Archive fever

Time for another research resource, and this looks like a major one. ArchiveGrid, still in beta form, aims to be a gateway to the world’s archives. It has been created by OCLC, the library organisation behind WorldCat (“the world’s largest library catalog”). Much as WorldCat turns the catalogues of the world’s libraries into one giant catalogue, so ArchiveGrid wants to become the single place from which the researcher may discover anything held in an archive, anywhere.

OK, so it’s some way off such an ambition just yet, being largely composed of American archives, and they are collection descriptions rather than individual items (I think we’re going to have a long wait for that to happen). Each record gives you the name of the contributing institution, the title of the particular collection (each institution may have several collections, of course), the collection description, contact details (a link to the institution’s website), and catalogue record (including unique OCLC identifier) or finding aid. Searches can be narrowed by institution or location, there is a selection of topics to guide you through the collections. And by typing in your postal code you can see on a Google map which participating archives are in your area.

So, what can we find on silent films? The answer is plenty. Our standard test term, ‘kinetoscope’, brings up the Raff and Gammon papers at Harvard University – Baker Library, a typescript study of Thomas Edison by Rose Lombard in Harvard University – Theodore Roosevelt Collection, and the Library of Congress’ Inventing Entertainment website, which Pennsylvania State University Libraries has cited as a resource. ‘Cinematograph’ produces 38 hits, from the Paul Rotha papers at UCLA to the United Artists Corporation Records at Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives. ‘Silent film’ brings up 260 records: examples include the silent film music collection at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Lillian Gish papers at Bowling Green State University – Center for Archival Collections; and the Cecil B. DeMille Archives at Brigham Young University – L. Tom Perry Special Collections.

Much of this sort of information has been available in printed directories, but not, I think, in so extensive and freely available an online resource as this (ArchiveGrid has had an earlier existence as a subscription service, which didn’t get enough subscribers). Clearly it is a huge boon for research of every kind. It is mostly written archives, but not exclusively so; while some of the archival objects might be more naturally classified as books, so that you wonder how WorldCat and ArchiveGrid might be brought together in some way, at some glorious future point.

There are other directories of archives out there. UK researchers should be familiar with the National Archives’ National Register of Archives and the Access 2 Archives search resource, but perhaps not all know the university archives service Archives Hub, or AIM25 for archives in the London area. We have previously higlighted the Canadian Discovery Portal, and sung the praises of Australia’s Trove portal. Regrettably the UNESCO Archives Portal for archives worldwide is no longer accessible online.

New to me is Archives Portal Europe, a pilot service for opening up European archives, which doesn’t appear to have a great deal on film, and what can be found seems eccentric or marginal, though its multilingual nature is likely to hiding more than I realise (try the search terms ‘cinema’ or ‘kino’ for an idea of the range of content).

Directories of film archives are another matter, and should be the subject of another post. Meanwhile ArchiveGrid is a particularly exciting development, and likely to spark off plenty of new research projects. Go explore.

Heritage matters

If someone offered you £25M to save the nation’s moving image heritage, what would you say, and how would you spend it?

Both questions are worth considering, because the first answer is that you couldn’t save the nation’s moving image heritage with ten times that amount, so you need more. In fact, when the UK’s public sector moving archives (excluding Scotland and Wales) were offered round about this sum four years ago from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, it was less than they had originally asked for. The pitch had been for twice that amount, but funders love to give you just that little bit less than you asked for and see how well you do with that.

So you’ve got less than you hoped, and now you have to spend it. Of course you have to spend it against an argument presented to your funder, the argument here being a strategy in support of the UK’s screen heritage, which would help stabilise an unsteady and certainly underfunded sector. There were four ‘investment’ aims” to the strategy:

  • Securing the National Collection
    Capital works to extend and improve BFI storage facilities with appropriate conditions to safeguard the collection.
  • Revitalising the Regions
    Nomination of key collections in the English Regions, leading to improved plans for their preservation and access.
  • Delivering Digital Access
    Extending online access to the Nation’s screen heritage, through collection cross-searching and digitisation.
  • Demonstrating Educational Value
    Identifying, developing and evaluating effective use of screen heritage material within learning environments.

