The facts are scary. It’s estimated that 80% of 200 million hours of radio and television archives are expected to vanish by 2015. So, in December 2005, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Federation of International Television Archives (FIAT), the World Broadcasting Unions and individuals from the UN grouped together in the hopes of locating archives at risk, in order to save them for the future.
Currently, members of the project are appealing to fellow organizations to submit clips from their archives. Sue Malden, the executive coordinator of the Archives at Risk project and the chair of FOCAL International, is looking for content that’s ‘representative of the richness of their archives.’
The project’s main showpiece will be a website with clips of archival footage and sources for professionals on managing archives. Malden notes that another hope for the site will be to ‘attract substantial investment in these archives, and perhaps we’ll act as an interface between archives and funding for the greatest need.’ Its prototype was unveiled at the World Audiovisual Archive Day this year.
At the early lobbying stage, the partners have appealed to the French government and have plans to do the same in the UK, as the project will need lots of funding to make an impact. Of the projected cost, Malden observes ‘it’s in the hundreds of thousands. We have to find a way for people to work in partnership because it’s not really going to be possible to raise all the money that’s required.’
With such a daunting task ahead, Malden acknowledges that this isn’t easy, and it’s not going to be quick. ‘It’s the sort of project that could go on for some considerable years because there’s a huge amount of archive material that needs rescuing and saving,’ she says.