Since 2014 FIAT/IFTA every year gives a special Lifetime Honorary Award to a person who has special merits for FIAT/IFTA and for the field of audiovisual archiving as a whole. Normally the Award, a special FIAT/IFTA Cube, is presented at the end of the annual Gala Dinner and Awards Show. This year, the online conference made it more difficult to organize this happy moment. We therefore asked the winner of 2020, Annemieke de Jong of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, for a reaction in written form. She sent us this personal and professional reflection on the year 2020.
We kindly add that her recent publication “The Agile AV-Archive, prestige and identity in times of technological change” is freely available online in English, in Spanish and in Dutch. The laudatio pronounced by FIAT/IFTA President Bríd Dooley during the 2020 online Awards Show can still be found here.
The year 2020, a personal and professional reflection
On UNESCO’s Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the 27th of October of 2020, FIAT/IFTA awarded me with the Life Time Achievement Award. I feel moved and honored by this homage, and I am fully aware of the selected company I now find myself in, the small illustrious group of audiovisual archive experts that have received this special Award in the past!
FIAT/IFTA has been a crucial part of my professional life in the archive, and I am proud to have contributed to its important mission, together with so many dedicated friends and colleagues from all over the world. I take this opportunity to once again thank this wonderful organization for the tremendous honor it bestowed upon me.
The year 2020 also marked my farewell to ‘the archive’, to the Netherlands institute for Sound and Vision, where I was employed for almost 40 years. Let me express my gratitude to this very special institute and its predecessors, not only for its open mind throughout this long period of time, to any modernization and renewal of archival structures, standards and systems, but also for the support they gave me to regularly contemplate and capture the work we as audiovisual archives do, with the institute’s own collection, its own developing process, as a living source of inspiration.
In 2020 I furthermore released my recent publication “The Agile AV-Archive, prestige and identity in times of technological change”. This booklet can be seen as a resumé of the 40 years of audiovisual archiving development that I have witnessed and took active part in.
The publication describes the cultural and material changes of the archive’s collections during these four decades, its professionalization process and the path to the strong, discernable position in the network culture it holds today. It is centered around the series of radical technological transitions audiovisual archives had to undergo, from the last quarter of the last century onwards. Basically, a new technological ‘revolution’ took place every decade, starting with the introduction of video in the 1970s, the automation of data and work processes in the 1980s, the rise of the network environment in the 1990s, digital production from the year 2000 onwards and today, the application of AI and business intelligence.
How did ‘the AV archive’ cope with these complex technological changes? What were the effects on the collections, the working methods and the staff? What changed, what remained the same? In my publication I make an attempt to answer these questions …
How did ‘the AV archive’ cope with these complex technological changes? What were the effects on the collections, the working methods and the staff? What changed, what remained the same? In my publication I make an attempt to answer these questions and in doing so, I touch upon the ‘essence’ of the audiovisual archive, the significant properties that have helped, time and again, to adapt to ever changing technological circumstances and new user requirements. My analysis includes the specific nature of audiovisual materials, the background as production archives and the traditional mindset of ‘the AV archivist’ that, by definition, is focused on providing access to the collections, across changing times and shifting technologies. In conclusion I state that continuous adaptation to new requirements is simply part of these archives’ DNA. A clear success factor, therefore, in recurrent times of technological change.
It is true that image and sound collections in broadcast archives, film institutes and other organizations were assigned the cultural heritage status by UNESCO in 1980, leading to more ‘formal’ prestige for audiovisual archives. But it was the development of their technological and service capabilities in the four decades to follow, that effectively led to the actual emancipation of these archives.
Happy New Year!
Annemieke de Jong
Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision