strategies will form a key component of the course.

Objectives

At the end of the course, participants will be able:
1) to recognize materials and media in their sound and image collections,
2) to identify the risks to such collections,
3) to make informed choices for preservation and access within given means;
4) They will have improved their skills to communicate effectively across disciplines and to work in teams.

Course Methodology

The course will comprise lectures, a variety of group activities, practical sessions, case studies and site visits. Significant time will be allocated for independent consultation with the course team. Case studies for the course will be based on participants’ inputs and will address issues and challenges identified by them. Thus, active involvement of participants will be sought during the course preparation phase. A follow-up programme, will involve working on self-defined initiatives in participants’ home institutions and communicating as well as networking through a platform supported by the organizers.

Participants

The course is aimed at professionals working with mixed collections that have sound and image records of national or regional significance. In particular, it will interest archivists, collection managers, conservators, curators and librarians in charge of preserving such collections in various cultural institutions around the world. It will also interest Information Technology professionals working on projects involving digitization of sound and image collections or allied professionals and managers working for broadcasting institutions. Preference will be given to people actively involved in teaching and advising.
A maximum of 22 participants will be selected.

Organisers

  • ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property)
  • TARA – Trust for African Rock Art
  • In cooperation with: National Museums of Kenya

Teaching Team

International team of recognized experts identified through professional networks of the partners.
WORKING LANGUAGE: English
COURSE FEE: 900€

Travel, Accomodation and Living Expenses

Participants will be responsible for their round trip travel costs to and from Nairobi (Kenya). In order to cover living costs during the course, participants should plan for a minimum total allowance of approximately Euro 1200. This sum would include the costs of accommodation in moderately priced hotels identified by the organizers. Candidates are strongly encouraged to seek financial support from sources such as governmental institutions, employers and other relevant funding agencies. . ICCROM may be able to offer a limited number of scholarships to selected candidates who have been unable to secure funding.

Application

Please use the course application form at http://www.iccrom.org/eng/01train_en/forms_en/2013_SOIMA_applfrm_en.doc and send it by e-mail to Soima2013@iccrom.org. Please note it is mandatory to include the statement stating your reasons for applying. Application deadline: 1 March, 2013. Applications without the statement of intent will not be considered. Should you be sending the application by mail, please send to the following contact address: SOIMA 2013-Collections Unit, ICCROM, 13, via di San Michele, 00153 ROME RM, ITALY.

Third EUscreen Conference: Conference Programme

For those spending time with us next week at the EUscreen conference, hosted at Budapest’s ELTE University, here’s the final conference programme. For those who cannot attend, as we did for the previous conferences, we will make sure to write reports about what’s being said and done. Soon, after the conference, video registrations of all sessions will be made available on our webcast site. Have you not registered yet? Go to http://euscreen2012.eventbrite.com. For info about logistics, visit ELTE’s conference site at http://mmi.elte.hu/euscreen/.

Thursday 13th September

  • 09.30 – Opening and welcome

Key note lectures

  • 09.45 – Lynn Spigel (Northwestern University, USA): TV Snapshots: An Archive of Everyday Life
  • 10.30 – Wilfried Runde (Deutsche Welle, DE): Media Game Changers – Social Media and Data-driven Journalism

11.15    Coffee break

  • 11.45 – Eggo Muller (Utrecht University, NL): Television Heritage Online: From Accessible to Participatory Archives
  • 12.30 – Round table (chair: Sonja de Leeuw, Utrecht University)

13.00    Lunch break

EUscreen showcase

  • 14.00 – EUscreen achievements. (Coordinator feat. WP leaders)
  • 15.10 – eJournal presentation. (Andreas Fickers, Maastricht University)
  • 15.30 – EUscreen Virtual Exhibitions

16.30 – Conclusion of the day (Sonja de Leeuw, Utrecht University)

Friday 14th September

Workshop: EUscreen best practice applications showcase. The exploitation of broadcast material in the field of learning, research, leisure/cultural heritage and creative reuse.

  • 09.30 – Opening and welcome

Key note lecture

  • 09.45 – Jamie Harley (FR): Rearranging the Past – Found footage videos today

Case studies

  • 10.30 – Irina Negraru (TVR, RO) and Dana Mustata (Groningen University, NL): Television History Goes East: TVR’s Heritage in EUscreen
  • 10.50 –  Aleksander Lavrenčič and Katja Šturm (TV Slovenja, SI): The Portal 20 Years of Slovenia: Gallery of Documents, Stories and Memories
  • 11.10 – Xavier Jacques-Jourion (RTBF, BE): Exploring the past: web experiments at RTBF

11.30    Coffee break

  • 11.50 – Attila Nemes (Kitchen Budapest, HU): Remote Life: Video Based Artistic Research and Future Scenarios for ICT
  • 12.30 – Panel discussion (chair: András Bálint Kovács, ELTE)

13.00 – Closing of the Conference (Sonja de Leeuw, Utrecht University)

Report on Semantic Interoperability with Europeana

EUscreen released a new public deliverable this week, titled Report on semantic interoperability with Europeana.

The deliverable illustrates the technical platform created to support interoperability. It describes the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), which is the chosen technology for exporting metadata items to Europeana. OAI-PMH is a low-barrier and widely used mechanism for repository interoperability. In the context of the EUscreen project, OAI-PMH provides a mechanism for interoperability between the Ingestion Tool and various other modules or platforms.

It also presents the mapping between EUscreen elements, which have been modeled on the EBUcore metadata standard, and the so-called ‘Europeana Semantic Elements’ standard maintained by Europeana. The document was written by Vassilis Tzouvaras, Kostas Pardalis, Marco Rendina and Johan Oomen.

