At the ICA Congress, Brisbane


NFSA’s Head of Preservation and Technical Services, Rod Butler, reports from the International Council on Archives Congress in Brisbane.

Mick Newnham runs a Practical Approaches to AV Archiving workshop at the 2012 ICA Congress

Digital technology is a major challenge for anyone wishing to guarantee long-term access to audiovisual (AV) records. In addition to understanding how AV objects deteriorate, managers of collections also need to know how to migrate a variety of content formats onto new (usually digital) media. This presents a range of new duplication, storage and collection management issues.

On the final day of the 2012 ICA Congress Mick Newnham, Manager of Conservation, Preparation and Research, and myself presented a workshop covering these topics to 25 archivists from Australia and around the world. We provided participants with information about passive storage, digital collection maintenance and a wide range of international standards. Issues that seemed to be of most interest were: the need to retain original records after digitisation, the various metadata standards that are best used for AV collections, and cost-effective methods for smaller organisations to care for their collections without compromising core archival principles.

In the afternoon, we gave everyone a hypothetical collection and resources and asked them to design a digitisation project within a fixed three-year period. Participants were also required to work within a strict budget using a mythical ‘Tim Tam’ currency – though those in Australian archiving know that this is actually a very real and effective form of currency! The resultant workflows involved planning, prioritisation, migration, storage, quality control and access workflows. They were also forced to deal with imposed disasters, such as a flood or a reduction in budget, to test the resilience of their programs.

Rod Butler and Mick Newnham

Although everyone came from a range of cultures and backgrounds and had responsibility for diverse collections, all found that certain fundamental principles applied to the digital preservation of an AV collection. In particular, the importance of good planning to ensure that preservation priorities matched their organisation’s purpose; the vital use of good quality control methods such as ‘checksums’ to guarantee the integrity of digital copies; and the different approaches required for collection versus corporate ICT (Information Communication Technology) back-up strategies and disaster management. However even the application of international standards required individual analysis of a collection’s and organisation’s needs in order to determine the best approaches, formats and systems.

Although Mick and I were the official trainers, the success of the day relied on the contributions from those present; their individual skills and experience rounded out many elements of the training program. I hope we will continue to collaborate with each other to manage our collections in a changing technological environment.