Four years on, and ‘demonstrating educational value’ rather got lost in the mix, but significant achievements have been made under the main three categories, and yesterday at the BFI Southbank they were announced to an invited audience. The Bioscope (naturally) was there.

It was a curious evening, which began with a clip shown from David Lean’s own 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia, inelegantly cut off just as it was getting interesting, then effusive words in praise of film as a medium to inspire, move, inform, entertain, engage and so on. The main business, however, said little about the feature film and focussed chiefly on amateur and documentary film, stressing their special capacity for capturing human experience and strongly suggesting that the film history we have is a greatly inadequate one. We know a lot about a few films, said speaker Frank Gray of Screen Archive South East, and know next to nothing about a huge number of other films that lie in archives, demanding discovery, interpretation and sharing.

We heard from the people at the BFI who have steered the strategy, with head of collection and information Ruth Kelly doing a fine turn explaining the necessities of film preservation and even managing to make database management sound interesting. A panel session stressed the great value of archive film for an understanding of history and society, and the notable achievement of the strategy in getting so many film archives to work together for a common aim (how many other sectors could boast such co-operation?). The convenor, Francine Stock, suggested that what was being argued for archive film went a good way beyond nostalgia, but unfortunately we were then shown clips from the shamelessly nostalgic BBC series Reel History of Britain, first broadcast yesterday, which shows archive films being taken around the UK and projected to weeping audiences. Though it is always moving to see someone old see themselves when young, or a parent or grandparent when young, there is so much more to the medium than this. The series bombards you with the same emotional manipulation again and again. A wasted opportunity.

The BFI Master Film Store

But how did they spend the £25M (or £22.8M as it has boiled down to)? The greater proportion of it (£12M) went on building a new master film store for the BFI, though its facilities will be available for other archives as well. This is going to take the nation’s moving image heritage and keep it cold and dry (minus 5 degrees and 35% relative humidity, to be precise). As Ruth Kelly explained, a few years ago the BFI discovered that the traditional preservation model of copying from one film onto new stock was no longer sustainable, because the amount of films on the verge of deterioration was outstripping the resources available to manage it. The solution was to keep the films at a cold enough temperature to ensure that the process of decay was halted. You don’t copy, you freeze. It seems an obvious, economical solution now, but when first proposed it caused huge controversy, with the BFI attacked on all sides, and a secret online group formed to try and save the BFI from itself. How foolish that all seems now.

The master film store is being built at Gaydon in Warwickshire, and there’s a video guide to it on the BBC news site, with Ruth Kelly telling us the difference between nitrate, acetate and polyester, and showing us round.

Officially launched yesterday was another key output of the Screen Heritage Strategy, a union search facility enabling you to search across the databases of eleven film archives in one go. Entitled Search Your Film Archives, it has already been reported on by the Bioscope, and favourably. The idea is that the search mechanism will appear on the websites of each of the participating archives, so their users can find what’s held locally and nationally in the same place. It also links you to some 3,000 online videos on their websites of the respective archives. Search Your Film Archives is a good first step, and will get better in time. It is actually of huge significance as the potential platform for a new kind of national archive, one that is shared by partner institutions, who will eventually enjoy common preservation, digitisation, discovery and distribution services. This is what is interesting about Screen Heritage UK – it has seen that the answer to stablising film archives is to change the way they work, to change what an archive means. We are not there yet, certainly, but the desirable model is becoming clearer.

The Search Your Film Archives search facility on the London Screen Archives website, showing how users can either search across the LSA database or all databases

There will be more from the BFI on the database front soon. Their filmographic database is available online, but there is a separate technical database (known to its friends as TecRec) which tells you what materials they hold on each title. After years of trying, they have finally managed to marry up the two databases, which will be published as one under the name CID (Collections Information Database) very soon. It boasts an “innovative hierarchical data structure” based on the new European metadata standard for cinematographic works, CEN EN 15907. More on that when it appears.

