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1.5 General principles of audiovisual archiving

Curriculum Development Working Party, 1990

1 An archivist's historical approach and relevant professional knowledge and the principle of provenance in conjunction with the factual and logical principle (principle of pertinence) as a result of this, has met with the approval of pragmatic historians and theorists in a variety of countries and regions. It can be concluded that the general archive theory does not represent a mere theory on `paper', it is also applicable in av media archives.

2 It has furthermore been agreed that the dialectical principle of continuity and innovation is to be found in archive history as well as in current archive practice. A continuity of technical processes of traditional and av archives is revealed in the formats and carriers reflecting changing innovations in their outer appearance.

3 A further general principle of av archiving is the necessity of general and subject-specific terminology. No science or profession can dispense with a terminology of its own, and this applies to archives and av archives alike. Manuals, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and standard definitions are required.

4 Archival science and archive practice are inter-disciplinary orientation as far as content is concerned and an archivist should be able to recognise and concern himself with references relating to content and method in the relevant field. Archive science is beginning to converge with documentation science and librarianship, especially in methodology.

5 The syllabus taught at archive, library and documentation schools can `harmonise' provided the `sovereignty of each profession is observed'. The variety of technical professions eligible for the practical archiving of av materials in archives, libraries, and museums requires special curricula, manuals and teaching aids. An archivist needs to combine different vocational requirements although he is hardly likely to be faced with archive stock from the 9th century to the 20th century av media in the same situation. But if a specific task set to an individual may overtax his abilities and skills, the whole vocational group of archivists should be able to cope with it. It has been suggested that an archivist is a `documentalist' in the first instance, and a historian in the second. According to the `life-cycle concept' of the sources he has been holding one and the same function since the inception of comprehensive archive history, 5000 years ago. An archivist's efforts have been concentrated on reflecting the contents of documents by employing specific finding aids and techniques. Emphasis should be put on the skills required for general archives as well as specialised archives, including the media archives. Guidelines, rules, and standards can be applied for a routine approach involving form and content alike. They assist in finding documents, entries, motives and sequences which can be interpreted in various ways. An archivist's mental agility will, however, continue to be required, even if assisted by computer databases.

6 New theoretical issues originating from the activities of av archives have already been discussed at the ICA Congress in Paris and published in Archivum vol. XXXV. In addition to common features shared with traditional archives, av archives show differences and a need for specialisation. This raises new theoretical concepts and a number of methods can be derived.

Like traditional archives, media archives can acquire stock through legal deposit, collection, purchase and donation. Cinemathèques, videothèques and other av archives may possess will probably have a multi-media stock.

7 Technical considerations are often more important in AV archiving than in traditional archives. The as yet unsolved problem of long-term archiving means that archives, libraries and museums are constantly faced with the serious problem of finding technical, financial and human resources to safeguard authenticity and data protection of their various carriers and formats. In addition to employing recording and playback techniques for research and use of the documentation of their stock, av archives are also using EDP databases and interactive systems and applications.

8 Appraisal of archive stock has been adapted from the work processes of traditional archives. Based on spontaneous or considered decisions, av media archives also endeavour to employ the `minimax' principle, ie. to acquire a minimum of documents supplying a maximum of information. With increasing miniaturisation of sources it may be that tv archives which are motivated to serve programming and cultural policies, will be able to stock up to 90% of master material. The remaining radio broadcasting archives, picture archives, cinematheques and historical film archives tend to store greatly reduced quantities of archival material constituting 5-10% of the originally available material. It has been estimated that, either due to lack of judgement on an owner's part or for reasons of economic gain in the re-use of av material, mankind has lost a far greater number of documents than by erroneous decisions taken in favour of disposal. Nothing much will change in av archives in the foreseeable future: long-term storage - which has already been considered safe for paper archives, cannot be guaranteed for technical reasons, and the constant copying required will prove too costly for many archives, and so mankind will continue to be deprived of valuable sources.

Video stock is currently accumulating at a faster rate (over 22% p.a.) than film stock (only 1.7% in archives). There is reason to believe that in the future new techniques may help to record documents for posterity much better than has hitherto been possible thus increasing this ratio in favour of video.

