Authors: Eline De Lepeleire (Het Firmament), Nastasia Vanderperren (PACKED v zw)

    Summary

    At the request of the BRONKS theatre, Het Firmament and PACKED vzw evaluated its archiving system. On the basis of this evaluation, recommendations were drawn up and practical actions proposed to improve the archiving system. 

    Status 

    • Knowledge-gathering meeting: August 2014
    • Development of tools: September 2014
    • Audit of archiving system: October 2014
    • Delivery of report with recommendations: December 2014

    Statement of the Problem

    In June 2014, PACKED vzw organised an event together with Het Firmament on the occasion of the launch of the TRACKS toolbox. Various artists and arts organisations from Brussels and Flanders attended.1 This event made BRONKS think about their archiving strategy. It became clear to them that a good, structured approach was necessary. BRONKS wanted to create a lasting archive, but didn’t know how best to do it. Was it already being done properly? How could it be improved in the future?

    In addition, Oda Van Neygen, artistic director and founder of BRONKS, was retiring in October 2014. She was the person who until then had taken care of the archive. With her departure a great deal of the knowledge about the archive and also about BRONKS itself would disappear.

    BRONKS was looking for a way to resolve this problem. So they contacted PACKED vzw in July 2014 and asked them to provide information about the importance, approach and possible steps in the area of archive management. The organisation wanted to create a good archiving structure. Het Firmament and AMVB were also asked to get involved because of their expertise and geographical focus.

    Method

    1. Knowledge-gathering meeting
    2. Development of tool and method
    3. Evaluation day at BRONKS
    4. Report with advice and recommendations

    1. Knowledge-gathering meeting

    On 12 August 2014, AMVB, Het Firmament and PACKED vzw went to the site. In order to get an idea of the current approach to archiving, there followed a discussion about the system used at the theatre and the archive that had hitherto been created. This provided a picture of the various documents and objects circulating within BRONKS and the way it dealt with the archive (it is both a physical and digital archive). 

    • There are three productions every year. Archive material resulting from these (physical and digital) included: photos, videos, promotion material, reviews and press articles. Oda Van Neygen also had conversations with various writers and directors. Reports of these conversations were made. In addition she checked the writers’ texts and gave them feedback. There are various versions of texts in the archive. BRONKS also has a costume collection.
    • Every season there are various guest performances. Related memos, flyers, reports of the conversations held by Oda Van Neygen, images, printed matter and promotion material from BRONKS are kept.
    • There have also been three festivals in the last three years. The material from these is mostly promotional.
    • BRONKS also has a studio for children and young people: StudioBRONKS. The archive material from this consists of memos, lists of participants and reports of conversations.
    • In addition BRONKS organises neighbourhood activities. This happens on a last-minute basis which means that there is very little archive or tangible material.
    • Finally, archive documents are generated from the general management of the organisation: annual reports, accounting, reports of staff meetings, conclaves, internal meetings, Board of Directors, etc. 

    The storage of the physical archive was also examined. This was located in a basement room sealed off from third parties. The archive was big (about 30 metres of shelving) and filled the whole space. Some of the archive was damaged. As a result of renovation work, there was a hole in the wall; in combination with heavy rain this caused water and mud damage to a small part of the archive, including a number of videotapes.
    There was also another room for the promotional material. This room is better sealed off from the street side.

    From a conversation and guided tour of the archive it transpired that BRONKS had a number of concerns:

    • Is the archiving system working well? How can the archiving system be improved?
    • Is the archive being well preserved?
    • Loss of knowledge due to the departure of Oda Van Neygen. Will access to the archive be lost?

    This led to a number of plans: 

    • Transfer of the paper archive to AMVB: because the archive space was totally full and an archiving organisation can ensure the sustainable preservation of the archive, the archive was donated at the end of August to the AMVB in its entirety with the exception of recent printed matter and book-keeping.[[footnote|[[guidelines|61|Know where and how you can find a new storage place for your archive and/or collection|en]]]] The archiving organisation will also ensure that the archive is accessible. To ensure access to the physical archive, AMVB, with Oda Van Neygen as a volunteer, will inventorise the archive. A rudimentary location list has already been drawn up.
    • An evaluation of the archive by PACKED vzw and Het Firmament: both organisations jointly develop a tool for examining the BRONKS archive. On the basis of this evaluation, recommendations and practical action points are proposed and a short and customised training course is given to BRONKS personnel.
    • To keep the knowledge held by Oda Van Neygen within BRONKS, an oral history project could also be arranged.

    Below, the action taken by Het Firmament and PACKED vzw is discussed, namely the examination of the BRONKS archive.

    2. Development of tool and method 

    In order to evaluate the archiving system, an instrument must first be developed. For this purpose Het Firmament and PACKED vzw jointly designed a questionnaire. The idea behind this was to measure all aspects of archive and collection management.

    In addition it was decided that the interview should be supplemented with an inspection of the paper archive, the archive space, the digital archive and the folder structure and a group discussion with personnel.

    3. Evaluation day at BRONKS

    On 28 October 2014, Het Firmament and PACKED vzw visited BRONKS to examine the archive. The agenda was as follows:

    • introduction and questions at the staff meeting;
    • examination of the folder structure and the digital archive – because the paper archive had been almost entirely transferred to AMVB, this was not done;
    • interview with Oda Van Neygen about the archiving system at BRONKS.

    At the staff meeting the personnel were quizzed on current problems and questions relating to the archive. The questions mainly concerned the approach to digital archiving: file formats and codecs, nomination of folders and files, strategy with duplicates, versions and hybrid archive, etc. There were also questions about value assessment and the storage of promotional material from other theatre companies.

    After that, the digital archive, the folder structure and their use were analysed. The folder structure was examined to see if it was logical and clear:

    • Is the structure logically arranged?
    • Is it easy to find documents?
    • Has the archive been nicely cleaned up? Or is it full of duplicates and draft versions?  

    After this investigation, artistic director Oda Van Neygen was interviewed using the questionnaire. This had been sent to her well in advance so that she could prepare herself and collect information on anything she didn’t know about. Oda has always been in charge of the paper archive. She herself set up a filing system for the production archive, but this has been watered down and not followed up.

    In addition, a few people within BRONKS who were more informed about certain issues were also interviewed. This rounded off the evaluation day. 

    4. Report with advice and recommendations

    On the basis of the facts established during the evaluation, a report was drawn up with a number of recommendations that may help BRONKS to improve its archiving system. We based this advice on reports from the Dance Heritage Coalition. They visit dance troupes in the US for an archive evaluation and make recommendations.

    The report consists of:

    • observations made by Het Firmament and PACKED vzw during the interview and the two visits to BRONKS;
    • advice, with justification: wherein it was explained what good practice is, why the recommendation has been made and what the recommendation implies;
    • practical steps that BRONKS can take to implement the recommendation;
    • relevant guidelines on the TRACKS website, per cluster.

    You can see an example of an archive report here (only in Dutch).

    Results

    • The archiving system of the organisation was investigated. BRONKS is aware of its strengths and weaknesses. The investigation provides the opportunity for the weaknesses to be addressed.
    • A report was drafted containing practical steps that BRONKS can take in order to manage the archive in an efficient and sustainable way.
    • The paper archive was transferred to AMVB. Oda Van Neygen will help AMVB to make an inventory so that access to the archive will not be lost.
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