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13.6 Training for audiovisual archivists

Helen P Harrison

It has long been recognised that audiovisual materials have a place in the cultural heritage of the 20th century, although some have a longer history, particularly photographic materials and other visual resources.

But what about avm as archive materials. Curiously enough because of the concentration of most conventional archives on printed materials it has taken some time for the recognition of av as archive materials to penetrate the general consciousness, but there have been av archives, usually single media archives, in existence since early in the twentieth century. The National Film Archive and the National Sound Archive (Previously the British Institute of Recorded Sound) were set up in the mid-thirties. Other archives such as the Phonogrammarchiv in Vienna go back as far back as 1899. These archives are single media archives, but in more recent times the concept of audiovisual archives, collecting materials in several formats has appeared. Sometimes this was as a result of amalgamation of collections under the same administration, film and sound coming together as in the National Film and Sound Archives of Australia, or the film, television and sound archives in the Library of Congress, or the Moving image and recorded sound archives in the National Archives of Canada. Such `multi-media' archives may have separate administration according to media, but more and more they have a function based administration with departments for collections management, acquisition, documentation, and preservation, of all materials. In addition to such older established archives, those being newly established, especially in developing countries, tend to be more generalist in approach and contain several of the audiovisual materials as well as printed materials. It makes more economic sense when financial resources are restricted to set up function based archives. This trend began in the audiovisual collections in libraries, especially the resource centres of educational institutions. Until resource centres had tried it the archives were more tentative in their approach.

With the collection of av materials has also come a recognition by the archives of the need for conservation/preservation and restoration of all archive materials, including av materials and an even sharper reminder of the particular problems of preservation which these materials exhibit. Av materials may be relatively recent in production, but they have some horrendous inherent problems which need separate and particular treatment. Film materials are vulnerable to casual damage: scratches on the emulsion impossible to eradicate, damage in projection and use, once caused difficult to repair. Film is also subject to particularly nasty `disease' such as the spontaneous destruction of nitrate and the `vinegar syndrome' of acetate or safety film. In order to preserve material subject to these troubles, copying (at considerable expense) is essential. Nothing else will do. Video materials are not immune either- developing systems mean the obsolescence of materials, formats and machines at intervals of ten years if you are lucky! Again copying to more recent formats is necessary. Sound materials are some of the most stable, but even they together with their video counterparts are subject to vinegar syndrome or laser rot for discs. Once again a constant copying or re-recording is required in an archive where preservation of the material is the primary aim.

An audiovisual archivist needs special skills and such skills do not come unaided or untaught. But where does the education and training in these skills come from? Are there institutions to which the archivists or potential archivist can turn for help in updating his own knowledge or acquire special knowledge to deal with the materials and their preservation? If not, why not, and how can some provision be initiated, encouraged, and organised.

Such questions have been asked increasingly in recent years and there have also been moves towards creating an environment in which rational solutions can be sought or the situation improved. In particular education and training of archivists, and in particular audiovisual archivists has recently been under investigation by a group of representatives of interested audiovisual archive associations.

Why Training?

Firstly we have to establish the need for a profession of audiovisual archivist and then to investigate whether training for this profession exists. We have seen already that the cultural heritage is in danger of destruction and loss due to the rapid deterioration of records on many formats, and audiovisual material forms a major part of the cultural heritage of the 20th century as well as being an important information carrier. Audiovisual material requires archival treatment and preservation in the same way as any other source of information, and it is essential that this should be carried out by professionally qualified personnel if the cultural record is to be preserved. Archivists and librarians need education and training for professional work, but further they need training in the special skills and techniques for working with audiovisual formats: bibliographic description, handling, storage and conservation require a somewhat different approach to other materials in the librarian's care. Archivists have the additional responsibility for selection and longer-term conservation and preservation of audiovisual materials. Both professions have to pay attention to the further training of individuals to equip them adequately to carry out this work. The library profession is tentatively grasping the nettle after a steady campaign of some 20 years and more and more we see optional courses or special options within regular courses appearing in the Library and Information Departments. All too often the cry is lack of time and space in already busy departments, but light is appearing at the end of the tunnel. In one respect librarians are at an advantage in that probably more librarians will come across audiovisual materials in their daily work than will archivists. There is a larger target population for training librarians in work with audiovisual materials than there appears to be for archivists. This has implications for the harmonisation of training programmes for different professions.

