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The Urgency Behind Recognizing World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

There is no doubt that there are some obscure "annual day of" celebrations -- some more worthy of celebration and recognition than others. But obscurity doesn't necessarily equate to triviality.

Each year October 27 is dedicated -- quietly yet urgently-- to the importance of the preservation of audiovisual recordings.

The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is a key initiative for UNESCO; it was adopted in 1980 to commemorate the 21st General Conference's adoption of "the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images."

In response to the UNESCO report, a coalition of archivist organizations was formed in 1981: the Roundtable of Audiovisual Records. The roundtable was tasked with preserving the world's audiovisual heritage. The five founding members were:

  • International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF)

  • International Federation of Television Archives (FIAT/IFTA).

  • International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

  • International Association of Sound Archives (IASA)

  • International Council on Archives (ICA).

In 1999, the roundtable expanded its reach, adding new worldwide members and becoming an association of associations: the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA). CCAAA additional members were: Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA, 2002), the Southeast Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archive Association (SEAPAVAA, 2002), the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC, 2007), and the Federation of Commercial Audiovisual Libraries (FOCAL, 2011).

So what's there to celebrate on World Day of Audiovisual Heritage?

October 27 is a day to honor those "audiovisual preservation professionals and institutions that safeguard our heritage for future generations."

According to a report from the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, digitalizing and preserving magnetic recordings in particular is crucial to maintain historical continuity.

"There is now consensus among audio-visual archives internationally that we will not be able to support large-scale [digitization] of magnetic media in the very near future. Tape that is not [digitized] by 2025 will in most cases be lost forever as:

  1. Analogue video and audiotape, as well as early digital tape formats, will be effectively inaccessible due to the practical inability to maintain playback systems.

  2. The last generation of fully experienced analogue-to-digital transfer broadcast engineers will be retired. Their practical technical skills will either have been strategically shared with the newer generations of digital engineers or lost forever."

So on October 27 each year audiovisual archives join to celebrate their work with events that:

  • highlight the vulnerability of these valuable materials

  • celebrate the unheralded work of the institutions that provide protection and preservation, ensuring their availability in the future.

Below are some examples of events and resources made for 2021 World Day of Audiovisual Heritage. A complete list is available here.


Second Début (affiliated to IASA)

A Celebration of Great Videotaped World Music Performances

Second Début is a Canadian video and audio tape digitization studio, a member of IASA, and a leader in promoting the urgency of digitization in the face of analogue obsolescence.

Second Début has initiated a new project focused on the preservation of World Music performances, captured on magnetic tape more more than 15 or 20 years ago, and beyond.

Please enjoy watching and listening to a few samples of recordings from different parts of the world.


Digitisation of At-Risk Audiovisual Formats

New Four Year Project (Australia)


International Scientific Conference to Celebrate the World Day of Audiovisual Heritage

27 October 2021

Institute of Musicology SASA


Let the Eye Film Player be ‘your window to the world’

27 October 2021 - 31 July 2022

All films start streaming on Oct. 27th, World Day for AV Heritage (at noon CET), and will be free of charge for audiences worldwide. All films are unique preservations from the Eye collection.

Want more? Take a look at Twitter. (P.S. You can follow us while you are there).

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