And there there the regions. The UK has a number of film archives operating in the public sector. As well as the nationals (BFI, Scotland, Wales, Imperial War Museum) then are a number of archives representing the English regions, and having them work alongside the BFI through something like Search Your Film Archives or the Reel History of Britain TV series is wonderful to see. The regionals have each been pursuing their own Screen Heritage-funded projects, the outcomes of which will be announced in due course. As an example on the innovative approach to archive film being taken by such institutions, consider the Yorkshire Film Archive’s Memory Bank project, which is developing therapeutic uses for archive film footage in dementia, residential and domiciliary care settings. We’ll report on what has been achieved by these other archives with the Screen Heritage funds in another post.

Reel History of Britain is itself an outcome of the Screen Heritage project, though whether it is ‘revitalising the regions’ or ‘delivering digital access’ is not very clear. It’s putting films from the 1900s onwards onto the screen (that’s your token mention of silents in this post), under themes such as Evacuation, Teenagers, Slums, and Package Holidays. It features presenter Melvyn Bragg going about the UK in a mobile cinema and showing people films of themselves or their locality from the past. It revels in the coup of uncovering the descendants of people in archive films, delighting in the thrill of recognition, that tingle up the spine we get when we see that what the film depicts really happened and has its living connection with us today. It runs daily for 20 episodes, and some of the films featured just as clips will be shown in their entirety on the BFI’s Reel History site, which is a welcome innovation. If only a little more imagination and innovation had gone into the programmes themselves…

And, finally, there’s the BFI’s new digital delivery platform still in test mode, so it’s called BFI Beta, which is serving as the online to a lot of this activity. My, they have been busy.

So there’s an exciting future for film archives, but it’s really only a part of the picture for archives overall. Roly Keating, Director of Archive Content at the BBC, was on the panel last night. He pointed out that there had been a lot of talk about ‘film’, but that a screen heritage meant TV content too, and TV archives need to consider how they can likewise work together to enable greater care, discovery and sharing. But then he pointed out that moving images are just one digital object among many, and the real prize will be establishing shared systems in which films, books, images, manuscripts, sounds, websites, and anything else that contains knowledge can be found together. Some are already thinking along these lines (see Europeana or Trove, both covered by the Bioscope). The BBC is too, in most interesting ways. That’s where film belongs. The new film history is just history, with film in it.

European Film Gateway

Carl Dreyer’s Der Var Engang (1922), available in extract form via the European Film Gateway

And so, after reporting for the past two days on a symposium on film archives in the digital age held to mark the launch of the European Film Gateway, it’s time to introduce the Gateway itself.

The European Film Gateway, or EFG, is a European Union-funded intiative which aims to provide a gateway to European film heritage in digital form. The EFG doesn’t hold any such digital content itself, nor has it paid for for any films or other artefacts to be digitised to serve the EFG. It simply points to content that is already out there, on the websites of individual archives, bringing scattered information into one place for the benefit of you and me.

There are sixteen contributing archives (along with other partners), though fourteen are currently listed on the site: Cinecittà Luce (Rome), Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema (Lisbon), Det Danske Filminstitut (Copenhagen), Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF e.V. (Frankfurt), EYE Film Instituut Nederland (Amsterdam), Filmarchiv Austria (Vienna), Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto (Helsinki), La Cinémathèque française (Paris), Lichtspiel – Kinemathek Bern (Berne), Lietuvos Centrinis Valstybės Archyvas (Vilnius), Magyar Nemzeti Filmarchívum (Budapest), Národní filmový archiv (Prague), Nasjonalbiblioteket (Oslo), Tainiothiki tis Ellados (Athens). Not quite every member state of the European Union is represented, and the UK is conspicuous by its absence, though I understand that the Imperial War Museum will be contributing at a further stage in the EFG’s development. The leading contributors so far are Italy’s Archivio Luce, the Danish Film Archive, and the Deutsches Filminstitut.

