Sound and vision blog

8 posts categorized "Conferences"

24 July 2018

Dangerous Oral Histories: Risks, Responsibilities and Rewards

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Riddel hall
Riddel Hall, Queens University Belfast

On 28 and 29 June this year, over 200 people gathered at Queens University, Belfast to discuss and debate Dangerous Oral Histories: Risks, Responsibilities and Rewards. This first joint conference hosted by the Oral History Society (OHS), the Oral History Network of Ireland (OHNI) and the QUOTE hub attracted academics, community group representatives and individuals with a personal passion for oral history from places as widely spread as Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Mexico and South Africa. The programme was bursting at the seams – plenary and dynamic presentation sessions, interactive workshops and 100+ speakers filling out 24 panel sessions held across the two days. This was the first time I had attended the Oral History Society’s annual conference and I was particularly struck by the professional organisation and delivery of the whole event. There were high levels of interest in, and support for, everyone’s contributions. A really inclusive environment for budding and expert oral historians alike.

It’s hard to summarise such a mammoth event in a couple of paragraphs, so this blog focuses on my takeaways from the conference. It includes references to sessions I attended and replays a number of quotes picked up from other attendees that I spoke to.

Contributors put forward diverse definitions of danger. Topics included physical, psychological and emotional danger that recalled genocide, abuse and conflict, across political, social and religious boundaries. Presentations on oral history methodologies and governance highlighted danger by identifying the risks associated with individuals’ privacy, the future use of recordings and their safe storage. Ethical dilemmas were aired, such as how to protect the vulnerable without ‘flattening out’ their testimonies from the historical record. Not unexpectedly, the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) popped up everywhere; discussion and debate that will inform evolving guidance of the legislation and its implementation.

Risks of archiving
... the risks of archiving dangerous oral history for public access.

Over two days, in formal settings and during networking opportunities, we reveled in the excitement of oral history, the historical method that exposes us to illuminating and inspiring challenges. For example, when we are engaged in Recovering evidence, disrupting lives? The risky business of uniting archival evidence and oral history, or when a project participant on The Journey to Recovery: Narratives of Addiction asserts that they are being asked the wrong questions if the researcher really wants to get to the crux of the issue. We evaluated the value of oral history, ‘a powerful history’. Its ‘moral force’ enables us to ‘uncover hidden voices’ across nation states, in government institutions and within the home. Panel sessions such as Exploring Difficult Oral Histories of Families and Women, Trauma and Silence allowed access to historical sites not usually visited by empirical historical methods. Fluid memories in a fixed museum: Remember Bhopal Museum, India was just one example of how recording and airing individuals’ subjectivities challenges listeners to ‘re-evaluate dominant narratives’. We also considered the legacy of oral history; the rewards that can be reaped by future generations if researchers navigate their way through the wishes of interviewees, and the requirements of GDPR to manage the risks of archiving dangerous oral history for public access.

The unique and rich nature of oral history testimony was continuously and consistently reinforced during the conference. At the same time, all delegates were reminded of the methodological issues that surface on a regular basis. With social events before, during and after the conference, everyone went home with minds, eyes, vocal chords and limbs invigorated, but perhaps also desperate for a quiet weekend.

For more highlights of the conference, check out #DangerOH18

Sue Bishop is a student of the ARHC-funded Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. She is studying History with the University of Leicester’s School of History, Politics and International Relations.

04 August 2016

Theatre of Sound. An interview with Aleks Kolkowski

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Theatre of Sound is a nine-minute video which highlights the creative re-use of archival sound recordings in the field of sound art and music composition. It also touches on the use of early audio recording technologies in contemporary performance. These topics are illustrated with video documentation of two projects developed by composer/musician and sound artist Aleks Kolkowski.


Sound and Music

With Larry Achiampong, Aleks Kolkowski is one of two Sound and Music-Embedded Programme composers-in-residence at the British Library Sound Archive. This is a twelve-month residency for composers and creative artists, sponsored by Sound and Music, a national charity for musicians, and funded by The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Besides being a composer and a musician, Aleks Kolkowski is an expert on historical recording techniques. He makes audio recordings on wax cylinders and on acetate discs, and creates public performances using these techniques, in collaboration with poets, musicians and artists. Many of the recordings are available to listen to online through his website Phonographies.

