Temporary emergency storage for the audiovisual archive of Svend Thomson/TVF, which contains video productions on various aspects of contemporary art.
With the assistance of the VIAA and the Province of East Flanders.
The audiovisual archive was successfully and temporarily accommodated in Provinciaal Erfgoedcentrum van de Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen in Ename.
Since 1980, Svend Thomsen, first in Denmark and since 2001 in Ghent, has been creating an extensive archive of video productions on various aspects of contemporary art, including visual art, performance art, theatre, dance, experimental music and sound art. The archive contains not only recordings of exhibitions, festivals, lectures and seminars on contemporary art, but also interviews with visual artists, musicians, film-makers and video artists. The archive contains approximately 1400 videotapes (3000 productions). It is an archive with a considerable heritage value, mainly because of the content, which is significant from an art history perspective, and which is seldom recorded by the regular audiovisual media (television). For more information, read the self-interview with Svend Thomsen. Svend Thomsen contacted PACKED vzw on 12 September 2014 to arrange a meeting. During that meeting, on 22 September 2014, two things became clear:
- The need to accommodate the audiovisual archive in another location from the second week of October 2014, because of urgent renovation work in the original storage space;
- The need to digitise the audiovisual archive in the near future (conversion to computer files) to safeguard it in the long term and make it accessible for research and education.
This practical example is mainly about finding the solution for the first need, but it also becomes immediately clear that this may be an interim step along the road to a solution for the second need.
Making an inventory
The first step taken after the meeting with Svend Thomsen was to provide him with a template for making a precise summary of his audiovisual archive. In order to meet both needs it was vital to get a quick overview of the scope of the archive. The template that PACKED vzw gave him was created in 2013 in collaboration with FARO, for the digitisation of audiovisual collections in Flanders by the Flemish Institute for Archiving (VIAA). Svend filled in the template himself and sent it to PACKED vzw. The template revealed that the audiovisual archive contained about 1400 video tapes in the following formats: U-matic (about 600 items), Video8 (about 250 items) and Hi8 (about 550 items).
Contact with meemoo
While Svend was busy creating the rough inventory, PACKED vzw contacted VIAA about his archive. PACKED vzw assists VIAA in the setting up and implementing its digitisation projects. The aim of this contact was two-fold:
- with a view to possible future digitisation: bringing VIAA up to date on the existence of this archive;
- with a view to provisional re-housing: asking VIAA to provide boxes. VIAA agreed to supply boxes and delivered them to Svend in Ghent in the first week of October 2014. The staff at VIAA were also asked about the conditions attached to the inclusion of the archive in one of its future digitisation projects.
Contact with collection management heritage institutions
For the temporary storage space dilemma, collection management heritage institutions in the Ghent region were examined to see which had the best profile for the audiovisual archive of Svend Thomsen/TVF. The result of this research was S.M.A.K., which was then sent an e-mail to ask if it was possible to have a safe and suitable storage space for the archive for a period of two months. It quickly became clear after a discussion with the collections manager at S.M.A.K. that good provisional storage could not be guaranteed because of renovation work taking place there. PACKED vzw then contacted the collections manager at Amsab-ISG, the cultural archive in Ghent which stores the heritage of social, humanitarian and ecological movements. Amsab-ISG was willing to explore the possibility of offering temporary storage space, but suggested contacting the Provincial Authorities of East Flanders first. They have a transit depot which can be used by East Flemish heritage administrators in case of renovation or disaster.
In response, PACKED vzw contacted the relevant staff at the Transversale Cel Cultuur of the Province of East Flanders and informed them about the need for temporary accommodation for the audiovisual collection of Svend Thomsen/TVF due to renovation work. They were also told about the role of PACKED vzw in the operation and about the contact with the VIAA on the issue of the potential future digitisation of the collection. The Provincial Authorities then requested that the collection be registered in writing using a template. After an internal discussion in the Provincial Authorities, it was quickly confirmed that the archive could be housed in the transit, emergency and archaeological warehouse in the Provinciaal Erfgoedcentrum (provincial heritage centre) in Ename. The warehouse is not actually intended for private archives or collections, but because of the involvement of PACKED vzw, as a national expertise centre recognised by the Flemish government, and the VIAA, based in Ghent, an exception was made for the private archive of Svend Thomsen/TVF.
Packing and transporting archive to the emergency warehouse
The following step was to pack up the complete archive in boxes within a week and arrange its transportation from Ghent to Ename. Wim de Maat, chairman of Restart Collection vzw, was asked to coordinate the packing of the videotapes. The tapes were grouped by type of medium in boxes. Each box was allocated a colour code (red, green, yellow or blue)The fourth colour was for consultation copies on DVD. and a serial number depending on the type of medium.
PACKED vzw hired a delivery van, picked up the packed archive on the morning of 7 October 2014 from Svend Thomsen in Ghent and delivered it straight to the Provinciaal Erfgoedcentrum in Ename. There, the various boxes were unloaded and placed in racks in the warehouse according to the colour codes and serial numbers. The temperature in the Provinciaal Erfgoedcentrum warehouse is about 18° C, with a relative humidity level of 50-50%.This temperature is ideal for the preservation of videotapes. A humidity level of around 40% would be better for the preservation of magnetic tapes. What is important though, is that there will be no major fluctuations in the relative humidity levels.This is an improvement compared to the conditions in the original storage place (an attic). Together with a staff member of the Province of East Flanders, a proof of receipt was drafted and signed, and a copy sent to Svend Thomsen. The date for picking up the archive again was 9 December 2014.
- The archive has found a safe and suitable emergency storage place for the necessary two months.
- In the meantime the possibility of digitisation by the VIAA is being looked into. To make this possible, research is being done into whether a collection management heritage institution can be found that already works with the VIAA as a substantive partner and which would take on the role of manager of the audiovisual archive of Svend Thomsen/TVF. This would be the best guarantee that the investment in the digitisation of the archive would result in its long-term accessibility for research and education purposes.