What do we do?

Sustainable archiving of audiovisual material

In addition to digitisation, VIAA also provides sustainable archiving of digitised image and sound material. As of 2017, we have further expanded our services and we now also handle the archiving of audiovisual material from our partners’ existing digital collections. 

Just like analogue material, these digital files can be unreadable, due to a lack of correct software to read the file or unforeseen circumstances such as a fire or natural disaster.

To prevent loss of data, we store multiple copies of all the material in multiple locations. We set high requirements for all aspects of the preservation and have processes in place to check that the stored files remain unchanged and readable. 

Archiving in a nutshell

The sustainable preservation of Flemish audiovisual material is essential for the conservation and the quality of our audiovisual heritage. In the video below, we explain briefly how VIAA does its archiving.

How do we archive?

VIAA has built up an archive system that has been operational since 2014 and which is continuously expanded and maintained. The archiving takes place in line with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS). This framework describes the most important elements of a digital archiving system. Amongst others, we distinguish between:

  • Controlled import: The import of the materials takes place in an agreed format and according to a process agreed in advance. The regular checks during this process guarantee the integrity of the material from source to final storage location. The results of the checks are stored as provenance metadata.

  • Sustainable storage
    • Bit preservation: We manage and maintain the digital files with care at the various locations. Thanks to regular checkups, we know in good time which storage media needs to be replaced. We are also capable of checking the integrity of a file based on a checksum.
    • The material is stored in various locations. One copy is stored in each of our data centers in Ghent and Oostkamp. A third copy is stored in a bunker in the Netherlands specifically equipped for this purpose. 
    • Just like analogue carriers, digital material requires a player that can play the file. In addition to preserving the bits, we bear the viability of the different formats in mind. If necessary, a file will be converted to another format, without any loss of information. 
    • The monitoring and reporting takes place through a process and via (semi-) automatic flows and control systems. We record each action – throughout the entire life cycle of a digital file – in accordance with PREMIS, the standard for the preservation of digital material. 

  • The material is made available again:
    • Our content partners and collection administrators can manage their archive through our Media Asset Management (MAM) system. 
    • Granting access to other parties also happens through this system – in line with the contractual agreements – but based on technical interfaces and APIs.

  • Correct management and administration of services. Transparency is crucial for the successful digitisation and preservation of our audiovisual heritage. We record all agreements, rights and obligations for the parties concerned in a document. In this way, everyone knows exactly what VIAA’s services involve, how we implement them and what we do and do not guarantee. 


“Dance is a living art, which is very difficult to record in writing. So correct and sustainable archiving of our recordings is an absolute priority. VIAA’s specific expertise and help with the digitisation are of inestimable value to Rosas.”

Rosas dance company
VIAA content partner since 2016

Three copies, three locations

VIAA preserves each image and sound fragment in three locations: we have two online locations, each with 17 petabytes of storage space on LTO tape and more than 350 terabytes on disk. High-resolution files are preserved on LTO tape while low resolution copies are kept on disk. A third copy is kept offline in a former nuclear bunker. The complete system of three locations can be expanded without any problems. We use two data centres: if one fails, the service will continue from the other, without loss of content.

Through our management system, owners of archived audiovisual material can manage their collections. The content partners can view, download (in high resolution) or enrich their material with metadata in accordance with the international standards. In the future, we will increasingly obtain metadata via crowdsourcing or new technologies such as speech-to-text and facial recognition. 

The system determines which copy (LTO tape and disk) is stored where. With the help of API, we can develop extra customised services.

If you have any questions about archiving, please don't hesitate to contact Matthias. 

He will provide further assistance.

Matthias_voorlopig Matti