Tue. Sep 22nd, 2020

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: Why we need to preserve important audiovisual material

UNESCO declared 27 October World Day for Audiovisual Heritage to raise awareness on the significance of Audiovisual Technology and to draw attention to the need to safeguard them.

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On 27 October, the world commemorates World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

The idea was first adopted in 1980 by UNESCO’s General Conference to safeguard and preserve moving images. It later became a key initiative for both UNESCO and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) and an important mechanism to raise general awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual material for future generations, and for urgent measures to be taken to conserve this heritage and ensure it remains accessible to the public now, and to future generations

Why we need to preserve important audiovisual material:

According to the United Nations, audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, are our common heritage and contain the primary records of the history of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“Unfortunately, that heritage is now endangered, because sound recordings and moving images can be deliberately destroyed or irretrievably lost as a result of neglect, decay and technological obsolescence.

“Through initiatives such as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage and the Memory of the World Programme, the work of preservation professionals is encouraged, in order to manage the range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our audiovisual heritage.”

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Camera test being made in June 1957 in preparation for a television program at UN Headquarters on the UN Emergency Force. Photo: UN /MB

It is said that more efforts are needed as audiovisual recordings are particularly vulnerable and require special attention for their long-term security.

“Public consciousness of the importance of preservation of these recordings must be engaged and the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is intended to be the platform for building global awareness.”

2019 Theme: Engage the Past Through Sound and Images

In recognition of the preservation efforts of the thousands of archivists, librarians and caretakers around the world who care for these valuable collections, this year’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage again celebrates their dedication and expertise. Without the knowledge and devotion that is required to preserve, digitize and provide access, large portions of our cultural heritage would disappear to be lost forever.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage in South Africa:

In South Africa, the government also commemorates World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

Way back in 2017, the Department of Arts and Culture launched online digitized audiovisual recordings at the National Archives and Records Services of South Africa in Pretoria. The main aim was to build a global awareness of the various issues at stake in preserving the audiovisual heritage and make these recordings accessible to the present and future generation.

At that time, the Minister, Nathi Mthethwa said that through digitized recordings like those of the Rivonia Trial, we shall be able to tell the full story of ‘this trying period in our history with sound, words and silences to present and future generations in all its glory, its horror and ultimately its triumphs’.

Activities and events that take place during the day include:

  • Competitions, such as a logo contest, to promote the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage;
  • Local programs organised as a joint effort between national film archives, audiovisual societies, television or radio stations, and governments;
  • Panel discussions, conferences, and public talks on the importance of preserving important audiovisual documents;
  • Special film screenings.  

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