Digital Archive Projects: Rethinking Media Studies Methodologies

On 18th July 2013, the EUscreenXL project was presented as part of the panel ‘Digital Archive Projects: Rethinking Media Studies Methodologies’ at the 25th International IAMHIST Conference held at the University of Leicester, UK. It was the second time EUscreen was present at the IAMHIST Conference, after the 24th International IAMHIST Conference themed ‘Media History and Cultural Memory’ at Copenhagen University in 2011.

 

Report by Berber Hagedoorn, MA (Utrecht University)

The International Association for Media and History (IAMHIST) is an organization of filmmakers, broadcasters, archivists and scholars dedicated to historical inquiry into film, radio, television, and related media. IAMHIST encourages scholarly research into the relations between history and the media as well as the production of historically informed documentaries, television series, and other media texts. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Childhood and the Media’.

The last decade we have witnessed an explosion of available digital databases and archives, and accordingly, the development of different tools to explore these archives in new ways. The panel ‘Digital Archive Projects: Rethinking Media Studies Methodologies’ discussed the possibilities and limitations of tools to explore digitised television, newspaper and radio archives for media scholars and historians. Each paper presented a particular project, its possible use for future research and a specific case study conducted by means of the tools. The panel was chaired by Luke McKernan (British Library, London).

Berber Hagedoorn from Utrecht University presented the EUscreenXL project, which aims to overcome the fragmentation of the audiovisual heritage sector in Europe and to make a growing collection of contextualised audiovisual content accessible and meaningful for diverse types of users, from the general audience, researchers and teachers, to professionals in the creative industries. Hagedoorn paid specific attention to the opportunities and challenges of the project and EUscreen portal for academic research. As a cross-national database of sources, the portal offers access to a range of audiovisual content in different languages, connected to various historical topics. Hagedoorn focused particularly on how the EUscreen portal and the use of European cultural resources lends itself to doing comparative research on the coverage of particular topics and genres across countries in Europe.

Martijn Kleppe from Erasmus University Rotterdam discussed the PoliMedia project, which showcases the potential of cross-media analysis by linking digitised transcriptions of debates at the Dutch Parliament with newspapers, radio bulletins, newscasts and current affairs programmes. Kleppe explained the workings of the PoliMedia portal and its possible future use for media scholars, discussing how the portal will allow researchers to browse for debates or names of politicians and analyse related media coverage, as well as evaluating debates in which politicians appeared and how they were covered in the press. As Kleppe pointed out, an advantage of the PoliMedia project is that the coverage in the media is incorporated in its original form, enabling analyses of the mark-up of news articles, newspaper photos, and televised programme footage.

Jasmijn van Gorp from Utrecht University presented the project BRIDGE: Building Rich Links to Enable Television History, in which she zoomed in on two tools developed by this project for exploration and contextualisation. MeRDES (Media Researchers’ Data Exploration Suite) enables comparative analysis between two individual items from the television catalogue of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision archives, through visualisations such as word clouds and timelines. Secondly, CoMeRDA (Contextualising Media Researchers’ Data) links different collections, including television programmes, national newspapers and television-related photographs, and enables simultaneous search across these collections. Van Gorp demonstrated how the discussed tools ‘bridge’ or build links between heterogeneous collections, therefore allowing media researchers, historians, and digital humanists to explore, analyse and compare (elements of) Dutch television history.

 

The discussion session highlighted the necessity of translation, in particular for transnational or European-wide archival projects. This is especially the case for EUscreenXL which, as an audiovisual online archive, is also more dependent on its metadata to allow researchers to explore the archive for relevant content. Translation and subtitling will therefore not only aid in the usability of the audiovisual content, but in improving the searchability of the EUscreen portal, too.

All presentations touched upon how analysing media coverage across several types of media forms or outlets is a challenging task for researchers. New digital tools to explore archives therefore allow researchers to study more and new sources as well as generating novel research questions. The panel enabled a fruitful dialogue with media scholars and historians, emphasizing the relevance for scholars in the Humanities to further engage in digital archival projects.

EUscreen, powered by the Europeana ecosystem – in support of #AllezCulture

By Johan Oomen – technical director EUscreen and Europeana Network Officer – @johanoomen

EMI CPS Emitron Camera Head on the Europeana logo Europeana has become the unifying entity that brings together collections from all domains: libraries, archives, audiovisual collections (both television and film) and museums. Alarmingly, Europeana’s future is under threat. In the next few weeks, Member States are expected to decide the EU’s budget for 2014-2020. The way the budget of the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility is allocated will determine how Europe’s rich heritage can be enjoyed, studied and repurposed. With this post, EUscreen would like to extend its full support to Europeana’s #AllezCulture campaign to secure EU funding after 2015.

