The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has published a discussion paper titled Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk, warning that thousands of hours of audiovisual content currently held on magnetic tapes in our national cultural collections risks being lost forever, unless it is digitised by the year 2025.
“All tape-based formats created in the 20th century are now obsolete,” said NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein. “Tape that is not digitised by 2025, we risk losing forever. Australia needs a National Framework for Digitisation of Audiovisual Collections – a collaborative approach by government and cultural institutions, in order to mass-digitise and save our heritage before the 2025 deadline.”
Magnetic tape technology includes more than 40 professional formats across video and audio, as well as formats available for home use such as music cassette tapes, VHS, etc. Content held on tape risks being lost due to deterioration as well as technical obsolescence.
In addition to the NFSA’s collection, institutions such as the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia, state libraries and many others, also hold significant magnetic tape collections. That is why the NFSA is calling for a National Framework for Digitisation of Audiovisual Collections, which would provide a consistent unified approach to mass digitisation.
Losing this content to technological obsolescence from our national collections would be a calamity, but it can be prevented by increasing our activity to digitise these important cultural assets. Mr Loebenstein explains “This is a preventable loss. If we act swiftly today, we will all enjoy the advantages that digitisation of our collections can bring to Australia.”
Publication of Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk coincided with the World Day for Audio Visual Heritage (WDAVH) – which is celebrated by UNESCO each year on 27 October. This year, WDAVH celebrated its 10th anniversary with the theme Archives at Risk: Protecting the World’s Identities.
Image: The original cast of Homicide, 1964: Terry McDermott, John Fegan, and Lex Mitchell (Crawford Productions Pty Ltd, National Film and Sound Archive)