Panel #1: National archives‘ transnational archive agendas

Moderator: Sonja de Leeuw (Utrecht University)

Bas Agterberg (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Curator)
Carl Davies (British Broadcasting Company, Archive Innovation)
Jeroen Depraetere (EBU, Project Manager Eurovision Song Contest Archive)
Ditte Laursen (State Media Archive, Denmark, Senior Researcher)
Paul Wilson (The British Library, Radio Curator)

The panel discussed how collaborations between archives and researchers could be developed more fruitfully in a transnational perspective, in terms of cross-border access and research. Leading questions were: ‘what are the most common constrains of archive use in research and in teaching future researchers and other users in secondary and academic education?’ ‘How could archives better facilitate transnational research agendas?’ And vice versa ‘how could research help us guide and optimize future archive development?’

The panel was informed by the results of a survey among radio scholars developed and distributed by colleagues in the TRE project addressing the type of content researchers are looking for, constrains they have experienced and challenges for the future.

Firstly national issues were discussed as experienced by the panellists, each of whom represents a public body, serving public aims such as preserving collections and items and transfer knowledge about these.

Yet all institutions have different rules regarding access and are in different stages when it comes to making available their holdings online.

Mostly what researchers find online is just the top of the iceberg. To study the iceberg one needs to carry out research on site. Access on site is in some cases restricted (such as in DK) and in others unlimited (the NL) or limited to a part of the collection (UK), due to IPR (Intellectual Property Rights). Once on site researchers are faced with language problems, in DK and in the NL descriptions and metadata are in the national languages. This is also true for the UK when it comes to collections in English, but here researchers have the advantage of their command of English. For collections in other languages at the British Library (such as German) there are German-speaking staff members, but researchers will again face the language problem, unless they also understand German.

For a broadcaster like the BBC and regarding an event like the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) there are already archiving challenges; how to bring material together that either spreads across the country (BBC’s local and regional stations) or across different countries such as with ESC and BBC’s world services? (NB All ESC content is available on YouTube and nobody claims the rights).

Still the question remains how institutions are able to address their public mission (their institutions are funded with public money) to reaching out to the public and to transferring knowledge about their holdings, whilst at the same time access is limited due to copyright issues. With ESC again there is YouTube while the official archive is not allowed to provide access. In the NL access is free (on site, not as yet online), and in other countries institutions are struggling with the balance between preservation and dissemination (UK and DK).

One way out, it is suggested, would be offering a business model such as INA (FR) has developed where on site researchers and general audiences can watch clips in low streaming quality and could pay a small amount of money to see the whole programme. The amount of money only would need to cover digitization costs (as the BBC is considering). Selling DVD’s of programmes on request (NL) already reaches break even. Earning money from YouTube (ESC) is another way as is a license model (digitizing material, which in turn is bought by the copyright holders, DK).

At another related point the issue of de-collecting is raised: what about throwing away material and how do you know what to throw away? That seems a difficult question to answer, as it is difficult to know what future users would like to do with the collections and what they will value. Filtering out technology might be available, but the actual processing costs would exceed the costs involved in keeping just all the material that is available and leave it to future users even if, like today, a lot of material is hardly used or researched.

What remains unsolved is the question of facilitating researchers who do not as yet know exactly what they need, and would like to process large chunks of material.

Secondly collaboration between archives, libraries, broadcasters and researchers is discussed. This is considered important as digitization allows for a firmer engagement by users with the digitized content and thus for increasing usability. Usability is well served by contextualization and here researchers come in (giving meaning to material, adding metadata etc.). The BBC Genome project is mentioned as an example where transmission history is put on line and could be commented and further developed with the help of users/researchers (crowd sourcing). The user-generated content will then be distributed again online.

Other institutions would like to work more with researchers to help prioritize digitization and online access (UK) and even help to describe what the content of a specific programme is, especially with radio (lots are unknown, DK). For ESC it would be helpful to collaborate with researchers as each national broadcast of ESC has its own commentator and thus might need other (also nationally informed) metadata. In the NL collaboration is already very much in place, both on the level of content and context (Humanities) and on the level of innovation technology (Computer Studies). Collaborating in European projects would also benefit this kind of collaboration.

Thirdly and following up on the collaboration issue, the transnational aspect is discussed.

Moderator thereupon concludes that, what lacks in radio research, is a more collaborative European network, such as exists for television research (the European Television History Network, ETHN) in which archivists and researchers collaborate. In order to be able to do transnational research, we needs to go digital (crossing archive borders virtually). Out of ETHN a first European project was developed and a second and a third (see to create digital access across borders (on one freely accessible portal), which fits very well with the policy of the European commission to open up European cultural heritage for all the European citizens. This material was enriched with metadata (harmonized and standardized) and contextualized with articles, analysis and Virtual Exhibitions.

As everyone here seems to struggle with the same issues, sharing the same interest, this would be a way (a network in the first place) to exchange and start working from the shared interests without disregarding certain national limitations.

It seems there is already some participation in European projects (Europeana Sounds), yet technically it remains complicated because of formats etc.  European money for European sound projects is needed indeed to standardize and harmonize so as to be able to bring material together.

One way out here would be to confine to the Europeana data model because that allows for a much more easier exchange and some archives already do so (NL, UK). Another way out would be, as is suggested, to create another digital public space (separated from the general Internet) where material is put online for research and educational use (some present institutions do have that already).

Finally back to the IPR issues: whereas the European Commission supports (with funding) access and usability across borders, national right legislation remains restrictive. Moderator points to the fact that the European Commission now also works on a harmonizing IPR model for instance under the current EU copy right framework, which is very detailed described in the Infosoc Directive on Copyright in the Information Society. Within this framework, it is already possible yet not mandatory to grant access for educational, scientific and research purposes.

The EUscreenXL community now wants to propose “a harmonized, legal deposit framework” and now I quote, “of public interest audio visual works involving mandatory harmonization and broadening of the existing exceptions to allow for unlimited access for researchers, archivists and students alike for their privileged usage purposes.”

This is now being discussed within the EUscreen community, which involves all kinds of broadcasting organizations and libraries and institutions so as to combine efforts, to put some pressure there were it is needed.  Most present representatives agree that this would work and would support it.