9 An av archive's working procedures can be listed in the following order.

1. Safeguarding
2. Documentation
3. Use of av materials

The safeguarding and preservation of av material thus take priority over use. This principle applies to both internal use of 'production archives', cinemathèques, videothèques, historical film archives, archive sections of libraries and museums and use by external parties.

Photographs, films and sound recordings all ideally require `back-up copies' to safeguard by multiple documentation of source material. Since the transfer and reproduction is carried out under the observance of technical standards supervised by experts (photographers, sound engineers etc.), authenticity of aural and visual information is preserved. The copy should meet the demands of researchers, scientists, students, journalists, film producers, etc. Although in the production archives attached to radio and tv broadcasting, internal use for programming takes priority over external bona fide users, the activities of cinematheques and historical film archives (eg. in the DDR or FRG) are predominantly geared to serve external users. User statistics of historical film and sound archives indicate a tipping of the balance in favour of commercial use by journalists, press publishers, film producers and tv establishments. Since av media involve aspects of copyright, multiplication and re-use, national laws have to provide for the protection of rights. At a time when av piracy is on the increase, the protection of intellectual property becomes part of audiovisual archiving, and less than 10% of the patrons have a non-commercial concern for source material. Although a production archive can satisfy over 90% of research demands within 24 hours (often within minutes), more research time (several days, sometimes weeks) has to be allowed for historically orientated av archives, cinematheques and attached library and museum sections, where the nature of research is often linked to long-term commissioned documentation and this should be charged realistically to the user.

10 An archive's existence is based on the safeguarding of cultural heritage and its identity, and this requires financial resources for preservation. In addition to a moderate income for their annual budget from fee-paying users, av media archives, just like traditional archives, depend on government funds, communal grants and other financial aid. Only tv archives in their capacity as archive terminals are liable to make a theoretical `profit' which may exceed annual administration, personnel and overhead costs, through the re-use of film (an archive's own productions and co-productions), compilations of sequences from existing stock and through the sale of av archive material to third parties. It is difficult to compare the expenditure of production and preservation archives due to the fact that a preservation archive normally has its own separate budget whereas in a production archive so many costs are hidden in the larger production unit, and not directly assigned to the archive.

11 Av archives have to maintain their own organisational structure. If approximately 7% of a given national archive's fund is represented by media archives which in turn store 3-4% of the national archival record among them, an av archive's relevant av material (sound, picture, film, video) will dominate over the existing traditional carriers of a `historical' archive (radio and tv drama manuscripts, scenarios, scripts, programming schedules, internal schedules and statistics).

12 One of the general principles of audiovisual archiving concerns the extent to which av archives can lay a claim to, or realise public effectiveness and awareness. The public relations work of an av archive is closely linked with the degree of accessibility to external users. This has been covered earlier in this report in conjunction with the differentiation between independent av archives like film archives, cinematheques, videotheques or av divisions in traditional archives, in libraries, museums and those which are mainly engaged in providing material for making new programmes. The future trend is to increase participation in mass communication which both archive types will follow by safeguarding and preserving the specific cultural heritage entrusted to them, whether they have a detached independent or integrated dependent status.

13 After the invention of the silent cinema in 1895, the birth of sound film in 1928 and the rapid development of television after World War II, video has been regarded as the fourth revolution of moving images. Compared to its predecessors, video technology has often been ascribed the function of a catalyst, inasmuch as it represents a new type of distribution of film information through individual playback of video copies, with reduced use of raw film stock, and a reduction of manufacturing cost by at least ten times that needed for making a conventional cinematograph film.

Meanwhile the sale of videocassettes exceeds the turnover of books and box-office revenues, in the USA, Japan and the EC countries; the record being held in the UK. Annually the sale and lending services fetch several thousand million dollars. For 1990, the number of cassettes hired by the public is estimated to reach approximately 20,000 film titles including more than 12,000 feature films.

14 The newer forms of reception, above all those with an individual orientation offer widespread potential to enhance the propagation of knowledge and experience to a greater degree than ever before.

It is incumbent upon av archivists to preserve historic sources, and to encourage their future use for the benefit of all.


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