Following on my post Tuesday, here are more highlights from the Orphan Film Symposium I attended last week:

Former WITNESS Media Archive intern Jennifer Blaylock gave a spirited talk on international digitization projects and potential pitfalls. Speaking specifically about projects in which richer countries assist poorer ones with digitization and repository services, she warns against reproducing colonial scenarios in which valuable cultural objects are extracted from poorer nations out of a misguided paternalism. She raises an important issue here; however, I think it would have been useful for the audience to learn about specific examples of when this has happened, and perhaps also examples of successful collaborations.

Jennifer also discussed how important contextual information is lost when a digitized object is accessed online, rather than as a physical object in its original organization and setting. I agree to some extent, although I would argue that part of our job as archivists (working in both physical and digital environments) is to ensure that we retain and document as much original order and context as possible.

Overall, Jennifer emphasized the need to develop approaches appropriate for local contexts and available resources. I look forward to following her work in the coming year as she heads back to Ghana!

Ishumael Zinyengere presented on the National Archives of Zimbabwe, which is governed under the National Archives of Zimbabwe Act of 1986 by the Ministry of Home Affairs. He gave a brief history of the collection, which includes colonial films by the Central African Filming Unit (CAFU), and later the Rhodesia Information Service and then the Zimbabwe Information Service. Ishumael has previously elaborated on the history and current circumstances of the NAZ in the December 2008 issue of International Preservation News.

Ishumael sees collaboration and partnerships as key to providing the necessary training and resources for audiovisual preservation. He cited current examples such as the training exchanges between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, and between Tanzania and France. He also highlighted the annual conferences and meetings of the three African regional branches of the International Council on Archives (ICA) — CENARBICA, ESARBICA, and WARBICA – as collaborative sites. ESARBICA, the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the ICA, has struck its own Technical Committee, for instance.

In the future, Zinyengere envisions a central resource within Africa that could provide training and handle larger-scale projects. In his presentation, he pointed to the groundbreaking work that is being done in South Africa, where there is ample government and external support for archives, as an example to follow.

The final presentation that I’ll mention here is Martha Wallner’s talk on Nicaraguan Television and the Latin American Video Archives (LAVA) project. Wallner was part of Xchange TV, a group of independent media producers based in New York that participated in a solidarity project to exchange television programs between North and Central America during the US blockade on trade with Nicaragua in the 1980s.

During the US blockade, Nicaraguan production units frequently recycled videotapes. As a result, the tapes that XChange TV brought into the US have become, in some cases, the only surviving copies of television programming made during that dynamic period in Nicaraguan history.

Wallner showed excerpts from a few Nicaraguan productions, which have been preserved by The MediaPreserve:

(La Ciera Colective and Ministry of Agrarian Reform [MIDINRA] Communications Unit, ca. 1984; 3/4-inch U-matic videotape, color, sound)

These sociodrama campesinos in the small town of El Regadio create a series of vignettes illustrating the revolution’s positive impact on their town as well as one town member’s skepticism.

Cabildo de Mujeres
(Sistema Sandinista de Televisión, ca. 1986; 3/4-inch U-matic videotape, color, sound)

In Cabildo de Mujeres (Women’s Town Hall Meeting), women gather to discuss and debate proposed changes to the Nicaraguan constitution including policies on abortion, divorce, prostitution, child support, and domestic violence.

Aqui en Esta Esquina
(Sistema Sandinista de Television, 1984; 3/4-inch U-matic videotape, color, sound)

Produced during the 1980s after the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979. The show was produced on location with live audiences in towns throughout Nicaragua. A game show with a revolutionary twist, the program had children and elders perform local folk arts and audience members compete for modest prizes. The Sandinista-inspired quiz competitions involved questions about their town’s historical contributions to the revolution.

Wallner is currently seeking a digital repository for the collection.

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