This is not to say that because there are fewer audiovisual archivists they do not have to be trained as systematically as other professionals. An archivist normally requires education to at least tertiary or first degree level, and then additional education in archive principles and practice. Nothing less is required for an archivist dealing with audiovisual materials, and in addition special skills in dealing with the materials. The education and training of audiovisual archivists is a key issue for the further development of sound, film and television archives. In most countries safeguarding the audiovisual heritage, and working off the backlog in this field, will depend on the mobilisation of human resources, with a knowledge of the tasks, objectives, management and structure of the audiovisual archives. This knowledge has to be imparted through systematic programmes of training, updating or continuing education in addition to basic education.

Do these programmes already exist?

Although there is an expressed need for systematic training programmes for av archivists, these do not exist at present. Although the training of new archivists is a recognised need and university education for traditional library and archive careers is possible in many developed countries, no university, film or tv school specialises in av archive operations. There is also a need for training in highly technical operations for restoration and preservation tasks.

On investigation one finds only evidence of seminars, short courses, summer schools or symposia, given on a national, regional or international basis. Although these can help the situation by giving knowledge or know-how and skills needed for certain jobs, they will never be a substitute for professional education based on scientific methods. These method can compensate for the lack of professional education, but not replace it. Such training courses and seminars usually specialise in selected practical problems, are available to very limited target audiences, and are very limited in terms of time. Even the best of them last for only a few weeks. Theoretical knowledge is seldom part of the course, there is not enough time to develop themes adequately, and the function of such courses is more often restricted to the improvement of performance on specific and limited tasks.

Is help at hand?

Obviously significant improvement in the situation will not be achieved overnight, but a start has been made. The education and training of AV archivists has been a subject of investigation by the International Round Table on Audiovisual Records for the past decade. This started as an exchange of information on the various national, regional and international efforts geared to the education and training of av archivists. In 1988 a Working Party was formed under contract to Unesco to analyse the current situation and make recommendations for future action. This report was published in the Unesco RAMP series in 1990, and the speed with which the Working Party got through its work is an indication of the urgency archivists feel towards finding some solutions as soon as practicable. Among other features the report includes theoretical aspects of archiving, training needs and standards, a draft curriculum and recommendations for implementation as well as the results of a survey of institutions with the potential to present audiovisual archive training programmes. See Section XIII: 13.2, 13.3, 13.4.

Who requires training?

There is widespread recognition that training should be provided for audiovisual archivists in general, that is people dealing with a range of av materials rather than specialist single media archivists. Several reasons can be found for this attitude: the integration of audiovisual materials in archives; the common functions found in activities such as acquisition, preservation, cataloguing and use of audiovisual materials; and from the point of view of the trainee the greater flexibility of placement after training. Harmonisation of education programmes for all audiovisual archivists, includes the general audiovisual archivist and the specialist film, television, or recorded sound archivist as well as related disciplines. Coordination between practising audiovisual archivists, librarians and documentalists is to be encouraged to the benefit of all who can be trained to a level at which they can be useful in several professional posts.

But the need for training cannot be restricted to any particular level of staff in audiovisual archives: there are different requirements for different levels, and this could influence the type of training and decide the most useful in some circumstances. Basic education to an appropriate level is essential, for example senior and middle managers will probably have at least first degree level, but there is still a need for additional systematic training programmes for all av archivists. It is also necessary to raise the general awareness of the importance and need for the proper handling and conservation of audiovisual materials in all situations, from archives and libraries to general use.

Education/training should include full-time courses for qualified personnel, short courses for specialist topics and personnel, workshops, seminars and symposia to present new knowledge, in-service training of skilled workers for specific jobs, hands-on experience and other updating activities and finally `brainstorming' seminars for the updating of the trainers. There is a blend of full-time and continuing education involved here. No academic education can dispense with continuing professional education. Audiovisual media develop at a rapid pace, and all changes in technology have repercussions on the work of archives. Continuing education of top and middle management personnel of av archives is imperative to enable them to cope with their duties.

Where should training be provided?

Systematic training for av archivists is in a very early stage of development, and there is no institution which currently offers a full-time course. If systematic training programmes could be developed, the next question is where to present them. This produces many thorny problems. Should the trainees be brought to the developed archives, or should courses be presented in situ. Also which institutions are best suited to present such programmes.

