The gateway to European audiovisual heritage

Search in:

Conference Notes: Content in Motion | Curating Europe’s Audiovisual Heritage: Opening & Session 1

Copyright: National Library of Sweden

Opening & Session 1 | Session 2 | Session 3 | Session 4 | Session 5 & Closing Keynote

Thanks to everyone who attended the 2015 international EUscreenXL conference. We hope you had a great time with us in Warsaw!

In this series of blogposts we’re re-visiting the conference and bringing you the details you may have missed, or wish to refresh. This first article covers the opening talks by Michał Merczyński and Eggo Müller, as well as the presentations of Harry Verwayen on Europeana’s framework for measuring impact, Liam Wylie on curation and dissemination at RTÉ, and Alicja Knast on enriching exhibitions with the audiovisual.

Opening words | Michał Merczyński | Eggo Müller

The conference began with an introduction from Michał Merczyński, director of the National Audiovisual Institute (NInA). Michał welcomed everyone to NInA and explained how the organization operates in relation to audiovisual culture. He clarified that as it is not a broadcaster, NInA does not has an archive, but rather gathers together material and collections from other organisations within Poland. Much of the work undertaken at NInA relates to curating and showcasing Poland’s musical and theatrical heritage with notable recent projects being the Three Composers.

After a further general welcome, the conference began with a keynote speech from Eggo Müller, Project Coordinator of EuscreenXL. In this speech, he drew attention to the progress made on the project and the projects’ overall ambitions, specifically to make audiovisual material available and accessible. In exploring the context of the project and its aims, he spoke around three broad themes; the supposed age of plenty, the politics of curation; and the ethics of curation.

In this so called age of plenty, more and more European heritage material is available online. Yet despite extensive digitization projects and while material is becoming increasingly available, what is available is but a tiny fraction of the whole. On the politics of creation, it was mentioned how many factors influenced and determined what is digitized. Different sites – often those with a corporate agenda or those with sophisticated algorithms – frequently set the agenda. A further issue raised was that online material is often focused around what is popular and what is most frequently looked at. Unpopular or infrequently viewed material is often lost or overlooked.

In the ethics of creation, it was noted that curation itself has become an active field in its own right and that the processes of curation are being fully considered, analyzed and critiqued as interdisciplinary methods. Transformative practices of curation, such as the creation and dissemination of user generated content, blur the boundaries between makers and users, amateurs and professionals, historians and software designers.

To conclude, Müller reminded the conference that projects such as EUscreenXL are not simply remembering the history and the ethics of television, but also the complicated and fractured history of Europe’s cultural evidence.

The first session was opened by Moderator Johan Oomen, head of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. In this session, the speakers explored the ‘Impact of Curation’. How does opening up archive material influence the archival organisations? What are the risks and benefits? How can the archival material best be made visible online?

The More You Give The More You Get | Harry Verwayen

Harry Verwayen (@hverwayen) is Deputy Director at Europeana responsible for the strategy, business and product development of Europeana, Europe’s Library, Museum and Archive. His main passion is the design and implementation of new business models that will support Europe in its aim to make our complete Heritage openly accessible for work, learning and pleasure. Prior to this Harry worked at the Amsterdam based think tank Knowledgeland where he was responsible for business model innovation in the cultural heritage sector. Harry holds a MA in History from Leiden University and has worked over ten years in the Scientific Publishing Industry. Mediocre football player, reasonable cook, aspiring photographer. Photo by Sebastiaan Ter Burg / CC BY-SA.

Verwayen’s talk illustrated how the Europeana network is contributing to Europe’s heritage. Europeana provides a network of archives, museums and libraries which allows audiences to discover and explore wide ranging content from all over Europe. Over the past 6 years Europeana has moved from a focus on preservation to enrichment to access and has now entered a new phase dedicated to the experience of AV content. These changes make a big impact on audiences as they emphasise social innovation and interaction with the content.
The project is inclusive and it is therefore possible to contribute small amounts of content, but as Verwayen reminded the audience, ‘the more you give, the more you get’, as detailed in Europeana’s Publishing Framework. The more content is provided, the more Europeana can do with it.

Verwayen explained that Europeana works with a model of 4 tiers;
First, the videos contributed to Europeana should be linked to the video file or a website where the video file can be accessed. Second, Europeana can be used as a distribution platform with a direct link to a video file. Third, Europeana aims to use reusable material for education context. Lastly, Europeana aims to make material as openly available as possible to allow for free re-use. This last tier reflects Europeana’s hope for a more immersive world. Europeana is already pushing for changes in that direction by taking on projects such as “GIF It Up” – a challenge dedicated to finding the best GIFs created from copyright-free heritage material.

Visitors of the Europeana website can make use of extensive search options within the video material, can preview the content on the website, and even download it if possible. Europeana provides more than bare data and is busy further improving their virtual exhibitions on their AV material.

