Threatened audiovisual content
Audiovisual content can be at risk from various different sources, but each type of carrier has its own main threat. Some examples:
Fluctuations in temperature and air humidity can cause magnetic tapes in open reels or cassettes to stick together. To ensure they can be played again, they first need to be heated up – ‘tray drying’, as it’s known in the profession;
Grooved audio carriers such as wax cylinders, shellac and vinyl records are often very delicate or can start to flake. This makes digitisation on a large scale unaffordable and often technically impossible;
Vinegar syndrome is unique to acetate film, which was mainly used for older film stock. Poor ventilation or packaging, big variations in air humidity or changing temperatures increase the level of acidity in the film stock and result in a vinegar-like smell. The film then becomes deformed in later stages;
It’s almost impossible to find the right playback equipment still in working condition for many carrier types, such as some types of open reel video. Spare parts and knowledge about the precise working and restoration are scarce;
Digital content can be saved in file formats that become obsolete or as digital signals on a carrier type for which there’s no longer any working playback equipment available. We solve this issue by digitally transferring content from at-risk carriers or as part of a digital intake project.
What can you see or hear?
The kind of content that can be found on a carrier depends on that carrier’s technical possibilities, amongst other things. A vinyl record, for example, only contains professional recordings because the production process makes it almost impossible to produce recordings at home. Audio cassettes, on the other hand, have been specially developed for home use.
Every content partner also has their own practical focus. We often store audiovisual content from writers’ archives, for example for The Letterenhuis (‘House of Literature’), whereas regional broadcaster RINGtv focuses on news images from the Brussels area. So there’s a wealth of subjects, which we at meemoo can preserve and make accessible for re-use.