Rethinking Television Histories: Digitising Europe’s Televisual Heritage
Central London 19-21 April 2007

The Rethinking Television Histories conference brought together academics and television archivists from around Europe and beyond to discuss contemporary trends in television history, current archive practices and the development of new web resources. In particular the conference sought to bring these international scholars and archivists together to provide critical feedback on the development of the content selection policy for the EU funded Video Active project.

The conference itself was attended by over 90 delegates. Participants from countries including Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Greece, Israel and US gave the event a powerful international flavour. Plenary speakers such as John Ellis (UK), Jerome Bourdon (Fr/Isreal), William Uricchio (US), Pierre-Yves Saunier (Fr) and Andreas Fickers (NL), John Corner (UK) and Michele Hilmes (US) explored a range of issues in television history and historiography. Key themes that emerged during the conference included the notion of Europeanness and ways of thinking about the regions, nations and transnationalism. Of major importance was a consensus that comparative approaches to television histories allow academics, archives and their communities of students and users to see broadcasting in new ways and to develop new methodologies and theories.John Ellis presentation

A number of plenary presentations and papers by international archivists also demonstrated the different priorities, practices and policies that impact on archive preservation and access across Europe. Presentations showed that access to archive materials differs widely, and that this has impacts on the scholars and members of the public who want to explore television history at national and regional levels. Presentations from INA (France) and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision offered models of best practice for the creation of access to digital audio-visual archives for a wide range of users. Other papers raised issues about selection, preservation, funding and the sustainability of archives and archive based projects.

Information about the aims, objectives and development of Video Active was also presented to the conference delegates and there was widespread approval and support for the project. Feedback from delegates indicated that there was a critical understanding of the approaches being taken to develop the project’s content selection policy and the confeTea Breakrence generated important ideas and feedback for the onward development of this policy. As well as reaching out to a user community and producing support for the project, the conference inspired a number of important and strategic dialogues about archive policies and provision across Europe – the impacts of which may be long-term and far reaching. At the same time, of major significance to the wider academic community, a number of key papers and presentations will be brought together for a special edition of the journal Media History to be edited by Dr Cathy Johnson (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr Andreas Fickers (Utrecht). The Rethinking Television Histories conference has therefore facilitated interaction between scholars and archives at a high international level, and generated debate and material which will be of long-term value to the academic and cultural heritage sectors in Europe.