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The Albanian Film Archive: part of European heritage

Guest post by Eriona Vyshka, collection manager at the Albanian Film Archive (AQSHF). AQSHF recently published 300 video’s to Europeana via EUscreen.

The Albanian Film Archive is responsible for managing (storing and maintaining) all historic film materials and receives deposits of contemporary Albanian films. More than 100 years of Albanian history is documented through the moving images printed on film and rolled in 44.000 reels piled in the 6 vaults of the Albanian Film Archive. Dating back since 1911, these collections are an important part of the national heritage as they represent all the social and political milestones the country went through.

The film archive was part of the Kinostudio: the first and only film production company established by the communist regime in 1952 and financed by the Soviet government, with whom Albania had close political and economic relationships. After the Kinostudio dissolution in 1992 and a dark period of 6 years, the film archives re-gained their status as an Albanian cultural institution.

Kinostudio main corpus building, which now serves as premises of the Ministry of Culture. Photo credit: Boudewijn van den Breemer

Being an isolated country and given the strong hold the Albanian state had on its film industry  (for more than 40 years), our unique collections are of great artistic and documentary value and of unique importance to international film and cultural history.

Promoting and publishing content
To meet our goals for preserving and making available the little known Albanian cinema to European and international audiences, we have fully accepted and supported the collaboration and help from Europeana and EUscreen. It has been amazing to see international archivists, filmmakers and film lovers giving their support and sharing their advice with us. Especially with the possibility to present and promote a part of our collection online.

We managed to publish a selection of 300 videos at Europeana. The items are a selection of our main collections: documentaries, newsreels, fiction and animation, with a focus on documentaries and newsreels. These films were produced between 1945-1990 and give a wide picture of Albania’s history, challenges, lifestyle, art and folklore. The works are all produced by Kinostudio, a state-run film company in the time Albania was under the communist regime.

Still from newsreel/documentary Kur vjen Nentor

The Aggregation Process
AQSHF has an internal database, J-ISIS, designed by UNESCO for library collections and personalized for our film collections by Albanian IT specialists. Our IT colleague Reimond Kucuku made a special effort to enrich our data in line with Europeana’s metadata quality recommendations. He created CSV files to be able to aggregate them using EUscreen’s MINT tool, thanks to Eve-Marie Oesterlen and Erwin Verbruggen’s help and assistance in the aggregation process.

Record on J-ISIS
Record on MINT

All videos displayed on the Europeana portal are linked with the Online Archives of our website where they can be played after a free registration and login with username and password (as a protection and users identification mechanism). Not being able to play the videos directly created a barrier for the aggregation to Europeana, but this was solved by our webmaster who managed to bypass the protection mechanism by using descriptive XML files. For this reason, users of the Europeana portal will have to download our video and play it from their computer.

Record on Europeana

Being part of European heritage
Being part of Europe’s largest cultural heritage platform has great significance for our Albanian film archive. Art and culture know no geographic or political barriers. Their power to link countries, people and cultures is so amazing and we are much excited to see the collection from a small European country like Albania become part of online European heritage and ready to be easily discovered and explored.

This feeling and excitement accompanied me and my colleague Reimond throughout the whole process of collaboration with Europeana and EUscreen and we are grateful that this happened!

Eriona Vyshka