There have been many discussions about the best way to handle training in audiovisual archivism and some experiments from which to draw tentative conclusions. Short courses and seminars have been presented in developed centres and also in regional centres in developing countries. FIAF has presented summer schools in film archivism in both types of region and ICA (International Council on Archives) has experience in presenting short courses in developing regions. Other developed archives have accepted trainees from developing countries. But is it really useful to bring trainees (often at considerable expense to their institutions) into a developed archive where they will gain the sort of training and experience which cannot be applied effectively to their own situation, nor are such trainees in a position to influence management policy. They are in danger of being 'overtrained' for the jobs to which they return. People who would most benefit from training overseas in 'developed countries' are more likely to be at the senior management levels. They should be in a better position to relate the experience gained overseas to the home situation. Graduates should be in a position to be able to identify issues on their own and establish a sequence of priority for practical solutions in archives and av media, subject to different conditions prevailing in different countries and institutions. The transfer of basic knowledge and the employment of graduates as trainers in the sense of the 'snow-ball system' might contribute to the emergence of personnel, institutional, educational and teaching materials in the last decade of the 20th century.

In addition the trainers themselves would benefit from the opportunity to study as many different systems as possible. It is likely that in the initial stages, trainers from among existing practitioners could be sought out and sent on visiting fellowships or secondment to develop the training programmes. Such practitioners would have to receive familiarisation training in order to relate their existing principles and practices to the region they are teaching in. The use of existing staff from archives for training purposes also has certain disadvantages in that these people cannot always be spared from their jobs. But if training programmes are to initiated effectively this is a responsibility which the archive profession will have to face.

Harmonisation of Professions and Training Programmes

The concept of harmonisation is important in establishing training programmes for audiovisual archivists. Harmonisation can be interpreted in two ways: the integration of educational programmes for all av archivists: whether they work in film, television, sound or audiovisual archives, and further the integration of training programmes for archive personnel with that for other related professionals.

The concept of harmonisation is useful for any subject where the target audience is relatively small and the subject matter is capable of being used by more than profession. Harmonisation of training programmes between related profession should enhance and improve the training possibilities for archivists and librarians. There are two applications of the word which apply to training. Firstly there is a harmonisation of practices between different training centres and schools in the same country - which is important for equivalence of qualification. The second aspect is harmonisation of education and training programmes for the three information professions: archivist, librarian, and information scientist. Some subjects such as preservation and conservation appear to be good cases for harmonisation. It makes sense to look for cooperation and coordination between related professions in training for special aspects of work such as the archival aspects of audiovisual materials. The skills and resources of the three professions can be utilised for the benefit of all. Of the several areas recommended for inclusion in a plan of action for harmonisation, preservation and conservation, audiovisual materials, information technology and records management are of particular relevance to the audiovisual librarian. There are other benefits to be gained from collaborative training projects including economic benefits, when both human and financial resources can be used for mutual benefit; benefits for the students in that their range of skills is increased and barriers between professional groups are lessened giving the trainees greater mobility and job opportunities.

It seems to be preferable to integrate training with existing programmes rather than add another strand, but which disciplines should be selected as suitable for integrating audiovisual archivism? The major discipline is archival science. Documentation although important is less closely connected. Library schools could provide useful training for the disciplines of documentation, but archive science should form its own discipline and not be seen as an add-on aspect of a librarianship course.

Consideration needs to be given to the value of harmonisation of training for audiovisual archive and library personnel. but although the similarities between libraries and audiovisual archives appear close in terms of formal description, cataloguing, access; other skills of preservation and technical aspects require different training. There will not be complete harmonisation and the training programmes of the different skills cannot be used as substitutes for one another.

One of the first considerations of international schemes for the training of audiovisual archive personnel is the problem of whether such schemes should be centred in countries with developed archives - to illustrate elements of good practice - or whether to present training schemes in the areas/regions or countries in which the greatest need occurs. In the case of audiovisual archive personnel it has to be recognised that the greatest need is for the development of a universal scheme of training: the developed archives are as much in need of properly organised and assimilated training programmes as the developing countries and their archives. Developed countries need to put their own houses in order before preaching to anyone else. Having said this many developed countries have achieved some measure of principle and practice for collections management within their audiovisual archives and are gradually reaching a position where expertise and experience can be disseminated to a wider audience than before. But equally it has to be recognised that many developing countries have their own special problems and pragmatic solutions to add to this experience. The 'developed' world is not always any wiser than the developing world in these new areas of audiovisual archiving and indeed the developing world has much practical experience to offer with its changing conditions, financial and other resources, capacities and climates which has to be taken into account in any training programme if it is to be appropriate to regional and national interests. The question now is how to achieve a transfer of all this accepted knowledge and expertise to all those who are in need. If the developed world has a part to play in this process it is by facilitating with financial and human resources the transfer of knowledge, practice and principle.

