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TVT: “Archivists need to prepare for a digital future”

TVT, the independent media services and post-production house, has published a report outlining the importance of preserving the archive in the new digital age. The paper details the challenges archivists face as medias degrade and demands for easier access increase.

With video set to dominate the next century, archivists need to prepare for a digital future. Data from UNESCO suggests that over 95 per cent of the 6250 archives it surveyed had reported significant losses, while the British National Archives notes that for every one document or video viewed in its reading room in London, a further 200 are distributed via the Internet.

With drivers for archive digitisation stronger than ever, TVT examines and highlights the changes needed to successfully preserve the archive in the digital age. Using a real world example, TVT shows how a successful digitization project has helped a major national archive in Asia create one of the region’s largest searchable resources to help maintain the collective memory of a nation for current and future generations.

The TVT paper compliments a presentation given at the recent South East Asia-Pacific Audio Visual Archive Association (SEAPAVAA) event in Singapore by Bernard Clark, Chairman of TVT. Talking to archivists across the region, Clark stated that: “For many, the archive is a huge jumble of tapes, in different formats, containing hundreds of thousands of hours of content, with material that is virtually inaccessible. But for me, the archive is about history and what it can tell us about the future. It’s about heritage and the world of spirit handed down from generation to generation. It is about what is on the shelves or hidden in basements.  This information is hugely important to nations and the future generations- and the fate of history lies in archivists’ hands.”

TVT outlines some of the actions archives and supporting agencies need to take in order to deliver transformative restoration and digitisation projects:

Investigating the Archive: Video is set to dominate the next century and digitization and computerisation is imperative in order to preserve the archive. Yet before restoration can even begin, an investigation in to the condition of archive storage, such as temperature, light and humidity, must take place. The stored metadata attached to each item must be understood and each tape needs careful inspection.

Preparing the Archive: Sometimes tapes need to be baked in a special oven to remove contaminants with each batch, requiring different temperatures, duration and cooling conditions to prepare digitisations. A single reel of tape may go through a 30 hour man-process before it even gets to the digitization process.

Delivering Results: Both the skills and technical equipment to digitize archives is costly to obtain and challenging to maintain and is therefore rarely done in-house. TVT has helped a major national archive protect huge volumes of aging video material while dramatically increasing accessibility to the public and academic communities.

“The need to preserve the archive is important and the challenges of digitisation are not insurmountable – but time is running out,” says TVT CEO Ian Brotherston. “In order to save the archive, the right skills and expertise must be passed on by experts and developed in-house. Without this, countless unique artifacts risk being lost forever.”

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