Download the deliverable at: http://pro.europeana.eu/documents/864473/c2aff7f4-2ad4-4793-aa85-8cd3b31d93a7

EUscreen releases Online Exhibitions

The EUscreen collection includes thousands of items. To help users get the most from the EUscreen material, researchers, experts and members of its partner broadcasters and audiovisual archives have created a series of online exhibitions. These exhibitions cover historical events, political debates and everyday life in Europe.

The current release, visible at http://www.euscreen.eu/exhibitions.html, brings online 10 different exhibitions, some of which are divided into subchapters or strands. The exhibitions are created by archivists, researchers, and enthusiasts.

These inter-archival exhibitions add new meaning to a wonderful collection of unique television materials and make them accessible to a different and larger audience; soon, visitors will be able to create their own stories and add more connections between the richness of 60 years of television history in Europe. Expert knowledge and a fascinating range of materials combine to offer exciting exhibitions on a wide range of subjects. A fine example of such an exhibition is the exhibition Being European, which brings together source materials from providers across the continent and is divided in multiple strands that showcase what European culture and identity may signify.

The tools designed for these exhibitions allow for the insertion of multimedia materials from all the project’s content providers and link back to the original items on the site, where users can find out more about them, share the links or get in touch with the providers themselves. Many more exhibitions will become available over the next couple of months and EUscreen is working hard to get the tools ready for everyone to start creating their own exhibitions.

 

 

 

Links

The Key to More Access: UK Launch Report

Report by Sian Barber

Friday 2nd December 2011 saw the UK launch of the new EUscreen portal. This event took place at the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) Annual General Meeting at the Royal Geological Society in Piccadilly, London. Eve Oesterlen from BUFVC and Dr Sian Barber from Royal Holloway University of London presented the EUscreen project to an audience of 70 guests.

The focus of the event was ‘more access’ and a variety of presentations on different projects demonstrated how this issue informs and influences BUFVC activity and how the EUscreen project fits into this agenda.

Sian Barber outlined the aims of the EUscreen project and highlighted the innovative nature of the content selection policy, explaining how functionalities like the virtual exhibitions and the content provider special collections will offer different user experiences from the rest of the portal. The technical side of the project was also used to demonstrate the complexities of EUscreen with Eve Oesterlen offering a brief overview of the challenges of the metadata scheme and working with different partners, different languages and individual workflows. Sian then suggested how EUscreen content could be used and drew attention to this material as a useful resource for students, scholars, teachers and casual browsers. The presentation and portal launch focused on the objectives of the project, what has been achieved so far and how EUscreen content offers exciting research and teaching and learning possibilities. The presentation concluded with a showing of the EUscreen promotional video and a suggestion that the audience explore the EUscreen portal for themselves. Following the presentations, a number of people queried what would happen to the EUscreen site and its material once the project was completed. It was felt that such careful work and such rich content should remain available as a resource.

Launching the EUscreen portal at this event offered the site to a new audience of those who work with audiovisual resources within education. The enthusiastic response of many people to the EUscreen portal, its content selection policy and detailed metadata schema demonstrates that there is a great deal of interest in the project and that the material is viewed as a useful resource for both teaching and learning.

Other highlights

Other highlights of the day included a presentation by Hetty Malcolm-Smith on the BUFVC Shared Services project. This ambitious project is based on a feasibility study and aims to link up the BUFVC collections of TRILT and TVTip with BoB National and data feeds from broadcasters, Channel 4 press packs and Higher and Further Education Institutions. The project also aims to include access to VHS recordings to help create the richest source of data for education in the UK and will begin by evaluating the possibilities of such a service.

One of the key resources for the shared service project will be the Channel 4 Press packs which are currently being fully digitised as part of the 1980s project at the University of Portsmouth. Dr Justin Smith (Portsmouth) and Linda Kaye (BUFVC) introduced this four year project which began in April 2010 which will have academic outputs but will also offer a context to the digitisation process. Each page of the press packs will be created as a PDF file to ensure that it can be individually identified and to improve access for the end user. Digitising the material in this way also offers access to the related and contextual data which surrounds the core information.

The final presentation of the day focused on other projects which involve the BUFVC, notably the Chronicle project; a collaboration with JISC and the BBC which will provide restricted access to news material from BBC Northern Ireland from the 1960s and 1970s.

See also

UK launches EUscreen

On Friday, Dec. 2nd, The British Universities Film & Video Council, together with Royal Holloway University of London, will announce the EUscreen project to the audiences of Great Britain during a conference titled The Key to More Acces. Eve-Marie Oesterlen and Sian Barber will present the project in their presentation, titled: Screening Europe – Europe on Screen.

The Key to More Access

How improved data and a single search-box can open the door to greater content

Friday 2 December 2011 (10.30am onwards)

The Geological Society, Piccadilly, London

 

A BUFVC forum to discuss how current BUFVC projects will result in improved and integrated access to moving image and sound content. The BUFVC will build on the ‘Power of the VHS’ events with the announcement of ambitious plans to join up television and radio holdings data held by both broadcasters & UK educational institutions with its own expanding integrated database.  The HEFCEfunded project will be another step closer to providinga ‘one-stop-shop’ for moving image and sound material.

Other projects to be discussed include:

  • BUFVC federated search – an innovative ‘all-in-one’ search engine accessing over 13 million records
  • Channel 4 & British Film Culture project
  • launch of latest EUscreen portal (Europe’s television heritage)
  • Chronicle: BBC Northern Ireland’s television news from the 60s and 70s

Presentations will include any issues faced during the project and how they were overcome to improve the end user experience and the resulting moving image and sound content.

Download a copy of the programme here (subject to change).

For more information: http://bufvc.ac.uk/events/keytomoreaccess

 

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