Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Audio Visual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles

Audio Visual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles. Ray Edmondson. UNESCO. 2016. PDF, 102pp.
     Audiovisual heritage comprises a large and increasingly important part of the world's cultural heritage. Currently, among the major issues for Audio Visual Archiving are digitization and format obsolescence. The field is complex and requires skills, technology and budgets.

There is a lack of professional recognition  of the community and a lack of formal training standards and courses.  Audiovisual archiving is still emerging as an academic discipline. The greatest challenge of digitization is not one of technology or economics, but of scholarship, education and ethics. A major challenge of preservation is not only to migrate analogue works that are at risk, but to keep up with the new born-digital productions  and at the same time preserving the technology and skills of an analogue era.

Preservation of AV archiving, ensuring the permanent accessibility of audiovisual content with the maximum integrity, is a never‑ending management task. "Nothing has ever been preserved – at best, it is being preserved!" AV media have always been in a state of continuous evolution.

To preserve their collections and make them accessible, audiovisual archives have to maintain obsolete technology as well as keeping abreast of new technology, and retain the relevant skill base for both. Content is migrated to newer formats to maintain its accessibility, while older carriers may still need to be maintained for their artefact and informational value.  Digital formats are not simply replacing analogue formats; they both have a future.  It is unlikely that there is any “ultimate” format.
Some notes and definitions:
  • Audiovisual documents are no less important, and in some contexts more important, than other kinds of documents or artefacts.
  • The responsibilities of Audiovisual archivists include maintaining the authenticity, and guaranteeing the integrity, of the works in their care. Selection, protection and accessibility of this content should be governed by publicly declared policies rather than political presssures.
  • Preservation and access are two sides of the same coin, but they are so interdependent that access can be seen as an integral part of preservation.
  • Preservation, without the objective of access, has no point. The relatively fragile and fugitive nature of the audiovisual media and its technology place these functions at the centre of the management and culture of audiovisual archives.
  • Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to reformatted and born digital content regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change. The goal of digital preservation is the accurate rendering of authenticated content over time.
  • "An audiovisual archive is an organization or department of an organization which has a statutory or other mandate for providing managed access to a collection of audiovisual documents and the audiovisual heritage by collecting, preserving and promoting." 
  • The function of building, documenting, managing and preserving a collection is central and presumes that the collection will be accessible.
  • An audiovisual archivist is a person formally qualified or accredited as such, or who is occupied at the level of a skilled professional in an audiovisual archive, in developing, preserving or providing managed access to its collection, or the serving of its clientele.
  • The preservation and accessibility of moving images and sound recordings eventually involves copying or migration. Documenting the processes involved and choices made in copying from generation to generation is essential to preserving the integrity of the work
  • All key areas of an archive’s operation – including collection development, preservation, access and collection management – should have a deliberate policy basis.
  • "Permanent access is the goal of preservation: without this, preservation has no purpose except
    as an end in itself."
  • Putting long-term preservation at risk in order to satisfy sudden, short-term access demand is
     a risk that should be avoided 
Collection development embraces four distinct procedures:
  1. selection: involves research and judgment, leading to acquisition
  2. acquisition: involves technical and physical choices, contractual negotiation and transaction, shipment, examination and inventorying of carriers
  3. deselection: a judgmental process based on later circumstances, including changes in selection policy
  4. disposal: the ethical divesting of carriers from a collection
The philosophy and principles of audiovisual archiving will always be a work in progress.

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