HistoryPACKED vzw was founded in 2005 by Argos – centre for art and media, the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA / Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp), the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K / Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent) and the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens (MDD), as a knowledge platform for the archiving and preservation of audiovisual arts. Partly because digitisation is a key aspect in this archiving and preservation process, PACKED vzw has increasingly focussed over the years on the challenges that arise for digital cultural heritage in general. Since 1 January 2011, PACKED vzw has been acknowledged by the Ministry of the Flemish Community as a centre of expertise for digital cultural heritage.
Previous history: the PACKED partners
Since 1998, Argos has launched a series of preservation projects for video art from the 1970s and 1980s. The project Rewind ran from 1998 until 2000 and concerned the preservation of about 100 film and video works from the 1970s. Argos researched different collections in order to retrieve for each of the works the best version still available, and to then transfer these versions to Digital Betacam. The actual digitisation and restoration were contracted out. Another project concerned the preservation of video works by Lili Dujourie from the period 1972-1982. With the support of the Cera Foundation these videos were digitised and restored image by image. For some years now Argos also collaborates with VRT (Flemish Radio and Television) on the preservation and disclosure of the entire television works by Jef Cornelis.
S.M.A.K. went through three different phases to construct an inventory of art works and documents on art on electronic and digital carriers in public collections in Flanders. The project Preservation of video material from public collections (2002) was realised in collaboration with the ModeMuseum (MoMu/Fashion Museum). The project included the creation of an inventory and the actual preservation of the collection. The preservation of the autonomous art works was contracted out, but for the transfer of the documentary material (on art) an investment was made in equipment. 400 hours of video from the S.M.A.K. and MoMu were digitised during this project.
In the follow-up project Preservation of Video Material from Public Collections (2003) the digitisation of the video collections of S.M.A.K. and MoMu was continued and its scope was extended to other institutions. M HKA (collection ICC – International Cultural Centre) and the Provincial Museum of Modern Art (PMMK, Ostend) became involved as project partners. Within this follow-up project the Video Inventaris Vlaanderen (Flanders Video Inventory) was developed; an online tool for the creation of an inventory of video material. In 2004, S.M.A.K. and M HKA consequentially started a research project on the digital disclosure of their archives: the pilot project Archive management in the field of contemporary visual art. Within this project they investigated which systems and structures were (inter)nationally available, how the archive of a museum of contemporary art could be described (bearing in mind the different new media in their own collections), the extent to which an archive could be made optimally accessible to the public and how the data management of one single institution could fit into a larger whole.
Previous history: research by interface centres IAK and IBK
In 2003 Ine Vos conducted the study Preservation and archiving of artistic audiovisual creations on electronic and digital carriers in Flanders (2003) for the former interface centres IAK and IBK (now merged to BAM). In this study an overview was given of the projects mentioned earlier. Its conclusion stated that a lot of knowledge in various fields was already present in Flanders, but a long term policy for the archiving and preservation of artistic audiovisual creations was still missing. The study suggested additional research should take place to assess the situation further, including a more detailed mapping of institutions’ needs, while at the same time providing practical solutions.
The results of the IAK/IBK study were discussed with the different governments and actors active in the field of audiovisual arts. As a result Argos, M HKA and S.M.A.K. signed a collaboration agreement and founded a platform. This platform, named Platform for the Archiving and Preservation of Artistic Creations on Electronic and Digital Carriers (PACKED), acted initially as a commissioner of additional research. Since the inclusion of heritage in subsidy frameworks per discipline, and owing to the creation of the cultural heritage decree, policy frameworks became available in which the conservation of video art – and on a wider scale: audiovisual and multimedia art and documentation of art on electronic and digital carriers – could receive financial support. Another study was conducted. Its aim was to propose a structural, long term and step-by-step solution for the preservation problem of audiovisual and multimedia art and of documentation on art, without losing sight of the broader field of cultural heritage. This resulted in the report Sustainable instability: the preservation of audiovisual media art in a changing landscape (2004-2005) by Stoffel Debuysere.
Cooperative umbrella organisation with national relevant expertise
In January 2005 Argos, M HKA and S.M.A.K., in cooperation with Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, founded the vzw PACKED. In December 2004 PACKED vzw was acknowledged by the Ministry of the Flemish Government as a cooperative umbrella organisation with national relevant expertise and received a yearly working grant for the period 2006-2010.
In the period until the end of 2008 PACKED vzw organised, amongst others, the following public events: Media Matters (2007, co-production with Argos), Media, Memory & The Archive (2007, co-production with Argos), Document formats Audiovisual Heritage (2007, in co-production with Digital Heritage Netherlands), Author’s rights in the cultural field, from wanting to obstacle? (2008) and At least preservable until…? (2008).
A lot of attention has gone as well to the construction of an international network. A cross-border collaboration seems urgent because of the characteristic problems related, amongst others, to the archiving and conservation of audiovisual arts, the still relatively recent local expertise, the need of feedback from colleagues, the limited financial resources in the sector and the small scale of Flanders. Extending this international network was an important motivation for PACKED vzw to participate in the European project ATHENA (2008-2011) and to engage in a close collaboration with the Nederlands Instituut voor Mediakunst (NIMk/Netherlands Media Arts Institute).
Since 2009, PACKED vzw has still been intent on extending its international network, but the priority has shifted towards the delivery of tangible results that can be shared with the world of art and cultural heritage. To accomplish this, a series of new projects has been launched in cooperation with national and international partners, a user-friendly website has been developed and an online preservation manual has been published. PACKED vzw also initiated a dialogue with Expertisecentrum DAVID (eDAVID) in order to achieve the harmonisation of both organisations’ activities. eDAVID has become a member of PACKED vzw in August 2009. A representative of the organisation has become a member of the managing bodies of PACKED vzw.
National expertise centre for cultural heritage
The collaboration with eDAVID has led to a commission from the Agency for Arts and Heritage of the Flemish Community to create a publication of standards for digital cultural heritage. In 2010 the commission set up the project CEST (Cultural Heritage Standard Toolbox), and in the second half of 2010 eDAVID and PACKED vzw also started preparations for a course called ‘Digitisation of Audiovisual Objects (Moving Image and Sound)’, as a commission for the Archipel consortium.
Due to the approval of the new cultural heritage decree in 2008, PACKED vzw can no longer be supported as a cooperative umbrella organisation as of 2011. In April 2010 PACKED vzw applied to be acknowledged by the Flemish Government as a national centre of expertise for cultural heritage. This acknowledgment was granted for a one-year period only. In April 2011 PACKED vzw applied for a new acknowledgement over the period 2012-2016; the Flemish Government announced in October 2011 that continued support as centre of expertise will be granted for the requested period.