The innovative hadron collider for the Cultural Sector

Europeana has evolved from a temporary project to a full network organisation. To date, it has successfully standardised and connected data from over 2,200 organisations, which cover all European countries and 29 European languages. An important, unifying asset for Europeana is that it serves as the innovative ‘hadron collider ‘ for Europe’s cultural sector. It does so by leading the movement towards open access, by harnessing the power of participatory culture and by implementing emerging IT standards in working systems. With a critical mass of content available online, the exploration of new applications by the creative industries are now taking shape. By making collections available online, interest is raised in both the public and commercial sectors. EUscreen for instance has already seen an increase of footage sale requests from the content that is made available through the portal.

EUscreen and Europeana: part of the same ecosystem

Without support from the European Union, EUscreen would not exist today. EUscreen and its sister projects such as the European Film Gateway have been granted financial support within a wider EU policy on providing unified access to Europe’s audiovisial heritage. Today, Europeana provides access to over 181.000 audiovisual items, a number to grow exponentially over the next years.

EUscreen and Europeana are connected in many ways; they are part of the same ecosystem. Not only in terms of technical standards to make unified access possible. The vision is, and has to be, much more ambitious than that. In an online context where sharing is the norm, it becomes almost a necessity for memory organisations to make their collections available online in order to retain and support community interest. Collections and their users now share the same information space. As a result, organisations rapidly need to adapt to maintain their relevance in this changing environment. We already see how, in the current economic climate, public libraries and public broadcasters are put under pressure to continuously demonstrate their added value, also in terms of their direct economic impact. This can be difficult to measure, also given the changing context in which these organisations find themselves in. Memory institutions need to receive the necessary support to forge their future missions and services, collaboratively. The Europeana Network will play a key role here, as it has broad support across memory organisations, has deep understanding of various stakeholders and also the critical mass to make necessary policy recommendations heard.

EUscreen’s support for #AllezCulture

Over the years, EUscreen has become the leading network of television collection holders with a united vision to share the wealth of their collections to a wide and diverse audience. With support from EBU, FIAT-IFTA, PrestoCentre, IASA and other key stakeholders, EUscreen is making this vision a reality each day. Currently, 29 archives from 25 countries are connected to EUscreen. EUscreen provides free and non-commercial access to Europe’s history as captured in moving images. This collection will continue to grow, and so will the services offered through the EUscreen portal. For instance, by further supporting multilingual access through subtitles, or expanding the material on the open access portal. This summer, the EUscreen Foundation will be established, providing the legal framework that will govern the EUscreen network as it expands well into the future.

Again, EUscreen and Europeana are part of the same ecosystem, aiming to:

  • Make Europe’s culture available for everyone. Through search interfaces, but also online exhibits, crowdsourcing campaigns and so on;
  • Support economic growth, by supporting re-use of content by the creative industries;
  • Connect Europe’s citizens. To understand the past and to appreciate cross-cultural differences and commonalities.

#AllezCulture infographic

#AllezCulture!

Europe has collectively invested over 1.2 billion euros in digitisation. Europeana is the only platform that brings this data together and offers it for unlimited use. We have just begun to unlock its potential. We, therefore, urge the EU to allocate sufficient funds in the ‘Connecting Europe Facility’ to allow the Europeana Ecosystem to further expand and live up to its ambitions vision.

We encourage all audiovisual archives to express their support. Capture the attention and imagination of the people who influence decisions on CEF funding – raise your voice and share the successes and value that you have helped create via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and any other channels you can think of.

Please visit the #AllezCulture! Campaign page and see how you can help.

More information

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.

Med-Mem: Sharing Mediterranean Audiovisual Heritage

On October 12, a new multilingual website called Med-Mem was launched in Marseille. The portal aims to promote Euro-Mediterranean heritage through audiovisual archives from the region’s public televisions. With some 4.000 audiovisual documents available to the public free of charge, Med-Mem – co-funded by the European Union as part of the Euromed Heritage IV programme – is the largest online video archive library specifically devoted to the historic, cultural and touristic heritage of the Mediterranean.

Archival material from 14 regional broadcasters

Med-Mem is led by EUscreen partners Ina, the French National Audiovisual Institute, and Italian national broadcaster RAI TV, which contributed 400 historical documents, oversaw the digitisation of the database along with Ina, and trained the personnel involved. Also involved is EUscreen partner TV3 from Catalonia. Other partners of the Med-Mem project are the Rome-based Permanent Conference of Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators (COPEAM), Algerian public television (EPTV), Jordanian broadcaster JRTV and Morocco’s national broadcaster SNRT.

