Rapid technological advances in audiovisual recording, starting especially in the 1990s and early 2000s, have brought significant challenges for document managers and archivists tasked with selecting, describing and archiving audiovisual content for long-term access and preservation. Not least among these is the vast quantity of material being produced across a variety of digital devices.
As a service for EU professionals responsible for managing these kinds of materials, the Historical Archives has started a working group to devise workflows and discuss best practices for the handling of films, still photographs, filmstrips, audio and visual recordings, posters, maps, drawings and other graphic works produced on both analogue and born-digital supports.
The HAEU reached out especially to the EU Agencies, as they are the newest partners to be included as depositing EU bodies under Council Regulation 2015/496 and have smaller staffs with respect to the larger institutions.
Rethinking the archival workflow
The HAEU envisaged the working group to include not only document management officers in the EU agencies, but also professionals engaged in the production of digital documents such as communications officers, videomakers, and photographers.
‘Many people in the agencies and institutions are involved with digital content,’ explained HAEU Audiovisual Archivist Juan Alonso, who is managing the group. ‘Whether it be an audio recording, a video or a photograph, the creator, along with the record manager, can facilitate correct archiving by following certain good practices from the moment of creation.’
‘The idea is to create proactive, pragmatic strategies and procedures to manage digital archives’, continued Juan. ‘If the workflows and responsibilities are clear, it costs relatively little to implement. For example, adding metadata and a description to the file in the creation phase is simple and there are tools to automate it. On the other hand, researching that information in a later moment can be time-consuming, expensive and sometimes give incomplete results. With very little work you can get an incredible change in the audio-visual management of the institution. It is a question of will, and of assigning responsibilities in the workflow to internal and external staff.’
Differing needs and pragmatic solutions
The variety of participants in the working group also serves to inform the discussion leading up to best practices.
‘With regard to audio, video or photographs, retaining raw files, video sequences or Adobe Premiere projects along with processed files is a big challenge. This working group is a good place where producers, editors and records managers can find the balance between the needs of the daily production or the production archive and the long-term preservation archive,’ explains Juan.
‘We hope to be useful to the producers and current managers of audio-visual documentation by developing pragmatic recommendations that the producers, consumers and archivists agree on,’ said Juan.
At the same time, he emphasized, ‘this is a forward-looking initiative to help make future deposits more manageable. We want to make sure that we will not encounter the same problems that now characterise some historical collections: lack of information, uncertain copyright and poor preservation’.
A plan for the future
The working group had its kick-off meeting in late February, followed by its first working session on metadata on 23 March, with 20 participants. Six further working sessions in 2023 are planned to cover analogue AV material, digital formats, file structure, file selection, software and copyright. The group will develop guidelines for each area after each working session, and formulate an overall policy by the end of 2023. In 2024, the policy will be deployed for implementation on a pilot basis in two agencies, after which the group will perform a final system evaluation.
Individuals interested in participating in the remaining discussions are invited to contact Juan Alonso at the HAEU.