What you get is, as of this moment, access to 391,229 digital objects, compising 23,390 videos, 357,452 images and 10,387 texts. Films are primarily non-fiction (newsreels, documentaries etc), but some fiction films can be found; the extensive range of images covers a extensive range of cinema history (most names that I typed in brought up something); and the documents include newspaper cuttings, scripts, censorship records, digitised books and so on.

Searching is a bit on the basic side. There is no advance search option, so there is no way that I’ve been able to discover that lets you search every film dating before 1930, for example, or all the documents from one particular archive. However, once you have searched for something, there are opportunities to refine your search by archive, medium, date period, or language, so it’s best to search for something, then explore the records thereafter. Frustratingly there is no option to refine searches by genre (say if you wanted to find fiction films only).

However, you can play a trick on the Gateway by searching for “a”, which brings up just about every record. Refining this by film as medium and dates 1900-1929 reveals that there are at least 687 films from the silent period available to view. These include 524 from Det Danske Filminstitut, 91 from Luce, 38 from Tainiothiki tis Ellados, 20 from Filmarchiv Austria, 12 from Národní filmový archiv, and 2 from Lichtspiel – Kinemathek Bern. All of these films can be found on their respective archives’ websites, some in extract form only. Do note that, though most of the site in English, you will be confronted with Greek, Czech or other foreign language only sections of the site.

Search results on the EFG for ‘Asta Nielsen’

Many of the films and other digital objects are gathered in to collections, which usefully you are allowed to browse. Here are the descriptions from the EFG of some of the collections that relate to our area of silent film:

Cinecittà Luce: Documentary and Short Film Collection 1920-1990
3,000 items from a unique collection of cinematographic non-fiction and fiction works, since the silent film era to our days, black and white and colored, short and long, featuring titles of different topics from history to culture, by a myriad of directors, including, among them the first works of great masters like Rossellini, Antonioni, Comencini, De Seta, and other famous names of Italian filmmaking.

Det Danske Filminstitut: Early Documentary and Fiction Films and Trailers
The collection of the Danish Film Institute available on EFG contains a number of early documentary films, which display the life and look of the Danish society in the period of 1906 to 1940. Among the 300 films are straight depictions of modern production equipment and trade, as well as more propagandistic titles and news items. The over 50 early fiction films available are a raw collection of short films that give an impression of what early audiences were entertained by. In addition, around 700 teaser previews of the films available in the Danish Film Institute’s educational distribution can be found on EFG. The latter collection contains current films that are chosen mainly for their value in education and general audience informative qualities.

Det Danske Filminstitut: The Films by Cinema Pioneer Peter Elfelt
The 77 films by Danish cinema pioneer Peter Elfelt (1866-1931) are not only interesting from a cinematic point of view but they are also unique contemporary documents. As royal court photographer, Elfelt had access to the most important people and events at his time, which is reflected by his films, focusing on Denmark’s high society.

Deutsches Filminstitut: Costume and Set Designers’ Collections
More than 200 set designs and 900 film costume designs, sketches and notes by distinguished German (film) architects Otto Hunte, Walter Reimann and Hans Poelzig and costume designers such as Ali Hubert, Helga Kischkat-Reuter and Irms Pauli can now be accessed via the EFG. Many of the design sketches represent milestones in their field, e.g. the set designs for “Metropolis” (1925/26) or “Der Golem wie er in die Welt kam” (1920).

La Cinémathèque française: Magic Lantern Slides Collection
The Cinémathèque française’s collection of magic lantern slides illustrates the pre-cinema era and contains some of the finest and most well-preserved slides still in existence. A selection of around 1,500 of these hand-painted and photographic unique artworks from France, Great Britain, Germany and the USA covering the 18th century until the 1920s is available on EFG.