As the project puts it: Far more than just a shop window or a mere video catalogue, Med-Mem boasts an enriched interface and a high degree of editorial content, offering a multitude of entrance pathways. The large number of insights available means that each individual will be able to establish a personal pathway through the riches of Mediterranean culture and history.

Shared Mediterranean Audiovisual Heritage

Initiated by Ina under the auspices of COPEAM, the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators, at the request of the holders of audiovisual archives in the Mediterranean region, “Sharing our Mediterranean Audiovisual Heritage (Med-Mem)” offers the general public some 4.000 audiovisual documents from the countries in the Mediterranean area. The TV and radio archives, set into their historic and cultural context, are accompanied by a trilingual documentary note (in French, English and Arabic). Med-Mem strives to raise the profile of a common heritage, and underpins the drive to safeguard Mediterranean audiovisual archives.

Med-Mem targets various audiences:

  • The general public, and young people in particular will be able to freely discover the Med-Mem website, the riches of both their own heritage and that of other Mediterranean countries, and to gradually share and appropriate the Mediterranean cultural heritage.
  • Researchers, teachers and students will find audiovisual documents with commentaries on the Med-Mem site, offering a range of viewpoints for their research and teaching purposes.
  • The visibility of the audiovisual archives put online on the MedMem website provides Mediterranean broadcasters with a new opportunity to raise awareness about the safeguarding and digitalisation of this endangered heritage.

Partners in the Project

The project brings together 20 partners, including 14 Mediterranean television corporations, 3 professional bodies, and high-profile cultural and scientific partners. It forms part of a collaborative partnership, open to all Mediterranean audiovisual archives. The sharing of documentary and technical tools, of policies for safeguarding the audiovisual heritage, and of best legal practices, form an integral part of the project. A network of educational and cultural institutions (museums, libraries, universities, etc.) offer the public website consultation points to broaden its reach.

The full list of Med-Mem partners is:

  • INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel-France),
  • COPEAM ( Conférence Permanente de l’Audiovisuel Méditerranéen – Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators),
  • Rai (Italian Radio & Television),
  • EPTV (Entreprise Publique de Télévision-Algerian Television),
  • JRTV (Jordan Radio and Television – Jordanian television),
  • SNRT (Société Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision – Moroccan Television),
  • 2M-SOREAD (Sociéte d’Etudes et de Réalisations Audiovisuelles-Moroccan Television),
  • MMSH (Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme-France),
  • CMCA (Centre Méditerranéen de la Communication Audiovisuelle),
  • Biblioteca Alexandrina (Egypt),
  • Uninettuno (International Telematic University – Italy),
  • UER / EBU (Union Européenne de Radiodiffusion – European Broadcasting Union),
  • ERTU (Egyptian Radio and Television Union- Egyptian television),
  • HRT (Hrvatska Televizija- Croatian Radiotelevision),
  • PBC (Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation – Palestinian television),
  • IBA (Independant Broadcasting Authority-Israeli Television),
  • CyBC (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation – Cyprus television),
  • TV3 (Televisio de Catalunya-Catalonian Television),
  • TT (Tunisian Television)
  • Astram (Arts, Sciences et Techniques / Recherche Audiovisuelle et Multimédia- Aix Marseille University).

The website is accessible to everyone free of charge. Do take a look and visit: www.medmem.eu

Researching Film and Television Through the Archive

The National Film and Sound Archive's collection contains approximately 1.7 million collection items.

The one-day multi-disciplinary symposium Researching Film and Television Through the Archive, jointly hosted on November 9th 2012 by University of Warwick’s Department of Film and Television Studies and the Institute of Advanced Study, will explore the practices and implications of researching film and television through the archive.

Making the archive the basis of a project or incorporating archival research into an existing project can be an insightful, rewarding, and frequently also a frustrating experience. The symposium will offer a space for archival researchers from across disciplines to share practices, methodologies and experiences of using different types of archives to research film and television texts, contexts and histories.

Call for Contributions

Abstracts are invited for contributions that seek to further understand the possibilities and boundaries of conducting archival research. Contributions can take the form of a 20 minute paper – outlining research ideas related to the themes of the symposium – or a 10 minute presentation – discussing the practical, methodological or scholarly implications of using archival research as an aspect of film and television research.

Contributions are particularly welcome in the following areas:

  • Archival research methodologies
  • Why do archival research?
  • The allure of the archive
  • Practical aspects of using archives
  • Archiving policy and practice
  • The possibilities of the archive
  • The limits and limitations of archival research
  • The archive, impact and the REF

Abstracts (max 200 words), along with a short biographical note and a specification of the type of contribution you wish to make, are due by Monday October 8th 2012. Please send your abstract to Richard.wallace@warwick.ac.uk .

 

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