Save Our Sounds

The Library has embarked on a preservation programme: Save our Sounds, which is a 15 year project to digitize and preserve as much as possible of the nation's rare and unique sound recordings, not just from the Library’s collections but also from partner collections across the UK.

It is an aim of the programme to raise understanding, usage and public enjoyment of audio heritage more generally. And in this respect, the work of Aleks Kolkowski at the British Library Sound Archive supports the programme, by exposing the history of sound recording in a performative way.

Aleks's work is helping to create awareness and interest among different generations of new audiences. He has also contributed to the Sound Archive by adding his own collection of recordings made at the Library's studio, which will eventually be available online through the British Library Sounds website.

Performance Documentation

I have been documenting the performances and other creative outputs of Aleks at the Library since February to produce this video which I presented in Copenhagen at the performance archives conference SIBMAS 2016.

In addition the video features archival recordings and documentation from the Bishop Sound Company collection of sound effects for theatre, which dates from the early 1940s till the end of 1960s. The sound effects were recorded direct onto lacquer discs and then pressed to 78 rpm shellac for hire or sale. There are more than 3000 discs and hundreds of open-reel tapes in the collection. Aleks will be re-using this material in one of his future projects.

It has been very positive and enjoyable for me and other Sound Archive colleagues to work with our two composers-in-residence Aleks and Larry. Artists challenge people to see collections differently. They revive interest in collections and create awareness in ways that can't be done from inside the archive. They also contribute to reaching new audiences, who perhaps would not have come into contact with the collections otherwise.

Find more about the British Library's Drama and Literature Recordings and keep up with our activities on @BL_DramaSound.

29 January 2016

Audiovisual archives and the Web

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This is the text of a talk I gave on 29 January 2016 at the Institute of Historical Research's 'The Production of the Archive' conference. The conference sought to "bring together historians, archivists and scholars from other cognate disciplines to explore shared understandings of the nature of the archive, which is highly topical as archives shift from the traditional fixity of text to the fluidity of multi-faceted digital objects."


Good afternoon. My name is Luke McKernan, and I am Lead Curator for News & Moving Image at the British Library. I’m going to talk about something that has interested me for some while, which is the changing scale of audiovisual archiving. I'm going to do so by looking at two things: YouTube, and web archiving. I'll conclude by considering how historical enquiry and archival care may combine to understand the audiovisual archives we are building for ourselves now.

Film archiving traditionally has been a painstaking business. When films were produced on film, then the objective was to acquire adequate materials to enable the archivist to reproduce the film as closely as possible to the form in which it was originally produced, ideally from an original negative. There were many challenges for the film archivist. National film archives did not really get underway until the 1930s, meaning that much of the first 40 years of cinema was destined to be lost. In the United Kingdom, there is no legal deposit legislation in place for film, so film archivists have had to go out to producers, distributors and collectors to obtain suitable film copies, and not everything has been collected. This is also a costly business, since filmstock is expensive, and bulky, requiring specialist storage conditions as well as specialist equipment to ensure its long-term survival.

The situation, from a statutory point of view, is a little better for television, since a national television archive was enshrined in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. Videotape is also cheaper than film. The expense of film, combined with the distribution models to cinemas, constrained what could be produced, and consequently what could be archived. Television had a different distribution model, one which allowed it to broadcast content non-stop across multiple channels, but the medium for capturing this - tape – was adequate to the task. Very broadly speaking, our moving image archives were able to meet the challenge of archiving much of what was produced, assuming that they were resourced properly to do so.

Over the past ten years, the picture has changed utterly. What has changed it is YouTube, founded in April 2005, and what it has changed relates to scale, content, description, discovery and expectations of access.

