Friday, 28 March 2014

It's not all grim up north

A couple of weeks ago I made a trip north to visit the ITV archive in Leeds.  I was meeting with the Director of Archive and Information Policy, who had previously paid a visit to the NT Archive.  Although we are two very different archives, not just in scale, there are several aspects of the ITV set-up that I have found very useful in my work on policy and strategy at the National.

One thing that strikes you straightaway is how integrated the archive is with the metadata team and the rights management team.  This department in turn is then integrated within ITV very well, sitting in the same open plan office as other teams such as 'Countdown Team' and those working on documentaries.  As an off-site member of NT staff I can sympathise with the difficulties encountered when running an operation involving every department within an institution from a different location so their new location promises to be beneficial.

I have no photos of ITV so...The North

There are three main strands to this department: the metadata team is where it all begins.  They give each commissioned work a production number (same as our performance code) and then they add the metadata as they receive it.  They likened it to a skeleton that gradually has muscle added and then eventually tissue and skin to create the full record that then becomes available on ITV Player.  They work to a tight 10 day to air schedule to make sure that everything has the appropriate information before it is required online.  This works well for them but I can't see the NT ever changing their methods to the extent that the archive is involved from the start of a show but it isn't a bad model to aim for.

The rights management team deal with all of the rights clearance issues surrounding television production and feed all of that information into the show's record.  This then allows anyone within the organisation to check whether they have the rights to show a clip etc. where they want and for how long and how much they might have to pay for the privilege.  There is also a member of staff dedicated to making sure that the actors get paid for any repeats of material.

The archive on the Leeds site, which now houses all of the ITV archive, is home to 1.1 million tapes.  And it is growing.  They have a very strict policy on what they keep and for how long so as to keep only that material that is directly relevant to them and that will allow them to fulfill their institutional aims eg. the TOWIE tapes will probably be returned to their production company when ITV's copyright expires.

The North again
Obviously ITV is more commercial than us but how they have decided to go about integrating the archive with rights management is incredibly useful to consider as we are facing a larger and larger intake of material that can be requested.  Copyright clarity can be difficult when in a working theatre with designers, actors, directors, photographers, artists etc., who are all on different contracts and represented by different unions but this is something that we are working towards.

Interestingly, ITV have outsourced their stills archive since they had neither the space or expertise to manage it appropriately.  There was no consistency in where photographs were held or how they were listed and now an external company manage this for them with an annual return.  This is an example of pragmatic decision made for the benefit of the collection since it will be receiving better treatment and used more in its new setting.

 I also got to see my dog
One thing that has stuck with me from my discussions with the Director, was not to add to the mess.  We have a fair bit of mess (which archive doesn't?) and so I am making sure that, as I go forward, I am not adding to it.  Over time we can go back and fix what we then deem necessary.