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Taking action before it’s too late

Inside the archives division of the Algerian Television a large rescue operation is taking place to preserve audiovisual data: more than four hundred files have been already treated and are today accompanied by their forms, filled and translated into three languages. That is part of the Med-Mem action, a project funded by the European Union to protect and enhance the value of the audiovisual memory in the Mediterranean basin. Med-Mem aims at creating a website offering a selection of Euro-Mediterranean audiovisual archives, amounting to 4000 searchable online documents. We have paid a visit to the Algerian archives….

Algiers – « At present, we are ready to act: the Med-Mem Algeria action is about to reach its objective, which is to preserve and make accessible to the wide public a pan of the Mediterranean audiovisual memory”.

Leila Haoues, director of the archives and documentation at the Algerian Television, is talking to us. We are inside the archives division, where a large operation is taking place to preserve audiovisual data. That is part of the Med-Mem action, a project funded by the European Union in the framework of the Euromed-Heritage IV program, which aims at preserving and enhancing the value of the audiovisual memory in the Mediterranean basin.

Making this memory accessible through a searchable online database – which will soon be operational – is at the heart of the project and a challenge that many member countries (namely Algeria, France, Italy, Jordan, Morocco) have undertook. “More than four hundred subjects have been already treated – continues Mrs. Haoues – and are today accompanied by their forms, filled and translated into three languages. Research and case studies have been carried out. Every partner in the project must develop an editorial note for every document selected, in order to contextualize the different archives, and to provide a better readability of these documents”.

Med-Mem aims at creating a website offering a selection of Euro-Mediterranean audiovisual archives, amounting to 4000 searchable online documents. Mainly consisting of documents selected for their historical and patrimonial value, these archives - digitalized and subtitled – are accompanied by editorial notes and contents, allowing their contextualization. Every partner also has the possibility of regularly enriching the contents, using an online interface for the management of the audiovisual contents.

The Algerian archives origins:

But where do these historical documents come from? What is the source of this memory that we want to preserve at all costs? In 1955, a radio and television building was constructed in Algiers, at 21 Boulevard Bru in Algiers. Once the work was completed in 1956, the station began broadcasting its programs around the month of December of that year. The archives of the ORTF (radio and television programs) represent a mass of documents of prime importance. The institution used to broadcast programs in French, Arabic and Kabyle, that can be considered first-hand documents, the privileged witnesses of a particularly dense era.

Algerian Television Broadcasting (RTA) saw the light on October 28, 1962, following the nationalization of the ORTF. Inheriting thus the legacy of the ORTF, RTA broadcasted at that time three regional radio programs and three other television programs in Algiers, Oran and Constantine, and that until the creation of the Algerian Public Television (EPTV). To this day, the number of archived documents belonging to this institution is close to two hundred and thirty thousand programs.

Taking action before it's too late

The Med-Mem Algeria project therefore is dedicated to a part of this documentary legacy inherited from the country's independence, as well as to the cumulated archives since the nationalization and the creation of the RTA, and later of the EPTV. “A memory is different from a souvenir – continues Mrs. Haoues – it must be completely exploited and handed down, or it will be deficient. In fact memory traces fade naturally over time, if the information is not fixed”. As such, the preservation of audiovisual heritage – as with other memory supporting tools – remains an integral part of the very notions of knowledge and culture: every nation holds the keys to its history.

Therefore, considering the losses of the last decades and the waste of large segments of the audiovisual heritage, it is imperative to act before it's too late. After an initial assessment in the Algerian television archives carried out with the support of the EU experts, the staff appointed to assume the task received several trainings as well as a digitalization station to convert the old media files into digital ones. It should be noted that the Algerian archives - just like many Mediterranean archives - are facing serious problems of degradation of the original film support, mainly due to the vinegar syndrome, a fact that emphasizes the need for initiatives, such as Med-Mem, which preserve this collective memory in a digital form.

The future Med-Mem site aims to become a reference in the field of Mediterranean audiovisual heritage and to promote the safeguarding of archives, intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding by providing young generations, students and researchers with the opportunity to discover, share and take ownership of their respective audiovisual heritage.

It hopes, as well, to attract more potential contributors and holders of archives who wish to contribute today to enrich the Med-Mem stock. Finally, the site will offer numerous functionalities. It will allow for instance to select the language of choice, to access documents through different means, be they cartographic, chronological or thematic, and to view online the selected archives. Save the date thus. The launch of the online database will take place in September 2012.

Saïd Bouterfa



Project: MedMem
www.copeam.org/proj.aspx?ln=en&id=38&p=62

Objectives:
  • Stimulate intercultural dialogue and understanding of a shared history among the people of the Mediterranean region by providing current and future generations of researchers, students and the larger public the opportunity to discover, share and appropriate their audiovisual heritage
  • Stimulate and facilitate a safeguarding strategy for this audiovisual heritage within the Mediterranean by the keepers of this audiovisual archive

From: 01.02.09 To: 01.05.13
Budget: € 2.187.938,00
Countries involved: Algeria,France,Italy,Jordan,Morocco

Project sheet

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