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The material in this Reader has been compiled under a UNESCO contract by a working group of the Round Table on Audiovisual Records - a group of NGOs comprising IASA, FIAF, FIAT, and the audiovisual sections of ICA and IFLA.

In 1990 another working group on Curriculum Development for Sound and Moving Image archivists consisting of the same associations identified several areas for improvement in the education and training of these audiovisual archivists. One very clear and gaping hole was in the provision of literature, advice and guidance of any sort. The literature may be there, but it is scattered and not all of us can afford or obtain all the literature which might be of help. The aim of this collection of material is to provide in one volume some, but only some, of the most accepted literature already published.

The Reader is not meant to be definitive or exhaustive - that would take up a very large volume, but it is aimed at the practical rather than the theoretical aspects of audiovisual archive work. It aims to provide access to existing published information for archivists working at a professional level in developed and developing countries, promote the education and professional training of audiovisual archivists in all countries and serve as a reference tool in daily work.

Some of the papers appear in full, but many are extracted or edited down from lengthier booklets. The Editor has had to make some hard choices and provides some linking comments between the sections.

Material specific archives such as film archives, sound archives, television(video) archives and photograph archives have been in existence for many years. 'Audiovisual archives', where there is a combination of materials, are a more recent phenomena, but more and more frequently audiovisual archives collecting more than one of the materials are being established or additional materials are being introduced into the existing archives. This might be of necessity where resources are few and one archive, often the National Archive, has to take responsibility for all materials.

The literature reflects the former situation and much of it concerns one or other of the audiovisual materials rather than the integrated situation. Many of the sections of the Reader are divided into material specific chapters.

As the Reader is aimed at professional archivists the technical sections although extensive has been kept on a suitable level. The aim is simply to ensure that what we have, or can obtain, we keep in decent conditions designed not to damage and to conserve the material for some time to come - optimistically as long as possible. Technical details are designed to show what we are dealing with, how to store, handle and conserve and when to intervene to restore or preserve. Technicians need not look here except perhaps at the bibliographies or references for further reading. A further Technical Manual is needed for the archive technician, or he can already depend for much information on the series of Joint Technical Symposia which are run regularly to update technical knowledge.

Layout and Coverage

The Reader consists of a mixture of contributions. A few are original to this publication, and some were in process of publication when the Reader was compiled. The main content is of existing papers or sections of publications as indicated in the Contents List.

The Reader begins with an introductory section dealing with the major ethos of the audiovisual archive - its make up and constitution, definition, typology and other major concerns such as those of legal issues which pervade all archive work, let alone that of audiovisual archives. The particularities of audiovisual legal concerns are indicated, especially the perceived conflicts between preservation and access. The ethics of the audiovisual archives are explored, both personal and collection ethics; responsibilities to donors and users and the technical ethics - responsibility to the material. This is a special extension of the concept of ethics.

A section on collections management, the establishment and direction is followed by others on other aspects of the work of audiovisual archives such as selection and information retrieval or intellectual control of the content. Computers are a fact of life and a useful section on the use of them in information retrieval is included.

Oral history. A specialised branch of audiovisual archivism exists in oral history archives. Oral history collections have their own special collecting policy, management and ethic and have been included here for those reasons.

Photographic archives are rather neglected here, but many av archives contain photographs whether these are related to the other collections eg. stills of film and video material, photographs of sleeves or covers of CD and recordings, all genuine historical documents capable of re-use to reconstruct original artifacts.

The technical section has been kept to an awareness level for the archivist. Storage, handling and conservation policies are included in some detail and a short foray is made into preservation as well as an investigation of the basic equipment required by audiovisual archives.

The impact of 'new technology' on audiovisual archives and others brings its own complications. Data density versus data security is particularly pertinent to the magnetic world and digitisation and papers are included on these topics - mainly in the audio world as this is where most of the investigations have taken place to date. The finances of storage are also touched upon again from the audio archives as these were the published papers available.

Emergencies and disasters are an ever present hazard and an initial attempt to draw up a plan for preparedness and recovery appears.

Finally although the Reader is supposed to be a tool for education and training in itself, papers on this topic are included.

The Reader emphasises the common problems faced by the three main fields, film, audio and video. The Editorial group agreed that the main emphasis should be on sound and moving images, but should also include still images where relevant, without overloading.


Without the assistance of the editorial team the whole conception would have impossible. I am most grateful to my colleagues from IASA, FIAF, FIAT, ICA, IFLA and the TCC for suggestions concerning the content and to the members of the associations for their generosity in allowing me to use and even edit their precious work. However responsibility and culpability for errors outside the contributors control remains with the editor.

Helen P. Harrison

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