Audiovisual Archives and Contemporaneity: Opportunities, Challenges and Changes

  • Date:

You are invited to the ICS Audiovisual Heritage Meeting, funded through the University of Leeds Cultural and Creative Industries Exchange and co-hosted by Institute of Communication Studies, the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage and the Centre for Collaborative Heritage Research. The event is free and will take place in the Philip M. Taylor Cinema, Clothworkers’ Building North, University of Leeds.

Thirty-three years have passed since UNESCO recognised cinema and audiovisual material as part of world heritage with the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images (1980). Since then, a lot has happened in the field of film preservation, but needless to say the digital revolution is by far the most crucial issue.

The incredible challenges that digital technology has brought about seem to outweigh its immense potential benefits. On the one hand there is the capacity to open up the archive and circulate information, and the incredible advances it offers in relation to film restoration, especially of hand-coloured early and silent films. On the other is the unreliability of carriers, high costs, difficulties in copyright clearance and the complex issue of the frantic pace of change of software and file formats.

In many ways we could argue that we see history repeating itself. We are in fact witnessing the same kind of problems archives faced from their outset: tension with the film industry because of outdated copyright legislation; lack of technical skills when we talk about long term reliability of carriers; blurry curatorial ethics when we talk about curatorship; and the ever-present lack of resources.

In the current technological and financial climate tensions are particularly acute. The uncertainties around the key functions of the archive (acquisition, preservation and access or exhibition) are increasingly in conflict. Are we facing a potential crisis? What should we prioritise? Should we focus on access and implement mass digitisation efforts? Should we instead favour preservation and create masters from current collections before film ceases to be available? Given the increasing transfer to digital production, what ‘born digital’ content should we acquire, and under which criteria? With this meeting we hope to bring to light the most pressing emergencies and explore possible solutions, developing a debate around both the library function (providing access to audiovisual historical documents and records) and the museum function of archives (exhibiting audiovisual material as an art form). In our opinion, strengthening the collaboration between curators, ICT professionals, and scholars would probably be the most fruitful way to provide answers to these questions, and help to conceptualise the nature of the archive of the next century.


3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Panel one – The Museum Function of the Archive: Accuracy of the Cinematic Experience

  • Welcome and Introduction
  • Tom Rice (University of St. Andrews)
  • Bryony Dixon (Curator, British Film Institute)

Coffee break

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Panel two – The Library Function of the Archive: Making Material Available

  • Paul Wheatley (SPRUCE Project, University of Leeds)
  • Simon Popple (University of Leeds)
  • Sue Howard (Director, Yorkshire Film Archive)

 All are welcome. You can register for the event, please visit our eventbrite page.

 For more information please contact event coordinator, Luca Antoniazzi: