Paper details

Safeguarding Audiovisual Information for Future Generations


Dietrich Schüller, Phonogrammarchiv, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria

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Generally, libraries and archives follow the traditional preservation paradigm that also governs museums: to preserve the object, the original document, placed in their care.

With the traditional materials associated with text documents this is, with several limitations such as degradation of wood pulp paper, a viable strategy.

Audiovisual carriers. however, are more vulnerable, and more susceptible to chemical and physical deterioration than materials of traditional text documents. Additionally, being machine readable documents, their accessibility relies on the availability of fairly complex replay machines.

Around 1990 it became clear, that sooner or later all audiovisual carriers will deteriorate beyond retrievability, and, furthermore, that the variety of dedicated formats would constitute an unmanageable problem to keep machines and spare parts ready for accessing the documents.

This lead to a change of the preservation paradigm: Preservation should concentrate on the content of audiovisual documents, by extracting the signals from their original carriers, converting analogue information into digital files, and keep these files accessible by automated migration from one preservation platform to the next.

This concept was applied first in audio preservation, followed by video in the later 1990s. Meanwhile, as digital cinema leads to a retreat from raw film production and laboratory services, analogue film preservation, the last fortress of traditional carrier preservation, is also fading and replaced by digital content migration.

Author's professional CV

Dietrich Schüller, former Director of the Vienna Phonogrammarchiv, has been actively engaged in the development of audiovisual preservation over the past decades:

He was/ is member and partly chair of various International Technical Working Groups with a focus on audiovisual preservation.

He was with the Memory of the World Programme of UNESCO since its beginnings, and is presently member of its International Advisory Committee.

An author of numerous publications and editor of two IASA Standards on audiovisual preservation, he is also engaged in training seminars in Europe and abroad, more recently in Albania, SE-Asia, and Colombia.

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