Friday, November 02, 2018

Deadline 2025: collections at risk. -- "Tape that is not digitised by 2025 will in most cases be lost forever."

Deadline 2025: collections at risk. The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. August 2017. [PDF]
     This document is relevant for our own library as we increase our focus on video preservation in our collections. In this document, I consider digitization to mean digitization for preservation.

Some notes from the document:
  • "There is now consensus among audiovisual archives internationally that we will not be able to support largescale digitisation of magnetic media in the very near future." 
  • "Tape that is not digitised by 2025 will in most cases be lost forever."
  •  Much of what is now this nation’s heritage originated in the analogue era of the 20th century and has been handed down on various magnetic tape formats.
  • "All tape-based formats created in the 20th century are now obsolete. Tape that is not digitised by 2025, we risk losing forever. This creates a deadline, and a dilemma, for those entrusted with the care of these precious memories."
  • At current rates, not all magnetic tape can be saved in time, meaning that much will of the cultural heritage will be lost to future generations. 
  • "Considerable resources are required to ensure all surviving tape-based media is digitised and managed for
    long-term digital storage and access." 
  • Quite a lot of our history on tape finishes up in landfill just because it is seldom valued at the time that decisions about its preservation are being made. 
  • "Our audiovisual heritage is too precious to lose"
Many recordings, radio broadcasts and TV programs have already been lost. Recordings have been discarded or destroyed once their immediate broadcast life was deemed over, or erased to be reused, and some live radio and television programs were not recorded at all. In the next decade we stand to lose much of our vital cultural memory unless we act swiftly to invest in digitisation infrastructure and capability.

Some benefits of preserving these recordings are:
  • The historical record connects us to who we were, and who we are. 
  • The original content in many collections becomes accessible and it creates knowledge.  
  • Making these resources discoverable and accessible provides a tangible return on the considerable investment in creating them.
  • "Unlocking a treasure trove of images and sounds of the past will inspire creators of new works, and encourage" the creation of new content.
  • These preservation projects will promote "specialised skills development and help retain expertise within the cultural sector and the audiovisual industries."
We are now in a better position to measure the positive impacts of digitising our collections with The Balanced Value Impact Model developed by Simon Tanner at King’s College, which "balances tangible gains from economic, social and innovation perspectives with harder to measure cultural values".  It is important to develop a framework for preserving audiovisual collections along with sufficient investment to ensure future access to and celebration of the at-risk collections. The digitisation costs are not disproportionate to the investment already made in the production, collection, storage and preservation of our audiovisual heritage. There is still time to avoid the "preventable loss of an irreplaceable part of our heritage."

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