Firstly scale. There are just under one million films and television programmes held by the BFI National Archive, the UK’s national moving image collection, collected over eight decades.. By wild contrast, I estimate that there have been 2.7 billion videos uploaded to YouTube since 2005. 400 hours of video are added to the site every minute. There are some film collections out there who haven’t managed to collect more than 400 hours of content in years. In one year in the UK, there are approximately 700 films given a cinema release, 6,000 physical videos published, and about 600,000 television programmes broadcast (excluding repeats). It is not known what proportion of YouTube’s possible 2.7 billion is British in origin, but the number is certain to dwarf that produced by traditional means. Does this render the traditional film archive meaningless, or reductively niche?


Citizen Kane vs Charlie Bit My Finger

So, secondly, content. Vast amounts of this online content is what might be termed trivia: ephemeral videos of skateboarding pets of the kind that would never have been acquired by a film archive, nor even conceived of as a type of film production before the YouTube era. But is it trivia? How are we to judge what a moving image should be? Is the understanding of it as an art medium, of the kind best revered in a cinematheque, now something absurdly narrow? What, intrinsically, is the difference between, say Citizen Kane and Charlie Bit My Finger? Perhaps we should only look at the numbers – unless it is the numbers that are scaring us, and we prefer to cling to old certainties.

When it comes to description, things become problematic. The metadata for videos on YouTube and other video platforms is generally very poor. What metadata there is relates chiefly to when and in what form the video was uploaded to the site, with additional, often entirely random classification terms added by the uploader. The traditional archive puts far greater value on the specificity of the objects in its care.

Discovery and expectations of access are where the deep change lies. YouTube gives you everything, or at least it appears to do so. Access to moving images traditionally has been exclusive, even challenging. The films have been hard to track down, expensive to access, difficult to share. Now anything you can think of is there instantly, arranged in channels or discoverable individually. If a video is not there, it is effectively invisible, not worthy of consideration. A false sense of permanence has been inculcated - that every video is there, and that every video will always be there, with the concomitant reaction by many scholars that if a video is not on YouTube then it is not worth bothering, or necessary, to seek it elsewhere.

But not only is YouTube not infinite, but it is also shedding content on a massive scale. An unknown number of videos is taken down from the site every day, because of copyright infringement, or changing priorities of some publishers, or the embarrassment of those who have decided to hide away some of their youthful indiscretions.

 No figure has ever been supplied by YouTube on just how much disappears from the site, but I can give a personal example. I manage a website, called BardBox, which curates original Shakespeare videos to be found on YouTube, Vimeo and other platforms. They are videos of all kinds: original creations, mashups, fan videos, animations, actualities - representative of the broad mix of YouTube genres.  Recently I had a spring-clean of the site to check out how many of the videos were still active, and a quarter was no longer there. Has 25% of YouTube disappeared?

Is YouTube an archive? It is and it isn't. It is a repository for cultural content, which it maintains even if the videos are subsequently withdrawn, and although the files it holds are of a lower resolution than the original videos. It provides access. The scale of what is maintains is unprecedented, utterly dwarfing all that preceded it. It seems to be there for the long term. What it fails to provide is certainty. If it is an archive, it is a new kind of archive, one with built-in impermanence, a vast repository for uncertain times.


Legal Deposit UK Web Archive

Now let us turn to web archives, which is where the British Library’s interest comes in. In 2013 non-print Legal Deposit legislation was passed which enabled the British Library, working with the other legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland, to begin archiving the UK web. There are around 4 million websites in the UK, and most of these we take an archival snapshot of once a year. The result is some 2.5 billion web pages in the Legal Deposit Web Archive. The British Library promotes itself as having some 150 million objects in its collection, but that refers to physical objects and is of increasing irrelevance in a digital age. Numerically speaking, it might be more sensible to describe the British Library as a large digital archive, with a few books on the side.

The 2013 Legal Deposit act excluded video and sound, for a variety of reasons. In practice this means that we do not archive websites which are predominantly video and audio-based, such as YouTube, or iPlayer. But if an audio or video file is incidental to the purpose of a website or webpage, then it can be collected. The result of this can be seen in the figures for the moving image collection that I manage. The conventional collection – which is a mixture of news and sound-based videos – numbers around 100,000 titles. If I add videos gathered incidentally through web archiving, the number rises to half a million. A further 40,000 videos is added every month, so that by this time this year we will have a collection of a million videos.