La Cinémathèque française: Photos of the Triangle Film Corporation
The Triangle Film Corporation existed from 1915 to 1918. Employing directors such as D.W. Griffiths, Thomas Ince and Mack Sennet it was on of the largest American production companies at its time. By means of around 1,400 photos of the John E. Allen – Triangle Collection, the history of the company can be retraced.

La Cinémathèque française: The Digital Library Collection
La Cinémathèque française has a precious book collection which retraces the long adventure of the prehistory of the cinema and photographic and film techniques. The approximately 280 books of this collection date back to the 17th century and can be found on EFG.

La Cinémathèque française: The Étienne-Jules Marey Collection
The scientist Étienne-Jules Marey (1830 – 1904) used photographic methods to study the movement of human and animal throughout his life. La cinémathèque offers access to around 400 photos from the estate of Étienne-Jules Marey via EFG.

La Cinémathèque française: The Muybridge Collection
With the serialisation of photos Eadward Muybridge was one of the first who created the impression of moving images. EFG gives access to about 700 images that emanate from the estate of Muybridge.

Magyar Nemzeti Filmarchívum: Photo Collection
The selection of around 1,000 film stills covers the period from the beginnings of Hungarian cinema to 1947 and includes early films of world famous directors such as Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz.

Magyar Nemzeti Filmarchívum: Poster Collection
Magyar Nemzeti Filmarchívum contributes aprox. 1,200 film posters, which provide an overview of the Hungarian poster art from the beginnings of Hungarian cinema in 1900 to the 1990s.

Národní filmový archiv: Documentary and Feature Films
The National Czech Film Archive makes eight feature films from the Czech silent film era from 1898 to 1920 available via EFG. An overview of the history of the Czech documentary film provides the collection “Czech Documentary Films”. Up to 200 films from 1898 to 1928 can be viewed on EFG.

Nasjonalbiblioteket: Selected Films
For EFG the Nasjonalbiblioteket gives access to a selection of approx. 350 film works, many of them representing Norwegian cinema from 1900 to 1935. The collection also includes historic advertising films from the 1920s to the 1950s as well as documentary films about Oslo.

Not every film included on the EFG falls into one of these collections (for example, the coy early sex films of Austrian production company Saturn), and as is so often the case with these sorts of resources it helps if you know what you are looking for is going to be there somewhere, because the searching tools don’t always help you completely. But it must be pointed out that the EFG is in a beta phase, with plenty of bugs let to be ironed out. Better functionality, and more content (including some arriving in August) are promised.

The EFG is essentially a feeder site for the European digital library concept, Europeana, previously written about on the Bioscope. There the films and film-related content will be searchable alongside many other kinds of digital objects (the EFG content does not appear to be on Europeana as yet). The EFG has a sister project, EU Screen, which is doing the same job for European television content (no UK content again – are we trying to tell them something?).

The European Film Gateway represents only a tiny fraction of European moving image content, digital or otherwise, and no one can say how it will develop. But it has established a structure for encompassing moving image data from very varied film archive catalogues, through which they hope to be able to point to more and more content, if more archives will take up its all to contribute. And Europeana will certainly continue, gradually biding its time, persuading more and more libraries and archives that it is their European duty to supply ever more content to the giant digital soup. Lucky us.

There is, by the way, a separate European Film Gateway project site, which has more background information on the project itself.

Going digital

Well folks, the Bioscope is on its travels once more. I’m heading off to speak at a symposium with the heady title of “Film Archives and Their Users in the ‘Second Century’ – Risks and Benefits of the Transition to Digital“. The event is being held to mark the launch of the European Film Gateway, a major undertaking which I’ll be reporting on in detail on my return.

The event is taking place in Bologna, Italy, alongside the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival of archive films. The symposium is looking at

the consequences of the transition from analogue to digital by looking at the self-perception of the archives, their relationship with their users as well as the implications of this paradigm shift for their daily work.

