Digitisation and its Stewardship Aspect

Notes from the discussion on the process of digitisation organised as part of the 19th Jihlava IDFF

The Industry programme of the 19th Jihlava IDFF included a discussion panel focusing on the stewardship aspect of the process of digitisation and the preservation to cultural heritage. The representatives of several key Czech memory institutions concentrated mainly on the selection criteria, what works to select for digitisation and when, the technical issues and the institutional competences related to digitisation.

The presentations of each of the four participants were followed by a discussion of the question – what is the substance of memory? Is it all that is archived in our memory institutions or only the things that are made accessible, thus becoming a part of the discourse?

Lucie Česálková, Head of the Research Department of the National Film Archive said: “In my view, memory has two parts both of which were, in one way or another, mentioned in our discussion. The first one is created by the National Virtual Phonothéque whose goal it is to inform about the existence and the place and form of storage of a particular audio document – a total and maximal entity; and the second one is the living memory which is preserved in the discourse. And both need to be cultivated in the same extent, we can’t just prefer one of them to the other.”

“I would describe it as an ‘acting archive’. An archive is ideal when it acts like a library,” added Michal Krsek of CESNET, an association of universities in the Czech Republic and the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Everyone agreed that: “Relevant care should be dedicated to all the materials within our reach.”

Filip Šír, the project manager of the Virtual Phonotheque, concluded, saying: “The crucial thing is to make sure that the institutions open their doors.”

The second question that popped up during the debate regarded the correct and ideal method of offering digitised films to the public.

“In my opinion, the ideal solution is a virtual gallery that will offer films and contexts that relate thereto,” said Lucie Česálková on behalf of all the present, “We need to make as much information accessible as possible. DVD is a limiting media carrier.”

“I believe that the best solution is an Internet database, video on demand. But I think that films should return to cinemas, the Internet can’t substitute the unique cinema experience,” added the film distributor and member of the Council of the State Cinematography Fund, Přemysl Martinek.

The private debate on the method of financing that was sparked after the end of the official part of the panel was also contributed to by Lars Gaustad from Norway, the manager of the digitisation project regarding the archiving of the Norwegian film heritage in the National Library of Norway. “We have to appeal to the political apparatus to provide funds to cover the digitisation process. If that doesn’t happen, we will lose a part of our history,” he added.

“We need to draw inspiration from Norway to create the same system here. We need to talk to politicians who have no clue what these institutions have in their possession. We need to find someone who will put pressure on them. Lucie Česálková also mentioned the fact that the project is too extensive. But it’s the same story everywhere in the world,” agreed Filip Šír.

However, Lucie Česálková objected to the idea of a single institution, saying: “I don’t think that we should have a single institution which would coordinate the whole project, but there should be a political will to manage these institutions.”

“The Ministry of Culture should support the project not only with funds but also with their own initiative,” added Michal Škopík, the head of the Information Technology Research Centre of the National Institute of Folk Culture.

Michal Krsek of CESNET summed up the whole discussion saying: “An academic discussion won’t yield any result, we need to talk directly to politicians.”

The discussion made it clear that experts from all the memory institutions have the same opinion on the issue of digitisation – the whole problem could substantially help solve the approach of the state, specifically the Ministry of Culture. No substantial changes can be made without the support of the political apparatus.

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