The situation is similar for sound. The Library holds the national sound archive, a collection of some 6.5 million recordings. In probably no more than four years time, there will be more sounds in the web archive than there are in the traditional sound archive.

What then is an audiovisual archive? Is it the archive gathered by traditional means, in which the best-quality material is selected through curatorial guidelines, to ensure a representative collection of optimum preservation quality? Or is it the random vastness of the web archive, in which videos of low image quality, minimal metadata and frequently spurious significance, are contained within a larger archive of web texts? Should we sacrifice quality of image for quantity of content, or should we maintain principles of selectivity, so that the best content is preserved in its optimum form? Should the traditional archive and the web archive be developed separately, or should they be managed collectively, and if so what does this mean for curation, collecting policies and the scholars who use such resources?


An archived web page with missing video element

These are largely theoretical questions at present. The Legal Deposit Web Archive is in its infancy. Discovery of the archives, which is restricted to terminals in the reading rooms of the various legal deposit libraries, is in need of considerable improvement before the archive can be properly used for research, and resource limitations mean that we’re not even able to playback those audio and video files as yet. Moreover, most researchers aren’t interested in web archives as yet because they have the real web that they can use.

But gradually the realisation will sink in that websites do not last (the average lifespan of a web page has been estimated at around 70 days), and that what was present has become the past, when historical enquiry of the web archives will begin in earnest.

When that point comes, we will have a new kind of audiovisual archive. It will be one that puts audio and video in their contexts. The great limitation of audiovisual archives has been is that is all that they are. They are dedicated to their medium alone. This is fine when the interest is only in the medium, which means chiefly when it is viewed as an art form. But film is equally important for its subject matter, and for that it requires context. Film of itself is meaningless - we have to describe it, to put words to it, for its images to signify something. This is why video has come into its own in the web era - not simply because of the volume of content, but because of the contextualisation. Videos have to be embedded somewhere, and in the embedding they find their meaning. Traditional film archives take the medium out of its original exhibition context; web archives preserve that context.

At present we have film and sound archives that stand alone. They represent their particular medium; they defend its special identity. Some film and sound archive have been absorbed within larger archives, as happened when the British Library took over the National Sound Archive in the 1980s. The sound archive ever since has played a balancing act between integration within the Library's systems and maintaining its separate identity. The national film archives of Wales and Scotland have been incorporated within their respective national libraries, and have faced a similar challenge.

But this slow process of change is going to be rapidly overtaken by the growth in web archiving. In one year's time web video at the British Library will outnumber the remaining moving image collection by ten to one. It will be 15 to one the year after that, and so on, exponentially. I can ignore this upstart archive, or I can engage with it, and to do so I need to learn from researchers of every kind, but particularly historical researchers, how to understand what we are inheriting, how to manage it, how to explain it, how to make it discoverable and most useful. The British Library is engaging with scholars on how to use the web archive now, ranging from subject specialists to big data analysts. But I am interested - and I hope others will be interested - in what the future web archive will look like, and especially how it will operate as a repository of rich media.

As a society we are generating videos at a colossal rate, and look likely to do so at an ever increasing-rate in the future. Archives built on the traditional model cannot cope with the scale of this. The web's video platforms, such as YouTube, offer the illusion of the optimum archive, but they fail to offer adequate descriptions, context or permanence. As scholars we must be wary of them; we certainly must not rely on them.

The web archive, however, promises to be transformative in how video (and audio) contribute to future understanding, because they will be wholly embedded in the archive. The numbers will be vast, but the numbers for every kind of archival digital object we are now generating will be vast. We'll just have to deal with it. What web archiving may promise, though, is the end of audiovisual archives as we know them. Once text, image, audio and video are all preserved as one, why should we specialise? That's the question that lies at the heart of the future management of digital archives. Hopefully it will take just a little longer than the end of my professional life before we decide on the answer.

09 September 2015

Listening Project Workshop

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Holly Gilbert writes:

Join us on Monday 12 October at the British Library Conference Centre to reflect on the first three years of the Listening Project: an audio archive of conversations recorded by the BBC in which people are invited to share an intimate conversation with a close friend or relative.

