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AV Think Tank

Through a recently established Audiovisual Think Tank, visionary experts in the AV cultural heritage sector are working together to map out our shared strategic priorities and put into place a research and action agenda. The AV Think Tank looks to represent major AV archives and digital cultural heritage professionals from across the globe and closely connects these key players to work collectively at the forefront of the sector in consultation with the wider community. Initiated and actively supported by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the AV Think Tank is working towards laying the groundwork for an AV archiving sector that enables more long-term use of, learning with, and education through AV materials.

As a first activity, the AV Think Tank commissioned and published a white paper in January 2018 titled Towards a New Audiovisual Think Tank for Audiovisual Archivists and Cultural Heritage Professionals. Written by Peter B. Kaufman of Intelligent Television and MIT, the paper succeeded in starting a collective conversation with the wider AV archiving and cultural heritage communities and within the AV Think Tank itself to develop a forward-thinking, relevant, and impactful agenda. Between that paper’s release on January 11, 2018 and the end of February it was downloaded from the Sound and Vision website by more than 1150 unique visitors across the globe.


Current Activities

Having moved on from the white paper, the AV Think Tank has identified 5 key strategic tasks around which its current activity and attention is being focused. These are:

  • Experiment – with technology, media – constantly within AV archives.

  • Deploy free and liberal licenses and free and open standards.

  • Engage more fully with Wikipedia.

  • Engage archivists to work more closely with producers and creators.

  • Engage archives with issues in the media/political/cultural arena.

The 5 strategic tasks that were identified as the most urgent for the AV Think Tank to begin with set the foundation for its current activities and output, and for carrying forward other key issues to the fore of the Think Tank’s work.

Working Groups

In order to focus on these first 5 issues, the AV Think Tank has created a Working Group around each. These groups are currently conducting further research to map the territory of the issue and connect with other relevant stakeholder groups.The work of each group is focused on laying the groundwork for policy and practice recommendations through the creation of materials, activities and advocacy. This, for example, could include the writing of publications such as handbooks, strategy papers and videos; tools; or activities like conferences and summits organised around these key issues. Through its Working Groups, the AV Think Tank aims to connect directly to the diverse interests of an international AV archiving and cultural heritage community. Through these activities, the AV Think Tank, in consultation with the wider community, is working to articulate an international research and action agenda of our shared strategic priorities for the next ten years.

5 Key Issues

This past month saw the Working Groups of the AV Think Tank come together to share their first ideas around the 5 key issues identified as a starting point. Below offers a summary of these initial thoughts in terms of each group’s thought process and ideas for first output.

1. Working Group: Experiment – with technology, media – constantly within AV archives
With a myriad of algorithms available to archivists to use for a whole manner of different tasks and to different results, an inventory of which algorithms are used by who and how, could serve as a valuable tool to the wider community experimenting with such technologies. As a first activity of this Working Group, an inventory could be created to benchmark different algorithms against each other that are used for different tasks related to audio and visual material to understand their function, value and use. Algorithms explored could include those for: face recognition, colour, speech to text, scene detection, movement, etc.

2. Working Group: Deploy free and liberal licenses and free and open standards
Deploying free and liberal licenses and free and open standards in audiovisual work is an intricate process. Although the task of deploying such licenses and standards is further complicated by variations in national and international intellectual property law, a handbook could be developed to encourage archives and other collections to engage with these licenses and standards and thus broaden public access to and use of their materials. As a first step, institutions could be encouraged to reexamine the original deeds, rights, and rules governing some materials in their collections and the interests of current and future students, audiences, and users of those materials. Institutions also need to explore how their longstanding missions and the new opportunities afforded by the internet intersect, and (re)assess this relationship.

3. Working Group: Engage more fully with Wikipedia
Coming soon. 

4. Working Group: Engage archivists to work more closely with producers and creators
There are various ways to explore advocating for more engagement between producers/creators & archives/archivists. This for example could include exploring funding conditions that ensure access to materials; encourage creators to be archivally-minded; encourage the reuse of archival material more; encourage more creative reuse through competition and activities within institutions; bring organisations that make together with archival institutions, etc. With a diverse pool of opportunities to bring these two sides of the coin together, and through working closely with them, as a first step this Working Group could develop a position publication (perhaps as a paper or AV format) that explores and expresses various strategies for encouraging both sides to work together more fully.

5. Working Group: Engage archives with issues in the media/political/cultural arena
Engaging archives with issues in the media/political/cultural arena is an umbrella issue: the point of having archives is for them to be engaged with. The goal has to be to bring archives to life in such a way that they’re seen to be part of the common polity and available to everyone. Where is the place that people encounter archives? The arena of engaging archives with issues in the media/political/cultural arena holds big questions to think through as it cuts across all of the other recommendations because they are in a sense all about providing the environment in which media/culture/political actors can engage with archives. What is happening to the archive in the name of news/information, and through this how is the archive being abused?

Next Actions

Over the Spring, each Working Group will continue to conduct research and refine the plan for their first deliverable. The AV Think Tank will meet the end of Spring where each Working Group will present their proposal of first actions and activities to the wider group.


The core team of the AV Think Tank currently includes:

  • Bill Thompson, BBC, Head of Partnership Development, Archive Development & Partnership Lead, Make It Digital

  • Erwin Verbruggen, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Project Lead R&D

  • Giovanna Fossati,  EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Chief Curator & University of Amsterdam, Professor of Film Heritage and Digital Film Culture

  • Johan Oomen, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Manager, Research & Development

  • Louise Broch, DR Arkiv (Danmarks Radio /Danish Broadcasting Corporation), Information Specialist

  • Dr Phang Lai Tee, National Archives of Singapore, Deputy Director, an institution of the National Library Board

  • Paul Gerhardt, BFI, Director of Education

  • Pelle Snickars, Umeå University, Professor of Media & Communication Studies

  • Peter B. Kaufman, Intelligent Television, Founder and Executive Producer & MIT Office of Digital Learning, Research Affiliate

  • Rachael Stoeltje, Indiana University Bloomington, Director, Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive

  • Richard Ranft, The British Library, Head of Sound & Vision

  • William Uricchio, MIT, Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Principal Investigator Open Doc Lab & Utrecht University, Professor of Comparative Media History

  • AV Think Tank Coordinator: Rachel Somers Miles, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Connect with Us

The core team of the AV Think Tank is by invitation, but we openly invite comment from and conversation with anyone interested in our shared audiovisual cultural heritage.

To contact the AV Think, please email:

Stay tuned to this page for updates on AV Think Tank activities and future calls for conversation and participation.

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