In other words, whither the film archives now that the digital world is upon us? My talk may be familiar if there’s anyone in the audience who read the Bioscope, because it is going to be based on an old post here, Alice – random but cool, an analysis of the remarkable popularity of the 1903 film Alice in Wonderland when the BFI issued it on YouTube in February 2010 – since which time it has gained over one million views and a fascinating array of comments. Well, they’re my words, and they say what I want to say, so why not re-use them?

There is a good line-up of speakers, including Nicola Mazzanti, Thomas Christensen (Danish Film Institute), Manuela Padoan (Gaumont-Pathé Archives) and Georg Eckes (Deutsches Filminstitut and the European Film Gateway). What I am going to try to do is report on the symposium while I’m there, through a mixture of tweets (using my personal @lukemckernan address) and live aditions to this blog post – if the technology will let me do so this time. If it all fails, then no matter because I’ll just report in the regular way when I get back. The symposium takes place 30 June-1 July.

29 June 2011
OK, we’re here in Bologna, finding tweeting a bit of a problem, but hopefully we can produce a live symposium report by adding to the blog post. The symposium starts tomorrow, close by the Cinema Lumiere, where the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival is running. I’ve been down there to say hello to a few folks – it’s eighteen years since I was last here. A great festival, but it’s too darn hot for this pale Englishman. Two days will be enough.

30 June 2011
09.45 – So here I am, seated in a blessedly cool auditorium, headphone translation at the ready, all to learn about where film archives think they are going in a digital age. Hope my talk is provocative enough. But how will it come over in translation? Some of the YouTube teenspeak I’ll be citing is tough enough in English …

11.15 – A couple of high-powered presentations to kick things off. Giovanna Fossati from EYE Film Institute on new models film archiving – the freezer for all things analogue, the cloud for digital preservation, the virtual Steenbeck for the ‘haptic’ online film experience, curatorship by curators and the crowd.

She emphasized that film as a medium is on its way out, something stressed strongly by Nicola Mazzanti, with headlines from a forthcoming EU report (‘Digital Agenda for European Film Heritage’). Cinema is digital now, film will cease to be an exhibition medium within a year, scanners for film-to-digital are on their way out so we have to digitise now. If no action is taken we will lose the analogue past and have no means to preserve the digital future. The cost for the 1,100 features and 1,400 shorts made in Europe per year? 290M euros per year, approx the same as the annual budget of a large European opera house.

11.45 – Also Mazzanti pointed out necessity of legal deposit and said only Netherlands and UK among the member states don’t have it. Hmm, I detect pressure about to be applied …

12.00 – Thomas Christensen from the Danish Film Institute suggests fewer F-15 fighters rather than opera houses would be preferable. Analogue film collections to be a unique, treasured resource to be digitised on demand. Scholars don’t much go to film archives any more – they’ll seek out what they find online. Archives must make authentic digital cinema quality elements, especially for orphan and out-of-copyright films.

So much emphasis on ‘film’ heritage and the film experience when film itself is disappearing. But what about TV, nonfiction film, web video? Why this fixation on the feature film? The culture is changing, not just the medium.

13.45 – Sitting in the shade at lunchtime. Hot but not too hot, after thunderstorms last night. I’m on at 14.00, talking about users – largely absent from the discussions so far. Why do we leave our users out of the equation so often? Do they want us to preserve everything? How much do we film archivists know? But equally how dangerous will things be if we leave it all to the crowd?

14.35 – Well that shook them up a bit.

[Update: the text is available on my personal site, here]

16.45 – Some papers on use of archive content for TV and research projects given in Italian, then David Walsh from the Imperial War Museum speaking drolly on the theme “Digitise your film, sell it online, make lots of money – simple isn’t it?” Unfortunately he’s not able to tell us if it is making money for them, yet. They have been making 750,000 euros in footage sales p.a. by the traditional route. But what happens if even an archive like the IWM, which has the rights to 80% of its collection, can’t make money online?