Harry Verwayen left the audience with a call for action: to visit the Europeana website and share it with providers to convince them to participate and provide Europeana with feedback. He also suggested that users could also contribute by helping with translations of content.

Curation – What is it All About? | Liam Wylie

Liam Wylie (@rtearchives) is a Senior Curator and Content Producer at RTÉ Archives. He is responsible for the website He has worked as a film and television archivist and is a former head of collections at the Irish Film Archive. Through his own production company Red Lemonade Productions he has independently produced and directed archive based documentaries for RTÉ. In 2013 he won the FIAT/IFTA Most Innovative Use of Archive award and he was Content Producer for the RTÉ team, which received a special mention in the best transmedia experience at the 2015 Prix Italia. Photo by Bartek Syta / CC BY-SA.

Wylie explained that RTÉ, Ireland’s national public broadcaster, has been making audio visual content available online for the past ten years on the RTÉ Archives website. But he wondered that in an age where many people are collecting video material and are putting it online via many different portals, then what is the role of a digital institutional curator?

He explained that RTÉ aims to be “regular, relevant and reliant.” They offer their audience something new every day, by publishing content on their website seven days per week. Moreover, in the production of content, stories are created that appeal to the audience. RTÉ taps into its own archive to see if material relating to recent events is already there. For example, a story of a visit by Steve Jobs to Dublin was put online when a film about him came out. Content is made available in different ways, through exhibitions but also by reusing content that was broadcasted exactly 5 years ago. This content is also brought online through various media, such as twitter, vine, Facebook and word of mouth.

However, Wylie highlighted how RTÉ has also been active in bringing AV content into the real world. They have recently done this through different projects. The first was a public event in Trinity College focused on Ireland’s difficult relations during the First World War. A poster campaign was set up by matching photos of archival videos with intriguing quotes. Another project was part of the Cork film festival’s 50 year anniversary. Before each film, short clips were shown from 25 years ago. Last year, 100 years since Easter Rising, RTÉ created a video to put in a shop window to be visible for people on the street.

Wylie emphasised that throughout this entire process analytics are important as they allow you to know your audience and your core users. But of course, data only tells us so much and is it ever possible to quantify the audience’s sentiments? And how can we measure the value that the content gives to the audience? Wylie mentioned more extensive surveys as a way to gain more knowledge about such questions.

From his experiences at RTÉ, Wylie has learned much about digital curation. Some lessons which he passed on to the conference were; be clear about what you want to achieve, and be realistic. He also spoke about the importance of creating awareness externally and internally. His final message was to always measure the impact of what you do and to always be aware of the need to grow your audience.

Enriching Exhibitions or Making Shortcuts? | Alicja Knast

Alicja Knast (@atumitu) is a musicologist, manager, and curator; specializing in museum development. Director of Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice and Muzeum Górnośląskie in Bytom. Formerly CEO of the Core Exhibition at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and curator of Chopin Museum in Warsaw and Żelazowa Wola. She lectured at London Metropolitan University and worked as a researcher at University of Plymouth, UK. Member of ICOM, Museums Association UK, Higher Education Academy UK. Her publications are focused on organology, implicit learning, museums management and psychology of music. Photo by Sebastiaan Ter Burg / CC BY-SA.

Knast highlighted how institutions and professionals are seeking to build stronger narratives into their museum exhibitions, and one important way to do this is by including AV materials. But she wondered if museums are taking full advantage of the audiovisual archival content that is available to enrich their exhibition, or are they taking short cuts due to pressures of time and accessibility?

Knast takes four elements into account when considering the use of AV items in her exhibitions: the availability of content, how it fits into the exhibition design, the available time for research into the content, and the available budget.

Knast used the example of wanting to use a clip from a Gazebo music video in an exhibition about Chopin, to show how difficult getting the right type of access to AV materials can be. Although the Chopin institute was very well equipped with audio files, it was in this case not possible to get any AV files for the exhibition, and her plan had to be dropped. This example makes it clear that the accessibility of content has the most impact on the likelihood of that content being re-used.

The Polin Museum is a beautiful collaboration between associations and public partners. The exhibition provides a good example of how important AV content can be to the user experience. AV items are powerful and often elicit an emotional response from visitors. They must be treated as objects according to Knast, because they provide atmosphere and content in a similar way to other physical objects.

Knast also used the example of Muzeum Śląskie as an exhibition that uses AV materials, particularly in their covering of the tragedy of Katowice.

Knast explained that AV content can be very important to enriching an exhibition, however it is often very difficult to get access to that material. Museum curators need to visit archives repeatedly in hopes of getting access to the AV content they are seeking. In an ideal world a platform would exists that would allow for co-curation and better collaboration and museums in Poland would greatly benefit from more access to content.