But how best to implement these programmes and which is the better concept, to set up training programmes in developed archives with all their supposed advantages of equipment, sufficient staff, some of whom can be spared to tutor trainees, exemplary practices and wide connections and cooperation with surrounding archives and their practices. This implies that trainees have to come from far and wide, usually at considerable expense to their institution or government, take instruction in an alien situation which does not always relate or even appear relevant to their own particular situation and acquire knowledge which may or may not be possible to turn into practice in their own position. It is a lot to ask of a relatively inexperienced trainee! Such a scheme allows for only a limited number of graduates to travel at considerable expense, and courses held in these situations are usually irregular and designed for a wide variety of trainee, rather than courses specifically designed to a particular type of participant.

The other pattern is to send lecturers/tutors from a developed archive to the country or region which requires a training programme. This is sometimes more realistic as it means the funding of only one or two people into a country or region, who providing they are well briefed and at least familiar with the situation and climate prevailing in the region, can relate practical experiences of audiovisual collections management to the particular circumstances. There is also a most important aspect to this argument which is that in many instances it is not possible to transfer currency from one country to another. The problems of currency exchange range widely, but it is difficult to convert currency from one country to another and the more which can be spent within a country or region the more value that currency will achieve.

Although educational programmes may be centred on a particular country the concepts of regional education and cooperation are essential. The centre within a region which has the better facilities, and a wide range of different archives and audiovisual facilities within easy distance is the more obvious choice to conduct a training programme. Presenting courses in regional centres could ensure a sufficiently large target audience to make a course a viable proposition and also allow the participants to acquire much needed hands-on experience of a greater variety of relevant audiovisual equipment and materials. An audiovisual archive training course profits greatly from practical experience and fieldwork and this aspect is likely to be more easily and better arranged on a regional basis with the use of local resources and facilities in institutions which have audiovisual collections and are prepared to host 'working' visits - or who may have their own in-training courses.

There is a need to attach training programmes to existing training centres which are capable of expanding to include additional disciplines, or can be given the necessary resources to do so rather than set up new completely independent training centres for av archivists only. Such a new centre would find it difficult to be a viable proposition at least in the short-term. This introduces the concept of harmonisation. Training courses for audiovisual archivists could be associated with existing schools or training centres, for a variety of related disciplines including those of archive management courses, librarianship, film schools, etc.

Training programmes should really be set up in several centres. The training and education of audiovisual archivists needs to take place in existing archival institutions and institutions of higher education. The demand for one or more new institutions at national or international level to teach the staff of film, tv and sound archives is neither realistic nor financially feasible at present. Having accepted that training programmes need to be set up in several centres there is a need to begin the establishment as a matter of urgency. This will involve the international organisations of Unesco in particular, national archive schools and training centres of relevant institutions. Exemplary models can also be developed to serve for individual countries, perhaps even for regions sharing similar historical traditions and a common language. Existing regional or national centres such as national archives, archive management schools, library and information science departments etc. could be used for training programmes as well as other resources including archives and film schools which are available in the immediate neighbourhood. These institutions could form a 'pool of resources' in which students of the programme could gain the very necessary practical experience.

The results of the initial survey carried out by the Curriculum Development Working Party indicate that there is sufficient interest in developing courses for av archives within existing institutions, and a follow-up survey could be conducted to identify those organisations which have the greatest potential for such development.

Teaching Materials

Before training programmes can be successfully instigated there has to be some improvement in the provision of suitable teaching materials for the trainers to use. This ranges from the very basic manuals of practice, through other normal library tools such as bibliographies, to audiovisual teaching aids which can be used in for instance a distance teaching situation. Few of these exist at present, but there are plans to rectify some of the damage before too long. A bibliography of audiovisual archive materials is in preparation, a basic manual divided into theory and practice, technical and non-technical is also being prepared. Other aids such as a series of basic library handling pamphlets have also been initiated. While one would continue to encourage the production of these basic aids and manuals the further production of useful audiovisual materials indicating principles and practice which can be used in a teaching situation is to be encouraged. Distance learning has a value for audiovisual archive training and there is a ready market for the production of suitable teaching tools.

Finally we should not forget certification - that piece of paper which proves we have all gone through some period of training to fit us for the tasks ahead. Certification is becoming of importance within our own society as education edicts take hold, but they are of even more importance in developing countries - they give a person some kudos within their own society and the better the certificate the better the end result in the way of employment. It is therefore essential that when the audiovisual training programmes are in place the certification should be recognised throughout the various professions involved. There should be little problem with this providing the professions accept their responsibility for the better education of audiovisual professionals, whether these be archivists, librarians or information scientists. The opportunity is there, let us hope we will not be found wanting.

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