The Soviet Estonian newsreels collection consists of around 1 400 titles. This unique material reflects local life and people through 50 years, including the politically loaded and carefully staged footage of the first decade of Soviet occupation as well as more complex, even experimental pieces from the late 1960s onward. The production of Soviet Estonian newsreels reached its peak in the early 1960s when Tallinnfilm studio made around 50 items annually, thus offering great news value to the public.

Between 2020–2023, the Estonian Film Archive (EFA) is managing two large-scale digitization projects. The core of this newly digitized content comprises 140 hours of 35mm newsreels from 1940–1972. As a result, the majority of the EFA’s newsreels collection will be digitized, cataloged and made accessible online.

More than four times busier digitization workflow is a challenge requiring extensive preparation work and research of existing film elements, but it also opens up new perspectives and provides an opportunity to analyze the content and its physical condition from a fresh angle. Unlike narrative features produced in Soviet Estonia, the original film elements of newsreels are physically preserved in Estonia, at the EFA. However, the existing sets of elements weren’t as homogeneous as expected and needed an individual approach – in contrast to the nature of mass digitization. This presentation will peek inside the conservation lab, focus on the preparation workflow prior digitization and gives an insight into the mapping of film elements, selection criteria and condition survey processes.

Kadi Sikka
Preservation specialist and project manager
Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia

Kadi obtained a Master’s Degree in Cultural Heritage and Conservation from the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2014. Since 2015, she has served as preservation specialist at the Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia. Her main area of interest is in the material diversity of analogue film and photographic collections. Between 2020 and 2022, she is also the manager of the newsreels digitization project.