2019 in brief

2019 was a defining year for meemoo: we merged three separate organisations into a single new one, with a mission and vision we all strongly believe in. 

Everyone had already been working under the same roof for 12 months at the start of the year, but no strategic and substantive actions had yet been completed, so we focussed our attentions on this in 2019. Our consolidated objectives are set down in our new strategic plan 2020-2023, but this 2019 annual report therefore covers a transitional year – even though a lot more happened than just the merger of these three organisations in 2019, of course.

Our working year in figures

  • 56,692 carriers were converted into digital files and saved in our digital archive. That’s 8.72% of our current total number of carriers.

  • 752,946 items found their way into the meemoo archive system.

  • 67,621 teachers and trainee teachers had access to 18,987 audio clips and images from 33 providers on our educational platform.

Merger process

The government's express wish was for VIAA, PACKED and Lukas to continue their mission. So in order to arrive at a single consolidated approach, we looked at the research and preparatory work that had been done to draw up the 2018 policy plans. In consultation with the board of directors, we decided to work around a number of themes to give us the best opportunities for synergy and the greatest need for coordination and alignment:

  • service provision and collaborative models

  • content: open, accessible and usable

  • knowledge and expertise processing

We sent out surveys and held discussions with partners of PACKED, Lukas and other stakeholders. Meemoo colleagues also joined in various workshops and consultations to help consider the new organisation’s vision and mission as well as our new name, identity, responsibilities, and strategic and operational objectives.

Our new name – meemoo, Flemish Institute for Archives – was launched in 2020 and is essential for working and thinking towards the future with a new consolidated approach. Over the coming years, the whole team will work together to achieve our collective mission: alongside our partners, we bring the past back to life and prepare it for the future. We safeguard it digitally, and make it accessible and usable.

What did we achieve in 2019?

For organisations and individuals in culture, media and government

We helped lots of organisations in 2019, answering 257 new requests for advice and support. We also contributed to the Digital Leadership in the Cultural Sector training, which provides cultural organisations with the knowledge they need to develop their own customised digital strategies.

In January, we launched the Digital Maturity Self-Assessment Tool (only available in Dutch), which organisations from the broader cultural field can use to evaluate their digital maturity online. They are given a score, tips and inspiration for improving their digital maturity based on their responses to various statements. There were 47 (external) accounts active on 20 November 2019, with 132 fully completed sessions and 288 partially completed sessions. The website registered 1,750 sessions with 1,300 users throughout the whole of 2019. We also made an English version of the Digital Sustainability Scoring Model available.

We were the driving force behind the Public Domain Day working group, the Digital Participation peer group, the Digitisation Periodicals peer group, the Digital Collection Registration peer group, and the Cultural Heritage and Copyright user group. We are continuing our long-running digital strategy process with the Flemish Art Collection, and starting a new intensive process with Archiefbank Vlaanderen.

Following the launch and initial growth of the TRACKS knowledge platform, it was time for a new governance model which other TRACKS partners could also be more actively involved with. As project initiator, meemoo will of course continue to work on this collaboration in the future.

Organisations and other stakeholders in the cultural sector attended workshops on sustainable digital management for artists and arts organisations, a supervised information session about the Digital Maturity Self-Assessment Tool and Wikipedia writing sessions for Brussels archives, a bootcamp on open cultural data, and training for email archiving in collaboration with the private legal archive working group from VVBAD (Flemish Association of Libraries, Archives and Documentation). We also launched the archive audit process for music organisations in collaboration with CEMPER (Centre for Music and Performing Arts Heritage).

In addition to this, we were involved in setting up and/or running projects on linked data, image and data management in museums, digital preservation, rights management, open platforms, digitisation, user-centred access and participatory collection management. We took part in various steering, focus and working groups, and were a member of the digital collection registration taskforce (Department of Culture, Youth and Media). We expanded the CEST and TRACKS knowledge platforms further, and published 15 articles in the VVBAD publication META and Bladwijzer / Histories Magazine, among others.

For content partners

… we digitised

Content partners are organisations that entrust us with digitising and sustainably preserving their content. They take part in digitisation projects and store their digital content with meemoo, with associated agreements for online access.

We converted 56,692 carriers into digital files and saved them in our digital archive. This brings the total number of converted carriers to almost 470.000, or some 72.15% of our current total number of carriers.

  • We completed our 1/4" audio tape digitisation project – meemoo's biggest and longest-running digitisation project (since 2014).

  • We also finalised the production phase of our VHS digitisation project. An extensive quality control process is currently underway.

  • We started the test phase for DV formats (DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO), but more time is required than anticipated, so the production phase will now not start until 2020. This is also the case for our optical disk digitisation project (audio CD, audio CD-R and DVD).

  • The project for digitising affected film, which was awarded in 2018, entered its production phase and got up to speed.

  • The inventory and analogue restoration of the White Fathers film collection took place in collaboration with the owner, the manager KADOC (Interfaculty Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society at KU Leuven), the conservation and restoration specialists from Cinematek, and the Topstukkenraad (‘Flemish Government’s Masterpieces Council’). The digitisation assignment was awarded to and started by British company R3Store Studios.

  • We continued the film collection registration for the VRT (Flemish Radio and Television Broadcasting Organisation) and other content partners in collaboration with Cinematek, which is on schedule for completion in 2022.

In March, we started preparing a study into the mass digitisation of Flemish photographic collections. Our work in 2019 focussed mainly on field studies for these Flemish photographic collections. We started by determining the scope and timing, and set up a steering group to supervise the project.

