An important part of the world’s film heritage is dispersed and preserved outside film archives, but to save it, their knowledge, skills, and infrastructure are of exceptional importance. That’s the starting point of a collaboration set up by Cinematek and meemoo in Belgium since 2014.
In Flanders, meemoo is responsible for digitization, sustainable digital archiving and access to the audiovisual heritage preserved by 162 'content partners': broadcasters, heritage institutions, government organizations and performing arts organizations. About 60 of them have film materials in their collections, from just a few to thousands of reels. In most cases, these are non-feature films. But it’s well known that any digitization policy for film materials must be rooted in inventory and cataloguing activities, active and passive conservation, and long-term storage of analog films originals. The infrastructure, knowledge and skills required are often absent outside the film archives.
In this paper we’ll provide an overview of the Flemish film heritage landscape. We’ll give an overview of meemoo and Cinematek’s unique approach to preserve it, highlighting the cataloguing, assessment, and content description activities. Each film reel is checked on technical aspects and receives a content description. Based on this, the owner can decide to digitize or not. This approach allows also to compare the films from different collections and with each other so the best elements can be chosen for digitization.
Emphasis on the presentation will be about the collaboration as a solid base for further conservation and digitization. We will also show that the partnership enables researchers to investigate more certain sub-collections. Research projects already started on moving images of agriculture and rural life, artist’s films from the seventies and the colonial films produced by the congregation of the White Fathers.
Head of Digital Collections and Film Restoration
Royal Film Archive of Belgium
Bruno Mestdagh is head of the digital film collection at the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique – Cinematek. As such he also coordinates the film restoration and digitization projects. He works at the institution since 1987 and has previously worked in collaboration with the University of Ghent on the description and valorization of Cinematek’s non-fiction film collection (1999-2003). He was also involved in DVD publishing, including the 24 publications on various non-fiction subjects (2008-2020). From 2012 to 2014, he was coordinator of the European funded project EFG1914, which provides access to digitized historical films and photos related to WW1 held in archives across Europe. He also curates film programs on silent film and classic film in Ghent and his hometown Bruges.
Digitization and Acquisition manager at meemoo
Flemish Institute for Archives and President of FIAT/IFTA
Brecht Declercq, MA, MSc is the 11th President of FIAT/IFTA, the world association of media archives, and the Digitisation and Acquisition Manager at meemoo – The Flemish Institute for Archiving. As such he is responsible for the preservation of the Flemish audiovisual heritage, including one of the largest audiovisual digitisation programs currently going on in the world. He worked for the Belgian public broadcaster VRT for almost 10 years in several digitisation, media asset management and access projects and led the FIAT/IFTA Preservation and Migration Commission from 2016 to 2019. He’s a frequent conference curator, presenter, guest lecturer, writer and reviewer. He advises the Flemish ministry of Culture and several audiovisual archives and media organisations worldwide.