Beeldstorm: performing arts videos archived by meemoo

The performing arts are a perfect sector for experiencing live, but there’s also a great opportunity to use motion pictures to relive these performances again and again.

This is why performing arts organisations go to such great lengths to capture their shows, but unfortunately they often only keep low-resolution copies of their recordings. Master files are sometimes saved by the creators, but they need a long-term solution for preserving this extensive archive.

Challenge

Jan Bosteels, who makes recordings of shows for organisations with his company Beeldstorm, came to meemoo in 2017 with his huge archive of performing arts video content. He wanted to know how his ever-expanding record of high-quality digital content could be sustainably preserved for the various organisations he works with.

Our role

This was an ideal challenge for us to include in a pilot project for our work on the influx of digital collections. This influx involves content being archived directly in the meemoo digital archive area for performing arts partner organisations. Running this project meant we could help out several of our content partners all at the same time, not just with the long-term storage of their archive content, but also by enriching it with metadata.

Approach

Preliminary phase

Thorough preparation was essential for this large number of files which furthermore belonged to various organisations. Together with CEMPER (formerly Het Firmament), we rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in:

  • We made an inventory of all the Beeldstorm archive content.

  • We analysed what content should be transferred for storage at meemoo. The condition for being included in the meemoo archive system is that the show must have been performed for or co-produced with a content partner. We also include content from discontinued performing arts organisations in our archive system if it has been preserved by one of our heritage institution content partners.

  • Together with CEMPER, we linked the right Flanders Arts Institute ID to the item in the inventory. Because there isn’t much metadata available except from the title (which Beeldstorm has given the file) and the name of the organisation, we can add more enriched metadata from the Flanders Arts Institute database at a later stage.

We stayed in close contact with our content partners throughout this preliminary phase and organised an information session in which we explained our project approach and asked them to approve it – also giving them the opportunity to check the content that was being transferred.

Phase 1

Once all the consent forms had been collected, we were able to proceed with the transfer. We transferred 950 files from 31 content partners in this first phase. Beeldstorm copied the files on to disks which were then saved on meemoo’s FTP server so we could transfer them to the relevant partner’s digital archive area.

During this transfer we noticed that there was more content on the disks than had been recorded when we initially made the inventory in 2018. This was new content from partners that had already taken part in the project, and content from partners that had worked with Beeldstorm since 2018. This content was then included in a new, second phase of the project together with any co-productions with content partners from this same period.

Phase 2

In February 2020, we organised a new information session for the content partners involved. As well as an introduction to the broader context of digital archiving and knowledge sharing, we also asked content partners for permission to proceed with the second phase, and again gave them an opportunity to check the new files. The file transfer in phase two has already started and will be completed in the second half of 2020.

Outlook

The content included in phase 2 has been inventoried up until August 2019. But what about the content produced by Beeldstorm for our content partners since this date? As part of our ongoing work on the influx of digital collections, we’re investigating whether media produced by external parties – such as photographers and video makers – for our content partners can be uploaded by external parties themselves in the meemoo archive system, and if so, how. One example of a significant aspect of this approach is the agreements framework that this method needs to streamline.

Participating content partners

A Two Dogs Company, AMVB (Archive and Museum for the Flemish Living in Brussels), Beeldsmederij De Maan (image foundry for children and youngsters), CAMPO, Compagnie Cecilia vzw ,Compagnie de Koe, de Roovers, deSingel, fABULEUS, Felixarchief (Antwerp City Archive), Het Gevolg, Het nieuwstedelyk, HetPaleis, Kopergietery, Kunst-Werk, KunstenfestivaldesArts, Les Ballets C de la B, Letterenhuis, LOD, Martha!Tentatief, Museum dr. Guislain, Muziektheater Transparant, NTGent, Ontroerend Goed, Opera Vlaanderen Ballet Vlaanderen Antwerpen, ROBIN , Stadsarchief Kortrijk, t'arsenaal/LAZARUS, TG STAN, Theater De Spiegel, Theater Malpertuis, Theater Stap, Theater Zuidpool, Toneelhuis, Troubleyn /Jan Fabre, Ultima Vez, Villanella VZW / DE Studio, Voetvolk, Walpurgis, wpZimmer, Zomer Van Antwerpen vzw