Preservation of the
Audiovisual Heritage
IFAP Thematic Debate
Paris, 3 April 2007
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Audiovisual Heritage
• Recorded sounds and images captured and stored
on a carrier (e.g. disc, tape, film)
• Encompasses:
- Sounds: music, spoken word, radio broadcasts,
languages, recitals and drama
- Images: Commercial films, documentaries, amateur and
professional film or video recordings, television
• Documents society’s recent past: People, events,
artefacts, culture and traditions, art
• Offers possibility to see and hear things of the past:
formerly reliance on eye-witness reports and
interpretations of these recorded in writing,
illustrated or passed on verbally
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Keepers of the AV heritage
• National and local archives, libraries
• Broadcasters
• Specialist collectors (e.g. films, music, spoken
word, recorded sound etc.)
• Commercial organsations (music and film
• Cultural instutitions
• Educational institutions
• Institutional archives
• Private persons
Legal Deposit: in many countries does not
cover audiovisual content
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Keepers of AV heritage
• Professionals in audiovisual world
- Broadcasters, music and film industry, specialised audiovisual
- Technical know-how
- Investment in professional formats and replay equipment
- Often both producers and keepers of audiovisual “assets”
• Amateurs regarding audiovisual technology
- Archives, libraries whose collections have been extended to
include av carriers
- Mixture of professional, semi-professional, consumer formats
- Lack of technical know-how: Staff with little or no specific training
on the principles of audiovisual archiving
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Special Features of AV content
• Access to content is via replay equipment;
when replay equipment is not available no
- Projector, tape recorder, CD player, PC
• Access causes wear and tear: providing
access copies can be costly
• All av carriers subject to change and
deterioration over time: limited life
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Aims of Preservation
• Preserve CONTENT and not physical
carrier on which it is stored
• Preservation of content integrity
• To provide access to yesterday’s content
today AND tomorrow
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Preservation measures
• Passive preservation
- To stabilise carrier condition and prevent or
slow down degradation processes: extending
expected life span: storage environment
• Active preservation
- Restoration measures (cleaning, repairing
physical carriers)
- Transfer / copying content to new storage
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Current situation: AV Heritage
• Much of the audiovisual heritage has already been
- True for earlier recordings; importance as heritage
resource often recognised in retrospect
- Also true for some recordings on digital carriers
• Much is endangered
- in poor condition, in need of restoration
• Much is not accessible at all: stored on obsolescent
- Play-back equipment not available or not operable due to
lack of parts or technical know-how
• Much is not as accessible as it could be
- Access restricted by location, limited to one person at a
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Challenges: Environment
• AV carriers are subject to physical and chemical
deterioration over time: deterioration of carriers
endangers content stored
- Binder breakdown, sticky shed, vinegar syndrome, colour
fading, cracks, shrinkage, signal deterioration or loss
• Harmful Environmental Factors
- Heat, moisture, light, dust, insects, bacteria
• Specific requirements for storage of audiovisual carriers
to minimise risks of degradation
- Cool and dry storage area, climatically controlled and stable
conditions, uninterrupted power supply, building able to
withstand local climatic threats, disaster management plan with
back-up services in place
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Challenges: Technical Innovation
• Audiovisual technology undergoing a revolution
- How sounds and images are recorded and how they are accessed has
changed dramatically even over the last 5 years
• Technical innovation usually accompanied by format obsolescence
- Access to content becomes a problem when replay equipment is no
longer available and/or technical know-how disappears
- Migration of content to newer formats expensive; new replay
equipment must also be purchased
- The faster the pace of innovation and replacement of old technology
the greater the expense involved in providing continued access to
content stored on older formats
- Operational life terms for many digital formats shorter than for those of
analogue formats: obsolescence at faster rate
• Keeping pace with technical skills required in ever-changing digital
environment can pose problems for archives with audiovisual
- Changing job profiles: time lags in adopting training courses to new
skills requirements; on-going staff training more important than ever
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Challenges: Costs of Preservation
• Storage environment: building: rent, running costs,
climate control, disaster management schemes
• Restoration: labour intensive, time-consuming,
highly skilled experts, expensive digital technology
• Transfer to newer formats: in-house solutions
require technical infra-structure and trained staff,
outsourcing requires cash payments
• Investment in training and new skills at both
managerial and operational staff level: on-going
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Threats to audiovisual heritage
• Unfavourable climate often in underdeveloped
geographic regions: survival of av heritage in certain
regions is therefore subject to greater risks
• Pace of technological change and effort to keep up with
it has strained financial resources of even the
wealthiest audiovisual archives
• Management mistakes can endanger survival of av
content: migration to formats with data reduction a big
problem if successive digital formats are not compatible
and original carrier has been discarded
• Audiovisual technology is seldom developed with the
interests of preservation in mind: manufactures geared
to newer and better production or access possibilities
rather than long-lasting content-storage formats
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Vision for Preservation of
Audiovisual Heritage in Digital Age
• Technical innovation brings net benefits for preservation and
not only a host of new problems (format obsolescence, lack
of access, cost explosion): preservation more affordable
• Solution should encompass following features
- Automatic and lossless conversion to newer formats
(continued innovation but end to spiralling costs)
- Automatic monitoring of quality control (reduction in
labour costs)
- Elimination of access risks: wear and tear, potential
carrier loss
- Moderate maintenance costs after substantial
investment in digital infra-structure
- Return on investment through better access possibilities
to heritage and new ways to exploit audiovisual assets
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Digitisation today: Audio
• Widespread consensus on technical standards
• Solutions available for both preservation and
access purposes: a question of price
• Storage of audio in mass storage archive systems
already in operation in bigger archives (e.g.
