Audiovisual documents contain many of the most powerful records of the 20th and 21st centuries. Work with sound, films, and multimedia therefore represents an important and growing part of libraries’ efforts to preserve and provide access to cultural heritage. The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage takes place on 27 October, and libraries around the world will be celebrating and promoting this heritage as well as the work they are doing to save it for the future.
Audiovisual media has transformed society, creating new possibilities to create, innovate and document the world. It has become a permanent complement to the traditional written record and today many libraries hold not only great collections of books but also audiovisual heritage.
Libraries around the globe are working with non-traditional materials and learning environments such as streaming media, digital creation labs, virtual reality etc. and are taking an active role in both the safeguarding and promotion of these materials.
Before It’s Too Late: Recognising the Need to Preserve Audiovisual Heritage
But even though this material is relatively new, it has already become endangered, as sound recordings and moving images can be deliberately destroyed or irretrievably lost as a result of neglect, decay and technological obsolescence.
In 1980 The General Conference of the UNESCO met in Belgrade to discuss the issue of preservation and conservation of audiovisual documents. It approved the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images. This had the aim to raise awareness of moving images as an expression of the cultural identity of peoples, of their educational, cultural, artistic, scientific and historical value, and of their place as an integral part of a nation’s cultural heritage.
In 2005 the General Assembly of UNESCO offered a reminder that audiovisual cultural heritage continued to be lost – international action had be taken.
This resulted in the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, to raise awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual, and for urgent measures to be taken to conserve this heritage and ensure it remains accessible to the public now, and to future generations.
Other UNESCO initiatives such as the Memory of the World Programme (MoW) also promote preservation of documentary cultural heritage (including audiovisual).
Not Just Books! Libraries Preserving Audiovisual Heritage
Libraries are already active in safeguarding audiovisual heritage for the future. IFLA’s Audiovisual and Multimedia Section (AVMS) provides an international forum for people working with these materials in every kind of library and information service. The Section focuses its work on creating, collecting, describing, providing access, storing and preserving audiovisual and multimedia works.
AVMS holds open sessions, satellite meetings, and workshops in conjunction with IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress (WLIC). They provide guidelines for handling audiovisual and multimedia collections, and share information and resources from non-library organizations such as archives working with these collections.
IFLA also takes an active role in the MoW programme by both contributing to delivering the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage in Digital Form and being represented in the National MoW committees, including by the directors of several IFLA Preservation and Conservation Centres.
To celebrate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the PAC Centre at the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile specialised in the preservation of audiovisual heritage, will be launching three short films based on its domestic film collection, other events and activities will as well take place at the library. It’s a great example of the work that the IFLA community are doing to promote and safeguard audiovisual heritage.
Please join the celebration and help us acknowledge the work libraries do every day to preserve our stories so that they will endure for future generations.