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Friday, 23 February 2018

Archiving - More trouble at the mill or "how can we do 'less with less'".

The National Archives of Australia will cut 40 jobs in two years as the institution that describes itself as "Australia's memory" looks for savings amid budgetary pressures.”

That’s the opening para from this Canberra Times piece published on 21 February. The Times is now about the only paper that carries any coverage of public sector and public service issues. You can only hope that someone there will be keeping an eye on the issues raised. History however tells us that almost any issue dies pretty quickly as a matter of public controversy or even interest.

What might be overlooked, even in the article linked above, with all the focus on the NFSA, details of which can found here and on the links therein, is that there are other repositories of film that are likely to be facing demands for reduction of activities not agreement about the provision of additional funds.

The National Archives of Australia holds all of the output, sound and vision, of the ABC and SBS as well as of other Federal government film production. The Australian War Memorial and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders institute also have substantial holdings. Threats to preservation, conservation, digitisation and access loom large and across the board. The Canberra Times report on the National Archives gives some pause for thought. What is the implication of the Director-General's statement quoted by the Times in which he says: "As I have often said, it is only because our budget is being reduced that we must look constantly across the services we provide and ask how we can do 'less with less'.

But, we should be warned. As Peter Galvin said about the NFSA, and it applies to some at least of the others, in the post linked above  

“(1) no one knows it's there

(2) No one understands its value

(3) No one can access its treasures casually and

(4) Its curatorial powers are so limited. 


Over the years they have produced many exhibitions - there's a good one now! - and many videos. But its purpose is felt deepest by historians/academics/filmmakers/researchers...and this, for Canberra is too small a club to pay attention too!”

1 comment:

  1. Grim news of archival cuts in Australia. I've been citing the big interactive NFSA display at ACMI in Melbourne as a useful model for UK media archives to consider. Hope it survives!

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