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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
In what ways can technology be employed to enrich and automate curation? Within the AV domain there are now a number of ideas and projects that employ speech-to-text technologies in various ways. Through this approach it is possible to generate better metadata in order to search collections, basically via a keyword search. But if speech-to-text technologies are fairly accurate they potentially also turn AV collections into huge textual resources (“AV big data”). AV big data can (as a textual resource) be analysed with novel textual tools and methods such as probabilistic topic models, named entity recognition (NER), or word embedding. For example, there are various automatic ways to better or alternatively describe what AV collections actually contain as themes, discourses etc., which might foster novel ways for searching them, beyond a keyword search. In order to explore this evolving terrain, this Working Group will investigate a number of case studies based on the experiences of organisations and institutions to explore the ways  in which speech-to-text technologies can (as a first step) be combined with new possibilities to process large amounts of data through methods (as a second step) such as as probabilistic topic models, NER or word embedding.

2. Working Group: Deploy free and liberal licenses and free and open standards
We need to measure how open or closed audiovisual collections are to truly public use in this networked world. A tool to analyse this scale could look at an item or collection or entire archive and measure the difference (or delta) between its licenses in aggregate and the free licenses that would be required to make the license-governed assets freely shareable in the Commons and on the web.

A handbook could be developed to advise archivists on how to work with items and collections at every rights/licensing inflection point—from the original accessioning agreement or deed of gift, to ongoing negotiations with rightsholders, to risk assessments and license choices when these assets (and their metadata) get posted online. How do we encourage greater interaction between archives of audiovisual materials and audiences for / users of those materials? What kind of case studies can we encourage archive users, again, to provide us with—ideally to celebrate all the things that real access can achieve?

3. Working Group: Engage more fully with Wikipedia
In progress. 

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 and archives/archivists. This for example could include investigating 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; consult with organisations that already work closely together with producers and creators, 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 an action plan to begin to achieve a more productive relationship between AV heritage and contemporary AV production. As part of this process, a stakeholder meeting will be held to bring together professionals from both sides of the camp to explore various strategies for encouraging creators and archivists to work more closely together.

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.

The first activity of the this workstream will focus around popularising the debate by providing material that is accessible to a wider public and able to inform about the importance and use of AV archives and their materials so that AV archives are taken more seriously.

The main output will be a series of podcasts that brings attention to the issues raised in the work of the Think Tank and the wider community through highlighting voices of people active in the field, and connecting topics to the everyday instances in which users experience the work of archives.

Next Actions

Continuing through the autumn, each Working Group will continue to conduct research and connecting with other stakeholders in the community, and developing a concrete plan of steps, outputs and timelines for their first activities with the intention of sharing this solidified plan at the end of the autumn.


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

  • Kara Van Malssen, AVP, Partner and Senior Consultant

  • 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

  • Dr Paul Gerhardt, MD of the consultancy Archives for Creativity and former BBC Controller and BFI Director

  • Paula Félix-Didier, Museo del Cine Pablo Ducros Hicken, Director

  • 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

  • Judith Opoku-Boateng, Head Archivist of the J. H. Kwabena Nketia Archives of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana

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

  • Interim AV Think Tank Coordinator: Eleni Tzialli, Netherlands Institute for Sound an 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.