The gateway to European audiovisual heritage

Search in:

Future past: will archives survive digitisation?

The evolution of preserving analogue through digital means is a recurrent subject and of great importance to the future of archiving. Do the people working in the archives have the relevant skills required for the future, especially in long term data storage solutions, metadata management? This is one of the challenges which British audiovisual institutions have progressively addressed over the last decades. Sue Malden (chair of FOCAL) highlighted a few of these challenges in her introduction speech during the FOCAL conference on February 21st 2018. Set in the London Studios in ITV headquarters, the conference reflected on the future challenges audiovisual archives face. This was brought by professionals and members of British broadcasting and cinematographic institutions. It’s time to gain a wider insight in the uncertainty of the future of audiovisual archiving.

The main speakers of the conference were Steve Daly (Head of Technology at the BBC Archive), Dale Grayson (Director of Content Management at ITV), Charles Fairall (Head of Conservation at the BFI National Archive) and finally Tom Blake (Director of Imagen). All of them spoke about the changes and challenges their institutions face.

The BBC collection and digital preservation by Steve Daly

The BBC has, of course, a lot of materials, including the largest musical recording collection of Europe. Their collection almost represents 10 Petabytes of data. However, a large majority of those contents isn’t actually digital native: for the last 10 years, the BBC has digitised a large part of their audiovisual elements. It essentially includes videotapes, and they were first looking to the obsolete materials. The BBC now has a full digitized preservation system. They don’t receive videotapes anymore; all steps of their processes are now fully digital. However some difficulties still remain: storing all the content they make as well as improving the accessibility of their collections, especially with issues regarding metadata.

Dale Grayson on the collection management of ITV

The ITV Archive collection started at the creation of the television channels back in 1957. In 2012, most of their content remained non-digitised. They began to align and inventorying their “old” archive materials as for their “new” archive process. However, they are now digitising on demand, but do not have a program for digitising. ITV is now receiving more and more digital content: they need to deal with an increasing mass of digital materials with all the challenges that implies in terms of media management.

BFI digitisation projects and actions by Charles Fairall

The BFI has just finished a five years program, leading 10,000 film items to be digitised. Curiously, one of the lessons they’ve learned over the last five years of digitisation projects is the importance of keeping their physical materials safe, with the proper preservation structures. In 2012, the BFI developed its own digital media management platform, in order to manage and distribute its collections. However digitisation remains an expensive activity, digital storage is as expensive as the old analogue means. Making the BFI’s collections more findable and usable in the future is now the newest challenge they face, and cloud services might probably be a solution both for preservation and distribution.

Tom Blake on what Imagen does 

Imagen was originally a software company, now oriented towards digital content management systems. They design and create media management platforms for customers as broadcasters, press agencies or cultural institutions.