The preliminary research consisted of the following activities:

  • around 20 discussions with experts in Flanders and the Netherlands on how to manage photographic materials and digitise photos, exploring the existing expertise network and finding ways to connect with it;

  • defining and identifying the collections and types of material;

  • 37 visits to collections, mainly at existing meemoo content partners;

  • drawing up, sending out and supervising an extensive survey to chart the collections and current practices, and determine the requirements of photographic heritage managers.

We’re also continuing to support Flemish museums and cultural heritage institutions as they digitise their collections. We opt for an event-oriented approach here, where collection managers can call on our digitisation services for a specific purpose, such as an exhibition. You can look up content that has been digitised in this context at artinflanders.be.

… we archived

2 PB (petabyte) of new content found its way to the meemoo archive system. The graph below illustrates the growth in PB, per month, for the main streams.

This growth is largely thanks to the VRT content that’s imported on a daily basis and our ongoing digitisation projects (especially VHS and Betacam). We also rolled out the digital influx process for ‘single items’ in two project waves, with 10 and 6 content partners respectively, as well as a single project that includes content from 20 organisations all in one go. This project concerns Jan Bosteels’ archive, which he has built up over decades filming content for various performing arts organisations.

… we refined software

In order to better help our content partners, in the spring we introduced a new, user-friendly media player into the meemoo archive system. We also implemented a number of modifications in the context of upscaling our digital influx, and have furthermore adapted our reporting. A new infrastructure means we can provide better reporting about the content being imported, as well as the available metadata (both substantive and technical) and how it’s re-used. We made the first dashboards available to meemoo employees at the end of 2019, and completed a successful proof-of-concept to make reports available to content partners, which we are rolling out via the partner portal in 2020.

Content partners can gain access to each other’s digital archives via Catalogus Pro. New features have been made available on this platform (such as creating clips) and new content has been added, making it possible to view short clips from the archive system on Catalogus Pro. We informed content partners about these innovations via a targeted activation in our partner update.

… we communicated and organised

In order to keep content partners up to date with our activities and involve them in important decisions, we organised two partner events and sent out seven partner updates in 2019. This included news, surveys, knowledge-sharing and project updates. Three surveys gave our content partners the opportunity to share their thoughts about the metadata catalogue, photographic collections and digitisation, and the reading room tool.

Content partners were able to attend ten training sessions to learn how to work efficiently with the meemoo tools and platforms, and so also with their own content. We launched a new training process in the context of upscaling our digital influx, with the first sessions taking place in the spring and autumn of 2019.

For users

Since November, you’ve been able to look up descriptions for over a million audiovisual items stored by our content partners in The Archive. Before this it had been difficult to find out what audiovisual content was available and who you could request it from. We developed The Archive in consultation with a working group comprised of content partners, and the platform was successfully launched and presented to minister president Jan Jambon on 8 November 2019.

Major work has also been done on The Archive for Education: we worked hard on developing a completely updated platform, enabling us to provide access for students and tackle a number of big challenges in making this platform work successfully. Specifically: student authentication, what content we can make available and how, features tailored to students, and infrastructure expansion. We also looked at extra project management features and helpdesk/communication efforts, and presented the beta version to secondary education teachers at the end of the year.

We’ve also been busy adding further content to The Archive for Education. For primary education, we’re continuing a successful collaboration through a scientific co-funding project with teacher training (‘PWO’ – Practical Scientific Research) to select a strong basic offering. We selected unique audiovisual offerings from Flemish regional broadcasters in order to strengthen environmental education in primary schools, and gradually expanded our offering for secondary education with the secondment of experienced teachers. 2019 involved providing new offerings for the arts subjects as well as in the field of society, history and technology.

A growing group of users is actively contributing to expanding the tailored offering in response to user requests. We handled over 1000 unique requests and improved the quality of the selection available on the platform with almost 3,000 new items in 2019.

At the end of 2019, the platform had over 67,621 users with access to more than 18,987 image and audio clips from 33 partners. With regard to the growing number of teachers from compulsory education, we note an increase of 39.6% for primary education and 27.8% for secondary education compared to 2018. These users had the opportunity to attend over 90 workshops to help them get the hang of the platform.

You could visit the artinflanders.be (formerly Lukasweb) platform to view image content from Flemish museums and cultural heritage institutions and, where possible, download it free of charge. A total of 4728 images were downloaded for free via the website, the majority of which were for educational purposes. Our partners also use the free download option for internal re-use within the museums.

976 paid images were delivered and 854 high-resolution images were made available free of charge to the press or through collaborative partner projects, to be re-used for all kinds of various purposes.

People and resources

There are currently 37 employees in the consolidated meemoo team. We are assisted in tackling our extensive range of tasks by temporary employees, seconded teachers and trainees.

We received an operating grant of €5,263,000 to help us achieve all of the above, and were also awarded €327,481 as a one-off grant in 2017. We acquired €103,929 in extraordinary income from transferring the balances when PACKED and Lukas vzw were liquidated. We invested a total of approximately €1.35m in audiovisual carrier digitisation, almost €1m in sustainable preservation, €2.67m in personnel costs, and €535,000 in the accessibility platforms.

Alongside the grant from the Department for Culture, Youth and Media, we also received a total of €311,000 from the Department for Education, which we used to build the new educational platform and on operating costs. The income from image sales from artinflanders.be was higher than expected thanks to the attention paid to the works of Van Eyck. A distribution of income of approximately €21,000 was made to the owners of the works this year.