Many European archives comprise hundreds of thousands of hours. The BBC archive is approximately 1 million hours, and the Swedish national audiovisual collection is around 6 million hours. At the end of the 1980s, wider recognition that audiovisual archives were ‘at risk’ eventually led to the Memory of the World: General guidelines to safeguard documentary heritage in 2002. At this time, audiovisual archives worldwide realized the dual predicament of rapid material degradation and decay of their analog recordings in tandem with electronic obsolescence. Particularly for broadcast archives, the rush to ‘preserve’ presented a second crisis: that of access – due to trifold issues: one, the exponential scale of digital files; two, the emergence of born-digital archive; three, the need for researchers to engage with archival material. These challenges have been greatly underestimated, while the potential for accessing audiovisual archives was overestimated, all compounded by a lack of infrastructure and expertise.
Audiovisual archives worldwide realized the dual predicament of rapid material degradation and decay of their analog recordings in tandem with electronic obsolescence.
In response, broadcast institutions, notably the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NISV), have been at the forefront of pioneering policy and research. Indicating the nature of the challenge, with an investment of 100+ million euro, the Eye Filmmuseum and NISV project, Images for the Future (2007-2014) resulted in 20% of the Filmmuseum’s collection being digitized. However, due to copyright restrictions, only 2% was made public. Several similar investments have been made including by EU Screen portal, the BFI’s ‘Unlocking Film Heritage’ program and Europeana.
Dedicated foundations have been established to safeguard Swiss audiovisual culture heritage and to improve public access, such as Phonoteca, and Cinémathèque suisse, although there remains no centralized agency or database to account for the current status of preservation and access to Swiss audiovisual heritage. An estimate can be made based on the more than 2 million hours held in the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG/SSR) archive, of which impressively 95-100% have been digitized, however public access to the SRG repository remains very low (~5%). This is despite a 2016 legal mandate to open these archives up to the widest possible audience. The Swiss audiovisual preservation association, Memoriav has been very active in this domain, operating the online portal Memobase, for which approximately 50 terminals have been installed in libraries and archives across the country providing traditional catalogue access to more than 400,000 records. In 2005, the Foundation for the protection and enhancement of the audiovisual heritage launched the RTSArchives website, followed by notreHistoire.ch in 2009 a repository containing 14,369 uncurated videos that is open to submissions from both individuals and institutions, only representing a fraction of the archival holdings of Switzerland.
Dedicated foundations have been established to safeguard Swiss audiovisual culture heritage and to improve public access, such as Phonoteca, and Cinémathèque suisse.
The urgency to unlock audiovisual heritage for the public has already spawned novel museological approaches. A number of film museums and cinémathèques have advanced approaches to the curation and exhibition of the moving image, notably Eye Filmmuseum, George Eastman Museum, Cinémathèque française, Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Aside from conventional public screening auditoriums within these institutions, there has been an increasing approach to programming seen also in contemporary art museums, with screening seasons curated alongside film collection exhibitions. As the blockbuster exhibition genre demanded an ever larger-scale and grander scenography, the multi-modal influence of installation art cross-fertilized with the film museum and vice versa explored recently by Swiss film scholars Bovier and Mey in Exhibiting the Moving Image: History Revisited. Artists and curators have remade movies and projected them in galleries, and new avenues at the nexus of archival and museological research emerged as historical films were taken out of the (temporally linear) auditorium to create new public encounters with the object of film as well as its ‘apparatus’. Remixing, performing and reenacting film archives are just a few of the recent strategies developed in the curation of film museum exhibitions, notably drawing also on the terminology of contemporary video, performance and media art.
Simultaneously, museums have experimented with new technological forms and formats to enhance public engagement. Digital museology has been at the forefront of this trajectory more than a decade. Within this field, a distinct approach of experimental museology has been taken by Prof. Kenderdine to innovate at the intersection of immersive visualization technologies, visual analytics, aesthetics and cultural data. This area of research has advanced theoretical frameworks emerging from new museology since the early 1990s, redefining the boundaries of public and exhibitionary space. Through its tripartite speculative, applied and theoretical research, experimental museology engenders new modes of knowledge production arising from digital cultural archives, doing so through a participatory model focused on situating audiences and their experiences at the center of knowledge creation.
Through its tripartite speculative, applied and theoretical research, experimental museology engenders new modes of knowledge production arising from digital cultural archives.
Significant to this latter pursuit is the overlooked role of ‘embodiment’ in creating meaningful museum experiences, specifically by amalgamating cultural heritage archives with interactive cinema to foster novel forms of embodied narrative. Experimental museology thus nurtures new forms of interpretation based on phenomenological and cognitive encounters as they emerge in relation to immersive, interactive visualization technologies. Important theoretical shifts due to the impact of digital technologies on spectatorship and perception inform the experimental framework of Narratives, among them the concepts of immediacy and remediation, interactive narrative, aesthetic transcription, and modes of performance and creative reuse as a means of generating new narrative and memory.
In order to address the gap between audiovisual repositories and the public sphere, it is necessary to augment the data curation lifecycle at a systemic level in a dual method that implements novel computational approaches to the collections themselves in tandem with novel forms of in situ engagement for narrative making. We propose a major research effort to enable these new forms of expressive media through computational methods, thus enabling the enormous untapped potential for public ‘history making’, and promoting sustainable futures for audiovisual memories.
Amalgamating cultural heritage archives with interactive cinema to foster novel forms of embodied narrative.