background image
DigiCULT
.
Info
43
E
VENT
R
EPORT
:
P
RESTO
S
PACE
AND
A
UDIOVISUAL
P
RESERVATION
R
ICHARD
W
RIGHT
, T
ECHNOLOGY
M
ANAGER
,
P
ROJECTS
I
NFORMATION
& A
RCHIVES
,
BBC F
INANCE
, P
ROPERTY
& B
USINESS
A
FFAIRS
SUMMARY
E
C Sixth Framework funding in the
cultural sector is concentrated in large
projects. This concentration of effort has
produced many disappointed applicants
and also places a high burden of respon-
sibility on those few successful projects.
PrestoSpace (http://www.prestospace.
org/) is the only Integrated Project (with-
in Access to Cultural Heritage) in the
preservation area funded by the first FP6
Call. Accordingly, the project is making
a sincere effort to determine actual user
needs, so that this one project can be as
representative of true need as possible. The
first public action of PrestoSpace, which
formally started on 1 February 2004,
was a 1.5-day User Requirements meet-
ing in Amsterdam on 18-19 March. A full
house of 70 delegates attended the meeting,
held in an appropriate venue: the historic
Felix Meritis building. The building is the
home of a 250-year old movement foster-
ing international culture and co-operation.
The delegates represented large and small
audiovisual archives, and the technical sec-
tor associated with these archives.
THE PROGRAMME
T
he programme was a day of presenta-
tions and discussion at Felix Meritis,
followed by a half-day of film presentations
at the Netherlands Filmmuseum.
T
he programme for the first day cov-
ered:
The purpose of the PrestoSpace project,
by Daniel Teruggi and Jean-Hugues
Chenot of the Institut National de
l'Audiovisuel in France.
The European perspective, from
Maurizio Lunghi of the Minerva project.
The broadcast perspective, from Richard
Wright of the BBC archives.
The special needs of film, discussed in
more detail below.
The specific work areas of Prestospace:
digitisation, restoration, storage and
metadata.
T
he afternoon was devoted to detailed
discussion of these areas, with empha-
sis on determining the real need, not just
the academic interests of the researchers.
THE PROBLEMS
P
restoSpace is about preservation of
European audiovisual (AV) materi-
al. While considerable attention has been
devoted to conventional archive contents,
audiovisual materials are the single high-
est `at risk' category and have urgent prob-
lems. This risk is due to:
Fragility: film, vinyl, shellac (for gramo-
phone recordings) and tape are easily
damaged, and in the case of nitrate film
also flammable or even explosive.
Decay: chemical deterioration of the
media. All AV material is subject to
slow (and not-so-slow) chemical change,
with magnetic layers coming off polymer
bindings, clogging players and in the
worst cases destroying the media.
Acetate-based material (used in film,
video and audio recordings) turns to
acetic acid, which not only can destroy
the acetate media, but also can attack
non-acetate material in the same storage
area.
Obsolescence: players for AV formats
(such as 6-mm open-reel audio tape
recorders, gramophone turntables, U-
matic video tape) become obsolete in
as little as ten years a problem that is
accelerating with new digital media.
Expense: the problem of chemical
decay can only be retarded by conserving
materials at low temperature and
humidity, which adds the final problem
(a problem shared by all archives and all
archive contents): money. Proper storage
of AV materials is expensive. Proper
equipment, staff and preparation of access
copies are also expensive in comparison
with non-AV media.
Felix Meritis building in Amsterdam

Richar
d
Wr
ight,

2004