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27th October 2013: World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (United Nations/Unesco)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on October 27, 2013

“World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is an opportunity to reflect and act,
in order to bequeath to future generations the means to understand their origins.”

Irina Bokova
Director-General of UNESCO

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World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

© Max Stahl / CAMSTL (Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor Leste) Demonstrators run from bullets

© Max Stahl / CAMSTL (Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor Leste) Demonstrators run from bullets

Audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, audio and video recordings, contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Transcending language and cultural boundaries, appealing immediately to the eye and the ear, to the literate and illiterate, audiovisual documents have transformed society by becoming a permanent complement to the traditional written record.

However, they are extremely vulnerable and it is estimated that we have no more than 10 to 15 years to transfer audiovisual records to digital to prevent their loss. Much of the world’s audiovisual heritage has already been irrevocably lost through neglect, destruction, decay and the lack of resources, skills, and structures, thus impoverishing the memory of mankind. Much more will be lost if stronger and concerted international action is not taken.

It was in this context, that the General Conference in 2005 approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents as an integral part of national identity.

2013 Theme:
“Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation”

Stacks of film reels in the Department of Public Information (DPI) audiovisual archives at UN Headquarters. The Department’s Audiovisual Services Section organized first-ever tours of the archives to commemorate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

Stacks of film reels in the Department of Public Information (DPI) audiovisual archives at UN Headquarters. The Department’s Audiovisual Services Section organized first-ever tours of the archives to commemorate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. (Source: United Nations/Unesco)

Audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, are our common heritage and contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries. They help to maintain the cultural identity of a people; but countless documentary treasures have disappeared since the invention of image and sound technologies that permit the peoples of the world to better share their experiences, creativity and knowledge.

All of the world’s audiovisual heritage is endangered. Nowhere can it be said to be preserved, but through initiatives such as theWorld Day for Audiovisual Heritage and the Memory of the World Programme, the precious work of preservation professionals is given impetus to manage a range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our heritage.

It was in this context, that the General Conference in 2005 approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents as an integral part of national identity.

World Day of Audiovisual Heritage: DPI endeavours to preserve a legacy at risk

The UN’s audiovisual archive dates back as early as the 1920s and constitutes the memory of the Organization, from the League of Nations to the construction of UN Headquarters in New York, as well as the footage and programmes, which continue to be produced daily. Archiving such a rich and complex collection is a major challenge.

Slogan for 2013: Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation

Slogan for 2013: Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation

The Department of Public Information’s (DPI) continuing efforts to preserve the unique audiovisual heritage of the United Nations – and, as importantly, to keep this heritage accessible to the world – are critical in making sure the Organization’s story may be told in images and sounds to future generations.

In the labyrinth of the Secretariat’s basements, a huge task is being performed by a small team of archivists: to inventory and classify all UN audio, film and video materials before the Capital Master Plan reaches the lower levels of the building. “The history is here and needs to be preserved and be accessible,” said Antonio Carlos Silva from the Multimedia Ressources Unit.  Part of the work is also to select the most valuable materials to be treated with priority, taking into account the physical conditions of the items and their value to the Organization, and to recommend methods and standards of preservation and digitization of the most at-risk audiovisual materials.

Vinegar syndrome, the acidification of the plastic base of film, is one of the major concerns.  With an estimated 7% of the film collection already suffering from acidification, finding digitization and storage solutions has become especially urgent.

To address the challenges of preserving these archives, DPI, along with other departments and stakeholders, is developing a sound digitization programme. In the meantime, partnerships have been forged with the national archives from various member states such as Brazil, France, Greece, and the Republic of Korea, who selected parts of the collection and will digitize them themselves. These institutions will also provide the UN with a high-resolution preservation copy of the selected material, and therefore, of UN historical moments affecting our humanity.

CONTACT: JOIE SPRINGER
Programme Specialist
Communication and Information Sector (CI)
Mail: j.springer(at)unesco.org
Tel: 33-1 45 68 44 97
Fax: 33-1 45 68 55 83

UNESCO Activities…

28 October 2013
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

27 October – 1 November 2013
Lalitpur, Nepal

Message from the Director-General of UNESCO
27 October 2013

Irina Bokova (2009 / Source: Wikipedia.org)

Irina Bokova (2009 / Source: Wikipedia.org)

We are witnessing a historic turning point in the impact of technology: the easier it is to capture images and sounds, edit them and disseminate them worldwide, the harder it is to safeguard these immense data streams.

The growing influence of digital technology in the audiovisual sector is revolutionizing traditional concepts of information sharing, intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding. It is also redefining our relationship with documents and changing the very nature of preservation work. Digital audiovisual production, in the form of recording or digitization, is often presented as a miracle solution to the safeguarding of certain forms of heritage, but we must ensure that future generations are able to access the recordings that we make. Some of the current commonly used software did not exist 10 or 20 years ago – what will become of it on the scale of history?

In this context, institutions responsible for the safeguarding of our audiovisual heritage – public and private film libraries and archives, national and international institutions – have a dual mission: to pursue the safeguarding of audiovisual heritage, along with the devices that can read them, and to think carefully about the future of digital audiovisual heritage.

Each recording device has something to say about the era and the society in which it was created – slide projectors, cameras, vinyl records and videotapes all tell stories about the lifestyles of their time. Digital technology is no exception. It portrays societies with a compulsive thirst for images and sound, where each public or private event of history can be documented in a thousand ways, but with what is sometimes a short memory span. Public authorities play an essential role in
supporting the development of technologies and their social and cultural impact.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is an opportunity to reflect and act, in order to bequeath to future generations the means to understand their origins, in the way that we can currently watch a restored version of a Charlie Chaplin film or listen to the recording of workers leaving the factory in the early twentieth century.

UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme carries forth this ambition on behalf of the international community and on this Day, I call on all Member States, as well as all of us, as producers and consumers of images and sounds, and the institutions that are responsible for safeguarding them, to join forces to protect and share our common audiovisual wealth.

Irina Bokova

(Source: 10/2013 – UN and Unesco)

More Archive material from the
iasa (International Association for Sound and Audiovisual Archives)

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WDFAH 2012…

Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Marcel Caya (Chair of the Canadian ad hoc Committee for Memory of the World) talks about audiovisual heritage and the urgency of preservation.

WDFAH 2011… Highlights of UN Audiovisual Formats

WDFAH 2010…

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