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The Media: Protecting our Art and History

Media preservation is rapidly becoming a prevalent topic in our society. Streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ reign supreme and while many people pay for and enjoy their originally produced content and hosted content, both, or any sites have no obligation to preserve all their content and make it available to everyone who pays for their service. You, dear reader, your subscription money could have gone to making a new show that, may have underperformed and been cancelled, but you log in one day and see that the show has been deleted outright from the platform and is inaccessible.This means that the only possible option to view the show is going to a piracy website which, for the sake of argument, is mostly illegal. The common sentiment is that it’s not theft at all if you can’t physically own it. 

The Importance of the work that media museums do is not lost on the people who enthusiastically protect and preserve our media. 

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford is dedicated to media preservation, as they maintain a sprawling collection of the earliest game consoles such as the magnavox odyssey and artefacts of TV History such as “Stookie Bill”: a Puppet’s head which John Logie Baird used to test his invention; Television. It’s massively heartening to know that there are experts dedicated to documenting and maintaining the earliest examples of modern technology; the earliest industrial cameras, microphones, film props. 

The first great filmmaker; Georges Melies, angrily burned every single item related to his films. Every costume, his custom-made cameras and his film prints. Now meaning that many of his films and his pioneering special effects work, Georges was a stage magician before turning to filmmaking, are lost forever. A historical scavenger hunt took place to find the few surviving examples of his films, sequestered away in private collections and sheds all across France.

 The following is an interview with an ITV Archivist.

Q: How much of ITV’s media through the years has been preserved and how much of it is publicly accessible?

In our archive here in Leeds we have approximately 1,200,000 assets. Up to now only 18% of that has been digitised. We aim to have that number closer to 50% in the next 5 to 7 years as focus turns more towards digitisation over physical storage.

Streaming services mean much more of the archive has value as opposed to a decade ago. On most of the major streaming services (Netflix, Amazon prime) there is a plethora of ITV content available, not to mention tens of thousands of hours on ITVX.

Q: Does ITV have any “lost media”? I.E content that was broadcast that cannot be found today?

We do come across lost media from time to time. Recently we found episodes of ‘The Complete and Utter history of Britain’ (a show featuring most of the Monty Python cast before they were the pythons) previously thought lost. It got quite a bit of attention.

There was also a live performance by Kate Bush that we found that hadn’t been seen since it was broadcast. Apparently Kate herself was so unhappy with the lighting and cameras that she refused to allow it to be seen again, until recently.

Considering that ITV have discovered lost media made by them, there’s no knowing what other lost media is out there, in museums or private collections or intentionally hidden away. Digitising media from old formats is a slow process, only 18% has been digitised. 

Digitising media for accessibility and availability purposes is extremely important, as well as maintaining the original examples. A small local history Museum in Horsforth is currently facing this challenge, the importance of maintaining photographs and blueprints of modern buildings as they were over 50 years ago as well as other examples of local history is close to their hearts. 

To Summarise, while people and corporations may want to ignore their own history, there are passionate experts diligently working to ensure that media history will never be jeopardised. 

What do you think?