A two-day conference was held in November at the wonderful setting of the Austrian Film Museum, covering the areas of open media, standardisation and preservation of audiovisual archives.
The opening day began with a number of thought provoking papers on incorporating standards into archival education; the opportunities and risks involved in digitising analog video; open source tools in a digital archive workflow; the development of standards; specification writers, and the various number of standards and guidelines such as Matroska and AS-07.
What I found most worthwhile were the panel discussions. With much of the technical information coming from the papers, the compressed nature of the discussions gave me targeted information that I would otherwise have lost amongst the newly discovered jargon. I am not alone in stating that audio visual archivism is a relatively new discipline, with at times incomprehensible standards (at least for someone like me!!) which are constantly being under review. In this regard the close cooperation and collaboration between archivist and IT technician is paramount. The importance of creating a positive working culture within the archive cannot be overestimated. This is something which we are very fortunate to have at my place of employment.
After the obligatory first day dinner and drinks, the second day of the conference focused on technical aspects regarding developing tools for audio visual and film archiving. There were presentations on Virtualdub, MediaConch, Matroska, FFmpeg, as well as issues over saving uncompressed video formats, data migration and metadata. A lot of open questions remain on how to deal with metadata with regards to audio visual materials. It was a lot of new information to absorb!
I had decided to attend this conference, along with my two colleagues from the Historical Archives of the European Union, as there was a gap in my understanding of the more technical aspects of audiovisual archiving. What I have learned from this conference is at the very least a good first step.
A constant theme of this conference was the importance and benefits of open source software. While open source software is a useful way of helping archives with small budgets, you still need the technical knowledge and expertise to use it. What is crucial in this regard is the communication and collaboration between institutions regarding software. As archivists we must also be humble enough to recognise that a lot of open source software is designed not for the archivist but for the end user. A member of the audience made the interesting point that with technology changing so much maybe the traditional archivist’s resistance to change is not such a bad thing. While there is a certain logic to that, and while I also believe that we must not move too far and too quickly away from our more traditional practices as archivists, we must also embrace technology and keep on top of technological change. At the front and centre of our thoughts must be why we embrace technology. We do so to increase accessibility. As the world moves on so must we.
Liam Diskin, Historical Archives of the European Union