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NFSA day at the ICA

International Council on Archives Congress Day 3
 Michael Loebenstein

NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein reports from the International Council on Archives Congress in Brisbane.
Sophia Sambono, Meg Labrum and Sonia Gherdevich

It’s day three and the kiosk is still buzzing here at the International Council on Archives Congress in Brisbane. We had visitors from dozens of nations swing by to watch the footage on display (mostly Film Australia compiles on metropolitan and rural Australia, but also NFSA-produced documentation on our Magic Lantern slides collection and Black Screen compiles) and to enquire about our mission, preservation strategies and digital workflows.

This morning I kicked off a series of talks and presentations by NFSA staff, presenting on audiovisual archiving in what I call the ‘transactional period’ – an era marked by a dramatic change towards a citizen-centric model of engagement, where sharing of knowledge and material becomes the expected modus operandi. Not easy when at the same time the legal, organisational and technological environment can be considered hostile to collection development. To offset the doom and gloom factor I closed by presenting what I consider the most genius and beautiful example of what a culture of sharing could be like, Gotye’s Somebodies – A You Tube Orchestra.



Next up was Sonia Gherdevich’s and Meg Labrum’s presentation on Curatorship and Stewardship: a match made in audiovisual archiving heaven. To the audience’s surprise they illustrated the often difficult collaboration between the curators (the creators of the collection) and the stewards (the carers of the collection) through role play!
General Manager (Access and Outreach) Sonia Gherdevich and Senior Curator Meg Labrum get creative with role play

It involved a series of phone conversations about a (fictitious) collection coming in, and things going pear-shaped as they usually do: instead of 30 it’s 300 boxes, there is no documentation attached, some nitrate thrown in, and the ubiquitous tight deadlines. The audience certainly recognised a lot of what was played out in front of them, alternating between cringing and relief. Questions after the talk focused on the debate over whether or not traditional curatorial values – completeness, authenticity, originality – can be translated into the digital world.

To close our NFSA marathon, Indigenous Collections curator Sophia Sambono provided insight into the Indigenous Collections and the Regional Programs teams’ approaches to establishing cultural connections through engaging specific communities through shared and communal encounters with their audiovisual heritage. In her paper, co-developed with Regional Programs Manager Brendan Smith, Sophia focused on the archive’s ability to tell stories. Going beyond the notion of the archive being a repository merely of documents she argued for the cultural dividend created by the NFSA’s outreach programs, the community created through the collective enjoyment of song in our recent outreach program Cooee Cabaret, the joint celebration of Indigenous-produced screen stories through Black Screen, and the transactional energy released through encounters with artists and screen talent through our NFSA Connects program. Her case study presented the repatriation of sacred and rare film materials to the Yirrkala, remote Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land.
Rod Butler and Mick Newnham


We attracted a good crowd, and tomorrow Head of Preservation Rod Butler and Senior Researcher Mick Newnham will carry the torch and conduct a workshop on AV preservation. Stay tuned for Rod’s blog.