Digital Directions 2015

On 27 October 2015 the NFSA hosted a symposium to coincide with the UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. Digital Directions: Archiving into the Future focused on the challenges of digitising audiovisual material so that it can be enjoyed by future generations of Australians (see presentations from the day below).


The NFSA also launched a discussion paper, Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk, which you can download below.



9:00–10:00 Registration

Session one – The international and national context for collecting and preserving audiovisual material

10:00-10:15 Welcome – Michael Loebenstein, CEO, NFSA

10:15-11:00 ‘A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive’: Archive experiences in post-conflict zones – Associate Professor Martin Hadlow
Abstract: In recent years, two unique archives of invaluable tapes and musical recordings have been destroyed in Papua New Guinea, one out of sheer ignorance and the other in civil conflict. Elsewhere in the Pacific and Asia, a lack of resources and expertise have often been the enabling factors in bringing about the unintentional physical decline of audiovisual collections within major national institutions. While education is a key element in highlighting the need to preserve the past for the future, there is also an important role for international bodies, such as UNESCO. This paper looks at practical examples of UNESCO’s role in conflict and post-conflict situations and recounts personal and professional experiences from the frontline where the battle to save audiovisual heritage is being fought.

> Download Hadlow Digital Directions presentation 


11:00–11:30 ‘Remote audiovisual archives’ – Peter White, NFSA and Susan Locke, Research and Projects Officer, IRCA
Abstract: This presentation provides the background, rationale and activities of the National Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Audiovisual Collections Plan. The Plan, AKA the Remote Archiving Plan, was released in late 2014 following collaborative development between national, state/territory and local cultural organisations. A number of recommended standards for digital formats and metadata have emerged from the Plan alongside a series of remote training workshops.

> Download Locke Digital Directions presentation


11:30–12:00 ‘Good Neighbours: the NSFA’s support for regional audiovisual collections in South-East Asia and the Pacific’ – Mick Newnham, NFSA
Abstract: The NFSA has had a long-standing association with audiovisual archives in the SE Asia and Pacific region. Ranging from French Polynesia to Myanmar and New Zealand to the People’s Republic of China, this region has not only a diverse range of cultures but also of environmental and economic conditions under which archives operate. This presentation will examine how the NFSA’s relationships with the region have been formed, what we have been able to offer and what we have learned from this experience.

> Download Newnham Digital Directions presentation 


12:00–12:30 ’716 Waltzing Matildas’ – Graham McDonald, NFSA

> Download McDonald Digital Directions presentation


Deadline 2025

12:30–2:00 Launch of NFSA discussion paper Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk

> Download Deadline 2025: Collections at risk


Session two – The challenges of digitisation

2:00–2:30 ‘Managing the large-scale digitisation of audiovisual collections’ – Cynthia Coleman, State Library of NSW
Abstract: The State Library of New South Wales’ collection of Oral Histories and Sound Recordings is an invaluable resource, complementing the Library’s original manuscripts, photographs and pictures collections. It is under-utilised because of significant constraints on access. Cynthia will provide you with insights on how project management can assist with the large-scale digitisation of audiovisual collections projects, and at the same time meet the required, and often competing demands of scope (quality and volume), budget and schedule.

> Download Coleman Digital Directions presentation


2:30–3:00 ‘Byte Me: Preserving Culture in a Digital Age’ – Trevor Carter and Patricia Downes, NFSA
Abstract: This presentation will discuss the challenges attendant upon the preservation of digital audiovisual culture in an age of mass content creation and ever-evolving technologies.


3:00–3:30 ‘Is a black hole as bad as a dark age? Worrying about future loss’ – Stephanie Boyle, Australian War Memorial
Abstract: There has long been deep concern in the archival community regarding a pending ‘digital dark age’ – or maybe an ‘information black hole’ – depending which flavour of apocalypse you prefer. Both sound equally bad. For the Australian War Memorial’s ongoing collection of amateur film (home movies) there is an additional layer of ‘darkness’, one which curators, and their soldier/filmmaker/donors of the Vietnam period never needed to consider. If left to their own devices, will today’s soldiers – the veterans of Afghanistan – donate their home movies with as much relative ease as their forbears did, and what do we stand to miss out on if they don’t?