These one-to-one conversations, modelled on the US StoryCorps project, last up to an hour and take a topic of the speakers' choice, collectively forming a picture of our lives and relationships today. The conversations so far gathered cover a huge range of life experiences told from the perspective of the people who have lived them, from birth to death and everything in between. The collection currently consists of 650 conversations made by contributors from 7 to 101 years old, recorded in all four corners of the UK and includes people who have moved here from across the globe.

The conversations can be listened to in full on the Library's Sounds website while the edited BBC radio programmes are available on the BBC Listening Project website.

The event includes a panel discussion chaired by presenter Fi Glover in which BBC producers reflect on the process of making the recordings and the impact of broadcasting excerpts, Listening Project participants discuss their experience of contributing to the collection and library curators and researchers explore the potential for using the online Listening Project archive for a variety of research purposes as it continues to grow.

The Listening Project booth will be making a stop at the Library especially for the event as part of its nationwide tour.

Listening Project booth

Tickets are free and can be booked via the British Library Box Office.

Workshop Programme

Monday 12 October 2015, British Library Conference Centre

10:30               Arrival: tea & coffee

11:00 – 11:20  Welcome & Introduction

11:20 – 12:45  Using the Listening Project Archive

  • Professor Joanna Bornat (Faculty of Health & Social Care, Open University and an editor of Oral History Journal)
  • Dr Natalie Braber (Department of English, Culture & Media, Nottingham Trent University)
  • Linda Ingham (Visual Artist-Curator, Conversations with my Mother, a book-work installation as part of the Shifting Subjects exhibition)

12:45               Lunch (not provided)

14:00 - 15:00 Creating the Listening Project Archive

  • Panel discussion with BBC Listening Project producers chaired by Fi Glover

15:00 - 15:30   Tea & coffee

15:30 - 16.30   Taking part in the Listening Project

  • Panel discussion with Listening Project participants chaired by Fi Glover

16:30                           Close

28 February 2014

Europeana Sounds gets underway!

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Organisations from across Europe visited the British Library on 17 - 18 February to mark the launch of the Europeana Sounds project (more information about the project). The three-year project is being coordinated by the British Library, and we were delighted to be able to welcome all the delegates who made the journey to London, braving the typically wet February weather.

Europeana_Sounds_KickOff_British Library_Elizabeth_Hunter_CCBYSA30pc
image: British Library/Elizabeth Hunter CC-BY-SA

Europeana Sounds will use innovative digital technology to improve access to some of Europe’s leading collections of sounds and related material. The event was therefore an opportunity to meet face-to-face to discuss just what sort of inventive strategies will be adopted in order to enrich the audiences’ experience of the wealth of recordings that will be made available through the project’s life-span and beyond.

Many fruitful discussions occurred over the two days. Of particular interest was the issue of licensing material in order to provide as much access as possible, whilst ensuring that content providing institutions feel that the material in their custody is sufficiently protected. Indeed, in the case of recordings of ‘traditional’ or ‘ceremonial’ music that may contain culturally sensitive material, this will need to be taken into account in the same way that legal consideration must be adhered to.

Whilst there is a great deal of expertise amongst the project partners, this sense of balance could not be achieved without an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Fortunately, we will be working with the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision and Historypin to engage different communities and to enrich the project’s metadata through crowdsourcing and edit-a-thons. In turn, this will make it easier for end-users to find what they are looking for. This focus on usability will be augmented by the development of thematic channels on the Europeana portal, and through other digital sound sharing platforms, Spotify and SoundCloud.

Those attending the meeting were reminded of the joy of listening and of discovering new sounds by the two ‘concert’ sessions, where selected partners presented recordings from their archives.

Janet Topp Fargion of the British Library selected this recording of a Sora ancestor song to illustrate the fact that although Europeana aggregates digital objects held in European institutions, the subjects may be international, reflecting the research interests of scholars and users based in Europe.