17.05 – Talk on the Charlie Chaplin Archive, a database with documents you can only access at Bologna. All very interesting, but this symposium is supposed to be about discussing the issues for film archives at a time of great change. A bit too much of archives reporting on their projects. Archivist aren’t necessarily the right people to talk about archives. Discuss.

18.40 – OK, that’s it for today. Interesting presentation on Italian home movies archive which seems to have done everything right. Not sure if the organisers have quite got the debate they hoped for. But we get the European Film Gateway presentations tomorrow, which may open up more. The full Bioscope guide will follow in due course.

See you tomorrow, same place.

1 July 2011
Day two dawns in sultry Bologna. It’s the European Film Gateway presentations, so we can expect enthusiasm and idealism a-plenty. There will be introductions to the project overall, then archives from individual member states will talk about their contributions – Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Czech Republic, Lithuania … with the conspicuous absence of eurosceptic UK.

10.05 – Film archivists, like policemen, are looking so much younger nowadays.

10.25 – Georg Eckes introduces the EFG. Funded by the EC, 16 archives plus 5 partners contributing. A digital showcase. Mostly nonfiction film. Users are 10 times more likely to click on a video item than a text item. But still only 2% of Europeana objects are audiovisual.

80% of EFG is images, 10% video, 10% text. Strong emphasis on early (out of copyright) film. Plea for archives to be consistent with metadata to make the work of gateways easier. Interesting power games underpin some of this. If your data isn’t harvestable it stays under your control.

Uses film metaphor, showing delightful Danish film of aviator Ellehammer in 1907 only just getting off the ground. Early days for EFG before it truly flies.

10.45 – Europeana presentation. Single, direct and multilingual access poin to European cultural heritage. Reflecting the diversity of Europe. 1500+ participating institutions. 90 direct providers. 16M items so far, aiming for 30M by 2015. 22,000 visits a day. That’s not terribly impressive. Does anyone care that much about Europe and its diversity?

11.20 – Europeana chap explains that it has been marketed more to providers than users so far, and that the individual sites get many more views than that. Fair enough, but this may be more about power politics than users. Europeana is biding its time. This is all so heartening really – all of these institutions competing to bring us more and more stuff in ever easier and more useful ways. How nice of them.

11.40 – Archivio Luce says that its footage sales figures are double those revealed by the IWM. 4000 hours of content. They own 99% of their collection. No 1 contributor to EFG. Touch of machismo here.

12.10 – Audience wakes up for presentation on silent erotic films made by Saturn films in Austria. Some tasteful nude bathing in 1906.

12.20 – Now products of association of amateur Swiss filmmakers. Presenters declines to show low res EFG versions and says he’d rather show 16mm!

12.50 – Fairly joyless presentation on Lithuanian documentaries topped by 5 mins clip of sand dunes. Norwegian polar films coming up, rather more to my taste. Amundsen heads out for the South Pole once again. It’ll be available on the EFG from August.

13.00 – Denmark’s first filmmaker, Peter Elfelt. Majority of his 250 films survive, 60 or so available via EFG. 700 Danish films + 1000 clips + 50000 stills on EFG, with no onscreen spoiler. Despite the great variety, the most sought after content remains sex films. It could be a bit depressing to be a Danish film archivist.

Interesting questions afterwards raising difference between EFG and commercial services like Netflix. But the public archives are never going to be able to win that game. They complement it.

13.35 – We finish with Czech film censorship documents, the Collate repository. Covers documents from CZ, Austria and Germany for 20s and 30s. Looks interesting. To be explored, later.

14.45 – Chatted afterwards with EFG’s Georg Eckes. More content is on its way, but thereafter EFG ticks along – on surprisingly little money – with care of the content in the hands of the archives. Not all moving image content on Europeana has to be filtered via EFG or its TV sidekick EU Screen.

And now it’s homeward bound. A worthwhile two days, some of it to do with silents, and hopefully the rest isn’t without interest. It all connects.

I’ve been blogging by phone while not being able to see how the results look. Hope they’re credible, legible and don’t leave me liable.

See you back in Blighty.