Remember our post on how performing arts sector is leveraging on digital archives to bring their past yet precious performances to life? We’ve pretty much established on that feature that dusting off archives and putting them online is, undoubtedly, a good idea.
As in the cases featured by Richard Watts, there’s pride in preserving past for today’s audience to relive and feel the way consuming your material was ages ago. Most importantly, for any business, there’s money in this practice of making valuable pasts available at a tap on anyone’s finger from across the globe.
And if you’re wondering how it is efficiently done, below are Circus Oz’s Mike Finch and La Boite’s Rhys Holden’s advice for those who are in the performing arts business. We think that their tips are as useful for all other industries, and individuals who may be thinking of developing digital archives.
1. Think about your audience
Holden emphasises the importance of thinking clearly about your audience. ‘The audience for it is crucial. If what you’re trying to do is engage with your general public stay focused on that, because the project can very easily spin out of control. Particularly if you’ve got a long history. So stay really focused on the things you want to catalogue and the way you want to catalogue them, because you’ll never be able to do it all.
2. Engage your audience
Engage your audience in the process, said Holden. ‘We have volunteers who work with us regularly on all sorts of projects, and they loved being engaged in this process – of scanning, of data entry, of helping in the process of keeping the archive together.’
3. Work with an archivist
Seeking professional assistance to digitise your archive can be useful. Holden recommends working with an experienced archivist, and with collecting institutions – in La Boite’s case, the QPAC Museum.
4. Access funding
Holden stresses that creating a digital archive can be costly, so seeking funding can ensure the project is a success. ‘We were funded through the Brisbane City Council, not through any arts program but through a community history grant. And I think if an organisation has a key role to play in the city or in the state, then there is often a grant program to assist with the costs of development.
Creating an engaging digital archive also requires an easy to navigate website, which can be costly. ‘Because if you want to get a great site, as it turns out you need a good developer. Don’t just put a WordPress site together and hope that it will be alright,’ he laughed.
5. Find the right partners
Finch also stressed the value of the right support and right partners for such projects: ‘I think especially when it comes to video and large files, moving images, it’s probably more complicated than it seems, but we managed to get through it – obviously with a huge amount of help from RMIT who were our major partners. And we had some serious funding from the Australia Council. So there were resources to help us do it but it’s a difficult thing.’
Finch notes that complicated projects can sometimes grow out of the most flippant suggestions.
‘I initially tossed off the idea as a suggestion maybe, it feels like 10 years ago now: “Wouldn’t it be good if we just put all our footage up on YouTube? Individual acts, one act per clip?”’ he laughed.
‘It was just that and, you know, a long time later with a lot of resources and brains, we finally achieved it, but it’s difficult. Take time, do lots of consultation, but it’s definitely worth it. Because seeing the faces of people who… in our case, there’s people in their 60s who thought they would never see themselves perform ever, because they’d forgotten that it had even been shot. Sitting there watching themselves as 20-year-olds doing these extraordinary things was worth it, was amazing – with some amazing work that can then be made from it if it’s been properly notated and is searchable,’ Finch concluded.
The Realview Archive solution allows you to convert your collections into useful online digital archives that can be read on any device at anytime. Not only do we help you develop digital archive strategies, but we also ensure you retain the look and feel of your original assets, as well as comply with the original copyright.