While producing sound and image is great, preservation is indispensable


A very recent problem is the preservation of media, and media players that enable us to access the information. In a world in which the production and evolution of technologies rapidly evolve, this is not an issue. Or rather, hasn’t been an issue until recently. Some people, such as Joshua Harris, Media Preservation Coordinator at the University of Illinois in the United States.

Media evolves, formats change, today’s reading tools are different from those of yesterday. In this context, the question arises: will today’s productions still be accessible tomorrow? If so, what do we preserve, why do we preserve it, and how do we preserve it?

These are all questions that Joshua Harris, Media Preservation Coordinator at the University of Illinois in the United States, has raised, and which he evoked on Tuesday morning, during a conference in the Maison de la Culture’s large tent. He encourages all owners of production companies (broadcasting groups, institutes, production companies and individuals) who want to keep their companies, to raise these questions.

“For example, many people think that the process of producing a film consists of recording sound and image, all of which goes into a box. But it goes beyond this, we also have to think of where to store them, the type of format, and available reading tools.” These are questions that Bertie Frogier, in the audience, raises. His grandfather has left him Super 8mm films, with personal data and footage of general interest. He no longer has the equipment to read them and neither do his friends or family.

An expensive and time-consuming procedure

For the moment, the solution in French Polynesia is to send them to New Zealand: playback and digitization (which remains one of the best means of preservation) is possible there, but this has its cost. “Like everywhere,” says Joshua Harris. “Also, when productions are digitized we must take into consideration that we do not have the time or the financial means to save everything.” He gives the example of his University’s media archives. “We have identified 400,000 elements on campus and have digitized only 1% of these elements. Knowing that it takes one and a half hours to digitize one hour of film, it would take us 85 years of full-time work to complete the digitization.”

The problem of preservation is recent. “10 years ago, it wasn’t really a concern,” remembers Joshua Harris. However, the threats are numerous: humidity, temperature, variations in the parameters, mildew, insects, dust and inundations… These are of concern across the globe. In answering the questions of a member of the public, Joshua Harris insists on the importance of parameter stability. “For humidity, there are basic dehumidifying products such as rice. Then, the films must be wrapped in plastic and placed in bins.”

FIFO / Delphine Barrais