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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Digitising the NFSA Collection - Financial Roadhumps on the Journey

Following on from Acting CEO Meg Labrum’s recent evidence to the Senate Estimates Committee on Environment and Communications, an extract of which you can find here, some more information about the precarious NFSA budget and the future demands for funds to support the digitization of the collection quickly came to hand.

First however, a post on Facebook by Dominic Case draws attention to the institution’s allocation for the coming year: “If I've read David Tiley’s budget summary right, NFSA will actually get a marginal increase in funding of $880,000. That's about 3%, after several years of "efficiency dividend" cuts, and with dwindling "own source" revenue. Probably won't go very far towards the $30m digitisation bill.”

A reader has also drawn attention to an Aust Library & Information Association web page - web page -  which includes the following statement re the Federal budget 2017-18:

'There was mention of other cultural institutions in relation to the Public Service Modernisation Fund — agency sustainability measures. “The Government will invest $129.6 million over three years from 2017-18 in a number of agencies to support their transition to more modern and sustainable operating models. This measure enables agencies to upgrade outdated ICT systems and other assets. The measure will support improvements in maintaining the integrity of heritage assets such as the National Maritime Museum, National Film and Sound Archive and Old Parliament House.”'

Another reader offers some further commentary following on from Meg Labrum’s evidence where, in response to a question about the cost of digitizing the NFSA collection she advised: We have costed it and we are looking at a proposal that is almost $30 million to deal with the priority materials relating to six national collections, including ourselves.

This of course is not quite what the question asked but… oh well.

A correspondent advises that in fact the figure of $30 million mentioned probably goes all the way back to estimates assembled when the last Labor Government was in office and the various collecting institutions put together a strategy called the Digital Deluge. This was the figure nominated at the time and, in the light of any later estimates, is what is apparently still being offered. Some believe it to be a major understatement of the likely cost of doing a thorough job on the NFSA collection alone. A figure of between $50m and $100m is alternately proposed across the collecting institutions.

My correspondent also notes that the $16m for the National Library of Australia to digitize its PAPER collection is an indicator of how much might be needed to get the necessary coverage of the FILM and TAPE held by the NFSA.  Comparison is also suggested with an allocation made to the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies which got $20m to digitize its media collection, a much smaller body of work than is held by the NFSA.

And just to give you some idea about the demands that film makes, here’s a paragraph from a piece about the work of scholar and archivist Nicola Mazzanti gleaned from an online source  
Proper protocol, unfortunately, is costly. In an article published last year in ARTFORUM, Mazzanti cites a 2007 study that estimates the yearly cost of preserving the 4K digital master of an average-length feature to be over 12 times as expensive as preserving an archival film master. As for saving all of the film’s source material (including camera originals, outtakes, etc.), the figure goes up to an incredible $200,000. “Needless to say, the danger of loss is far from being equally distributed,” writes Mazzanti, projecting that an alarming 80% of the yearly cinematic output from Africa, Asia, and South America will vanish, versus 10% for the US and Europe. Moreover, one can expect large discrepancies in the types of films that survive, even in wealthy nations. Artists’ works, independent productions, and experimental films are far more endangered than, say, The Hunger Games.


Possibly more to come….

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