Sora ancestor song

(Recorded by Rolf Killius, Orissa, India, 2001. Source: The British Library)

Mairead Dhòmhnallach of Tobar an Dulchais presented 'Latha Dhomh ’s mi Buain a’ Choirce' as sung by Kate MacMillan. It is a recording of a traditional Gaelic, one of thousands that will be made available through Europeana thanks to the project.

Latha Dhomh ’s mi Buain a’ Choirce

(Recorded by John Lorne Campbell, Scotland, 1949. Source: The National Trust for Scotland)

Zane Grosa from the National Library of Latvia shared this recording, the only surviving work of orchestral music by Latvian composer Emils Dārziņš. He destroyed his other symphonic works after being accused of plagiarism, and ended his life when he was just 34, apparently throwing himself under the train.

Melanholiskais valsis

(Source: National Library of Latvia)

Alexander König of the Max Planck Institute for Pyscholinguistics gave us this field recording, made in the village of Tauwema in the Trobriand Islands as part of a project to document the Kilivila language. This example serves to highlight that Europeana Sounds will work with environmental and linguistic, as well as musical, material.

Tauwema Village

(Recorded by Gunter Senft, Tauwema, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, 2003. Source: Max Planck Institute for Pyscholinguistics)

Picture1Europeana Sounds is funded by the European Union under its ICT Policy Support Programme as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programm.

15 May 2013

Screening the Future 2013

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Will Prentice, Head of Technical Services, Sound & Vision, writes:

Last week I attended the PrestoCentre Screening the Future conference, held at Tate Modern in London. In contrast to many conferences in the audiovisual archiving world, the focus was very much on preservation, as opposed to access, discoverability, linked data and all the rest. Also of note was the broad variety of different perspectives represented in both speakers and delegates. The spectrum ranged from not-for-profit collection holders at one end, to purely commercial
digitisation and storage service providers at the other, with specialist commentators and different forms of commercial archives somewhere in the middle.

IMG_3788 12Not surprisingly, collection holders tended to focus on complex problems, while vendors talked confidently of solutions. Though this didn’t lead to the two sides leaping into each other’s’ arms (so far as I saw, anyway), it did set the scene for a lot of useful discussion on and off the stage. An archive can outsource tasks but it can’t outsource responsibility for a collection, so at the centre of any such relationship is trust. David Giaretta, Director of APARSEN and chair of the panel which produced the hugely influential OAIS Reference Model for digital preservation, discussed the psychology of preservation, and of trust and the need for auditors, helpfully mentioning that the auditors themselves need auditing. 

Two personal highlights: Mark Schubin addressed the question “What needs to be preserved?” with a fascinating talk exploring how the perceptions and expectations of opera audiences have been conditioned by evolving technology and collecting policies. His slides are available here. Kara van Malssen from Audiovisual Preservation Solutions described the very dramatic rescue operation to save the Eyebeam art and technology centre in Manhattan after it was flooded by hurricane Sandy. In addition to giving a great overview of the disaster recovery process, she made a compelling argument for the need to see all AV digital preservation as a race against an encroaching flood, and described work in progress which will help quantify the Cost Of Inaction.

22 January 2013

'In the Field' - Field Recording Symposium at the British Library

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On 15th-16th February the British Library will be holding a two day symposium that seeks to open up and explore the practice, art and craft of field recording through a series of panel presentations, listening sessions and screenings. Starting from the early days of field recording, 'In the Field' aims to relate the multitude of contemporary field recording practices to their historical precedents and investigate issues in contemporary practices. These include: How field recordings are distributed to and heard by an audience; Recording the unheard; Mapping the urban; and questioning the extended nature of the field in a digital networked landscape. Participants include:

Chris Watson (

Jana Winderen (

Des Coulam (

David Velez (

Felicity Ford (

Mark Peter Wright (

Udo Noll (

Christina Kubisch (

This is a joint venture between the wildlife sound section of the British Library and CRiSAP (part of the London College of Communication, University of the Arts) and is part of the Sounds of Europe project.

Tickets are priced at £25/£15 conc for the full two days and £15/£10 for one day. Everyone with an interest in field recording, whether professional or personal, is welcome to attend. Full details can be found here.

