Moving image used to be exotic, but now we all carry it in our pockets. We all have videos of beautiful sunsets, cute toddlers and wild parties. But for how long will we be able to save them? How do you make sure that your precious videos do not decay? Brecht Declercq, digitisation manager at VIAA, will take a minute to contemplate this on World Digital Preservation Day.
There it is, lying next to you. Or maybe it is in your handbag or pocket. Or your children are messing with it. Yesterday you used it to make some video clips. From your partner, your parents, your children, your BFF or just from the car before you. You probably did not think about it, but you document your life in image and sound. Some clips you erased quickly ... they would better not be kept! Others are very valuable to you. Your 3-year-old granddaughter pressing a wet kiss on your camera lens. The champions celebration of the hockey team of a dear friend. Grandpa's voice at that one birthday party.
Do you ever think of it as digital heritage? Do you mind if it is all stored well? On that memory card, on that hard disk of your son, in the cloud perhaps? And what if that smartphone falls off the table or worse ... in the toilet? Do you have a back-up of all that valuable material? Will all that content easily get transferred if you change smartphones again? Or is it lost without further ado? Not only for yourself, but also for your children. Your audiovisual material provides so many beautiful possibilities. For everyone who comes after you. For society.
What, according to you, is worth keeping? How much should something be worth before you keep it? And how would you express that value? In the amount of smiles or laughter that one clip can incite? In the number of tears? In the number of identity debates settled? Mankind can record sound since 1860. Moving images can be recorded since the 1890s. The 20th century is the first one that was documented in image and sound. In the 21st century there is no medium that is used more, sent more, shared more, watched more and listened to more. It is all in the cloud ... oh excuse me, on the servers of Google, Facebook, Apple or Dropbox. Just someone else's computer, quoi
But before there was this cloud, it was on memory cards, USB sticks and video cassettes, yes you remember that. But what happened to your MiniDiscs? To that new Sash! album, a gift from the cute fourth-grader? Where are those mini-DVs, on which your uncle recorded all family weekends? Could you still play them, do you think? If you find those clips on YouTube, then you certainly only discover them in a very blurry state. Once it was such a source of entertainment, something we definitely did not want to miss. Now we seem to have lost it all. Getting it properly digitised? Should-a, would-a, could-a.
What you do for yourself, or what you sometimes have forgotten to do, that is what digital audiovisual archives do for society as a whole. In Flanders, VIAA preserves the image and sound of more than 150 content partners and gives access to it as much as possible. Whether it is computer files or video cassettes, mix tapes or CD-ROMs, mini-DVs, VHSs, vinyl records, VCR cassettes, Betamaxes, audio tapes. Films of 8 to 70 mm wide, 78 rpm disks, wire recordings and wax cylinders. Since their content covers almost every aspect of society in one way or another, it can be put to a lot of different uses. You can sit on the sofa with your daily portion of nostalgia, but you can also use it in the classroom. To show that everything that is in the news today has already happened before, and how we dealt with it at the time. You can learn another language, or discover how a new country arises. You can study old music with it, or create new tunes. You can use it to see the climate change. Or the zeitgeist. Or the television news. You can help dementia patients with it. Or lost tourists. More than ever, the value is in use.
You may never have thought about it, but 29th November is Digital Preservation Day. This is the time to emphasize how many wonderful opportunities important digital archives offer in our society. Media literacy, fake news, mass storage, artificial intelligence, the identity debate, big data, new privacy legislation, ... these are all hot topics that digital audiovisual archivists work on each and every day. And that is not quite surprising. Because today, the audiovisual is the world's most important medium. It is only logical that we neatly want to manage, document, preserve and give access to all of this, and for that we ask just a little bit of your attention today.