• Migration of content on analogue carriers to digital
carriers: linear solutions, lossless compression
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Digitisation Today: Video
• Competing formats and commercial interests have slowed
down process of standardisation
• Born digital content: solutions for access and preservation
- Archival strategy: Transparent, native solutions for future migration
• Digital formats: many access and production file formats
use data reduction
• Ideal preservation format uses lossless compression: such
formats are not yet the norm due to bandwidth constraints
• Rapid development, several digital formats already
obsolete, caution!
• Medium-term outlook: Digital mass storage systems for
access and preservation of born-digital content; traditional
tape archives for preservation of older content until ideal
digital solutions have evolved and are affordable
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Digitisation today: Film
• On-going debate on standards and file formats that
will preserve integrity of content
• Digitisation for access on digital carriers
widespread; however diversity of file formats
• Evolving technology: film as capturing format still
unrivalled for high-end productions in commercial
movie industry
- Digitisation in post-production area, effects etc.
• Digital preservation formats to replace film medium
not viable at present
• Expense of providing adequate storage facilities for
foreseeable future
- For film near freezing point (below freezing even better)
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Limited resources for preservation?
• Selection Policy
What is placed in best possible storage area?
What receives funding for restoration measures?
What is transferred to new carrier?
Analysis of collection: define items of high value, in
immediate danger, in high demand
• Passive preservation measures to ensure carrier
stability until active preservation measures can be
• Active preservation for highly endangered carriers
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Setting Priorities
A:Carrier condition
Chemical decay
Physical decay
B: Carrier Status
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
C: Content
High demand
High value/
Funding: Different Approaches
• Library of Congress, USA
- Very ambitious all-encompassing project; funding partly
through sponsors
• INA, France
- Prestospace project: millions of hours of av heritage at
risk; develop technology to reduce costs of digitisation for
all av archives (large, small)
• Cooperation: wealthier help underdeveloped
- e.g. South East Asian Pacific region
• Sharing facilities
- Climatically controlled storage facilities, expertise; sharing
costs of running digital repositories
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Guidelines for preservation policy
Digital repositories are not today’s solution for all
endangered audiovisual heritage
Ideal solution in each situation depends on a number of
factors: infra-structure, financial resources, available
technical solutions for access and preservation of each
medium, av archive’s mandate
Selection and priority criteria where financial resources are
Provision of suitable storage facilities to slow down carrier
deterioration and content loss
Restoration measures where these can be afforded:
necessary before transfer/conversion to intermediate
digital carrier
Wait-and-see policy where no clear-cut options for
digitisation are available: learn from experience and
mistakes of others, e.g. “big players”
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
• Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives
• Expertise on all aspects of audiovisual heritage: film,
moving image, television, radio, sound, archives,
libraries, av issues affecting specific regions
• Publications and guidelines
- e.g. IASA – Production and preservation of digital audio
objects; FIAF: guidelines on ethical issues; AMIA: preservation
moving objects FIAT/IFTA: selection issues
- Guidelines and best practice manuals - ICA, IFLA
• Commitment to training – combined resources
- Conferences and workshops
• Close co-operation with UNESCO in working for the
preservation of the audiovisual heritage
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA
Coordinating Council of
Audiovisual Archive Associations
Links to member NGO websites from this site
Catherine Lacken, CCAAA