> Download Boyle Digital Directions presentation


3:30–4:00 Discussion and Q&A


4:00–4:30 Screening – Overscan : Highlights from material recently digitised by the NFSA in overscan format

> Download Overscan Digital Directions 



Michael Loebenstein was appointed CEO of the NFSA in 2011. He arrived from Vienna (Austria) where he held the positions of Curator for Special Programmes at the Austrian Film Museum and Project Manager and Researcher at the Ludwig Boltzmann Society’s historical research cluster. Former positions include advisor to the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, and freelance film and exhibition curator and journalist, with a focus on documentary film history, Visual History and Holocaust Studies. Michael has published on documentary filmmakers Dziga Vertov, Alexander Hammid, James Benning and others. Michael is a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Media History at Macquarie University (Sydney) and the Wantok Music Foundation (Melbourne). He is currently serving his second term as Secretary General of FIAF – The International Federation of Film Archives.


Associate Professor Martin Hadlow is Deputy Chair of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO and was Rapporteur of the Communication and Information Commission at the 35th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in October 2009. He is a former Secretary-General of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre and was previously Associate Professor and foundation Director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change in the School of Journalism and Communication at The University of Queensland. He joined the university following an extensive international career with UNESCO. Before joining UNESCO, Martin Hadlow was Programme Co-ordinator of a major Australian-funded radio, television and film training project in the countries of ASEAN, and then headed, as Manager, the AIBD-Australia Media Programme, a development initiative primarily for the countries of Indo-China. He has an MA (Mass Communications) from the University of Leicester (UK), an Honorary Doctorate from the Kazakh State National University (Kazakhstan) and an Esteemed Scholar award from the Kyrgyz State National University (Kyrgyzstan). He recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland.


Peter White is Senior Manager of Indigenous Connection at the National Film and Sound Archive.


Susan Locke has worked in the remote Indigenous media sector for 10 years. She is currently Research and Projects Officer with the Indigenous Remote Communications Association. In this role she has project managed the development of the Remote ATSI Audiovisual Collections Plan and continues to have a key role in its implementation. Susan was General Manager of PAW Media and Communications at Yuendumu in the NT from 2008 to 2012. During this time she facilitated the Social Significance Statement process for the Warlpiri Media Archive as well as the business planning process for the establishment of the Warlpiri Language and Culture Centre. Prior to her Indigenous media sector roles, Susan worked in adult education and rural community development roles in NSW.


Mick Newnham is the Manager of Conservation and Research at the NFSA. In 2014 he was elected President of the South East Asia Pacific Audio Visual Archive Association (SEAPAVAA). He has previously served as Chair of the SEAPAVAA Technical Committee (2000-2005) and on SEAPAVAA’s Executive Council as Treasurer (2005-2008). Mick has contributed to the work of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) Technical Commission, the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) Preservation Committee, the AMIA International Outreach Committee and the International Organization for Standardization’s TC42 WG5 – the working group responsible for the ISO standards and recommended practices pertaining to the care of audiovisual materials. He is a lecturer in audiovisual preservation with Charles Sturt University and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation.


Graham McDonald is a Sound Archivist at the NFSA who delights in exploring lesser known and long ignored sections of Australian popular music. His current projects include an annotated discography of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Australian surfing music.


Cynthia Coleman is a project manager assisting the State Library of NSW with digitising its collection. She has worked for large corporate organisations as a technology project manager running projects across multiple countries. Cynthia has a background in the library and information services sector in technology, management and service delivery roles. At the State Library of NSW she has worked with the National Library of Australia, NFSA and sound digitisation suppliers on a variety of long- term, large-scale digitisation projects.


Trevor Carter is the Manager of Digital Collection Infrastructure at the NFSA. He develops, implements and delivers digital collection infrastructure and services. Trevor leads the team that designs and maintains workflows for handling a diverse range of collection materials. Previous publications and papers include: ‘Managing Multiplatform Materials: Selected Case Studies’ (19th International Symposium on Electronic Art); Dying Light: Tinted Film Projects at the NFSA ; and ‘Digital Disaster Recovery’ (16th SEAPAVVA Conference).


Patricia Downes joined the NFSA in 2003, working in the areas of collection management systems and data quality.


Stephanie Boyle is a senior curator in the photographs, film and sound section at the Australian War Memorial (AWM), where she has worked in mainly curatorial areas since 2006. During this time she’s been involved in the digitisation and upload of publically accessible collections to the AWM website, and been part of curatorial deployments to Afghanistan and around Australia to interview Australian defence force personnel for the national collection. She is interested in digital collections, particularly those generated by individuals for domestic or non-commercial purposes, such as oral history and amateur film. Her paper builds on previous work with the AWM’s Vietnam and Afghanistan film collections and a 2013 paper at the War and Media conference (University of Egham, UK), examining the amateur film in television (read an abridged version here).