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“Working in an archive can quickly become a routine. So we must challenge ourselves in the field itself.”

An interview with historian, professor of Spanish Language and Literature and archivist researcher at RTV Slovenia Katja Šturm about her institute, her profession and the future of audio-visual archives.

Katja Šturm started working at RTV Slovenia as a history student in a part time assistant job on the EUscreen project in July 2010, shortly after its beginning in 2009. Together with her colleague Aleksander Lavrenčič she performed the selection, cataloging, contextualization and upload of selected audio-visual content on the EUscreenXL portal (now EUscreen portal) and Europeana. She gradually took on the rest of the tasks as a junior archivist at the TV Archive and Documentation of RTV Slovenia and proceeded with finishing her study at Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. Now she is a historian and archivist researcher at RTV Slovenia and currently working on archival documentation of all daily production programmes of TV Slovenia, with a special interest for the Yugoslav socialist regime and church relation as portrayed on television TV Slovenia between 1968 -1989.

How are the archives organized in Slovenia?
Television Slovenia is a national public broadcaster with three TV channels and represents the most important state-owned television broadcaster. Although regulations governing state archival activity are carried out and performed by the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, regional archival institutions and archival institutions of local self-government communities can be individual entities under public law whilst accomplishing Cultural Minister’s authorization. Such authorization for archival institution is granted on the basis of a special status of the entity under public law or special nature of the activity performed by the entity under public law in the field of science, higher education, culture or provision of information. Additionally the relevant entity needs to meet an appropriate premises and equipment as well as trained employees and sufficient means for the protection of its own archives.

In what way does RTV Slovenia promote access to the archive?
TV Slovenia makes sure access to archived material is available to the interested public. Yet the archival audio-visual material is primarily used by the staff and employees of television, radio and the internet multimedia centre in order to create new stories every day. A wide range of themes explored in the programmes and broadcasts over the past fifty years are an invaluable aid to researchers, scholars and students in their work; they are also a useful source to various cultural and educational institutions, such as museums, archives, galleries, schools, institutes and other similar organizations. Finally, they are an attractive addition to private collections and personal archives too.
Opening the archives to external users is not the primary task of the Archives and Documentation of TV Slovenia. Exterior users can settle their orders according to the Regulations on the Use of Archival and Documentary Material of RTV Slovenia. A user wishing to obtain archived film material from TV Slovenia must state in written form his or her intent regarding the exact use of the wanted material. After the request is granted by the management, a contract is drawn up, which binds the user to the use of the material according to the agreement and all applicable legislation, particularly in terms of copyright. The contract is verified by the legal department and sent to the user, who must sign and return the document. The requested material is then copied to a digital medium (usually a DVD), which is then sent to the user by mail together with the bill for the services, payable upon delivery.
Recent digital audio-video production can be found on the RTV-SLO website RTV 4D and is thus available to a wider public. The TV Slovenia archives also participated in EUscreen funded by the European Commission.

How does RTV Slovenia deal with the rise of new digital technologies?
Bojan Kosi and Martin Žvelc from the Mediatheque at RTV Slovenia observe that the updating in technology began in the middle of the 1980s, when a compact disk (CD) emerged as a new medium for recording sound in a digital form. A few years ago, the production of magnetic tapes became obsolete, and the same fate awaited tape recorders, which had been the technological backbone of all broadcasting institutions for decades. It was at that time RTV Slovenia began an intensive search for a new system that would provide permanent storage of digital recordings and enable the conversion of analogue media into digital format and thus their preservation. The project was compiled in 2004; and after the installation and testing of technical equipment a new department named Mediatheque was set up in 2007. The intensive work in the Mediatheque began in 2008, and after four years, RTV Slovenia can be proud of its modern system of permanent storage of audio content. Mediatheque employees are organized in three groups. The first group is responsible for digitizing and capturing the content, the second for checking the technical quality of the content and metadata, and the third for cataloguing.

Do you notice changes in the role of audio-visual archives in the last years?
From the beginning of my career I’ve noticed several changes. One is definitely the wider online access, due to the digital content presented on the official website and the more and more troubles we stumble upon while dealing with older material and missing contributors and consequently new copyrights and terms of use. People generally assume we are the ones to provide the user with all the details about the contributors for clearing the copyright, to the extent of providing a contact, which is especially hard when it involves older material, where there is no known information. There is a whole bunch of cases when we as the archivist become detectives trying to find contributors and solve the terms of use from the era before the internet and permanent online access to the current days when we are used to access everything online. We spent hours on something that is not primarily our occupation. Archive material is becoming more and more popular to illustrate certain current information and consequently that information is available online at all times. That’s where it becomes tricky.

What do you consider the most important themes in the future of the sector?
Important themes in the future are definitely exploring some of our precious material and giving it a proper story. Whether that is a film documentary using archival material or a curated online exhibition like what has been done with EUscreen’s Virtual Exhibitions. In doing so, events of national and international importance in all fields of human activities come to light in a rather attractive matter and many of now forgotten traditions are shown to younger generations in an educational way. In that way a glimpse of the existing archival audio-visual material becomes presented to a wider general public, giving various cultural and educational institutions a general sense of our entire collection.

What do you consider as the greatest professional challenges in the future?
To continuously train and widen our knowledge, abilities and skills. Working in an archive can quickly become a routine. And we must not allow that. So professionally I would say the biggest challenge is to be able to challenge yourself in the field itself. Be creative with audio-visually portrayed history. It so much more diverse than books.