19 June 2010

Archives and beyond

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Empty mobile film shelves, from

The British Comparative Literature Association's conference takes place 5-8 July at the University of Kent, Canterbury. The theme of the conference is Archive, and over the three days an extraordinary array of speakers will tackle the theme of archives from every conceivable angle.

It is interesting that if you go to any large bookshop you will find at least a shelf dedicated to museology, but not a volume dedicated to archives. Museums have got their act together, academically and politically speaking. They have a high profile and consequent understanding on a public and intellectual level, so that they are comfortably placed as central to issues of representation, commemoration, nation, and a host of other tions.

Archives, on the other hand, lurk in the background, fretting about what little attention they receive and how much perceptions of them seem to revolve around dust. They get used handsomely by the public and by scholars, but they don't seem to be part of debates in quite the same way - hence their absence on the bookshelves. This has a knock-on effect in terms of profile and funding. There is some literature on archives, as this Amazon listmania list proves (compiled by yours truly), but it remains for the most part marginal - and frequently abstruse - with Derrida's Archive Fever as (arguably) the one canonical text.

Maybe the Archive conference will start to raise the profile, because the variety of topics on offer is considerable, even if some of it ties itself into hopelessly intellectual knots. You can judge from the programme yourselves what might appeal - the purpose of this post is to highlight those papers on a moving image theme, because film archives are seldom considered when it comes to archive policy, nor have they featured much in general debates (film archivists debate heartily among themselves, of course). These are the relevant abstracts:

  • Sanja Bahun and Heidi Wilkins, ‘Woolf, Potter, Us: Sparking Knowledge (SP-ARK)’ (on filmmaker Sally Potter's personal archive)
  • Amanda Egbe, ‘Approaches to Representing the Unrepresentable in Moving Image Archives’ (on three artist-led moving image archives and their attempts to 'represent the unrepresentable')
  • Paul Jackson, ‘“To Begin with, a City ...”: Dylan Thomas and Propaganda Film’ (on the poet's work in documentary film)
  • Irene Lottini, ‘Early Italian Cinema across the Ocean: The George Kleine Collection in the ibrary of Congress’ (what it says on the can)
  • Irinia Marchesini, ‘A Carnival of Objects: Collections in Konstantin Vaginov, Jan Švankmajer and Sergei Parajanov’ (on the role played by collections and everyday objects in their films)
  • Luke McKernan, ‘Moving Images at the British Library: Building the Archive beyond the Archive’
  • Claudy Op Den Kamp, 'Digitization, Copyright Legislation and the Audiovisual Archive’(on orphan moving image works and their re-use)
So I'm there too, and here's the full abstract on the paper I'm giving on how we're establishing a moving image presence at the British Library:
The British Library recently decided to extend its representation to the moving image. The British Library Act (1972) stated that it should hold a ‘comprehensive collection of books, manuscripts, periodicals, films and other recorded matter, whether printed or otherwise’, but, despite this, film has never been actively collected. The moving image collection within the Library’s Sound Archive was built up for the sounds that it contains. The Library recognizes that research is becoming increasingly ‘media agnostic’, so that what matters is not the medium but the subject, and that all media that relates to a subject ought to be accessible to the researcher of the future. The solution is not to build a moving image archive per se, but rather to work synergistically with other collections to ensure that as comprehensive a resource as possible can be created, one that is integrated with the other kinds of resource held by the Library. As the British Library’s first moving image curator, I will describe the rationale behind building the archive beyond the archive, arguing that what is being developed for the moving image has implications for all media used in research and for how research institutions work together in the future.
Is the solution for an archive not to be an archive? What lies beyond the archive, and is that what we're building here? Well, I won't know until I've written the paper, so I'd better start doing so.

More on what looks like it is going to be a particular interesting three days at

By the way, the key book on the practical and philosophical issues for film archiving today is Paolo Cherchi Usai, David Francis, Alexander Horwath (eds.), Film Curatorship: Archives, Museums and the Digital Marketplace (Austrian Film Museum, 2008), happily now available in the UK from Wallflower Press. Every film archivist should have a copy.