What in the world is up with this new, seemingly unstoppable flippancy regarding film archives? Ingmar Bergman dies, then his archives are in trouble. Then, Michaelangelo Antonioni's archives were said to be suffering from the same, money-needing fate. Now, The Globe and Mail has reported that Canada's National Film Board (NFB) archives are in peril. After these stories, I'm liking Amazon's deal with The National Archives and Records Administration more and more.
It seems that the NFB had an internal audit in the spring, and findings indicate that while the library is well-maintained, there is a definite possibility that the films will deteriorate. Why? Because of continual handling -- the audit says that approximately 300 boxes are moved around the storage vaults each day. Of course, the audit says: "Creating digital master copies reduces the risk of the original material deteriorating, an evident risk when the film has to be handled for the purposes of reproduction." The US needed Amazon to step up to make that happen, so I really doubt it is something that the NFB could pull off on its own.
And it doesn't look like the government is interested in helping either. In a statement through the Canadian Heritage Department, the office of the new Heritage Minister (Josée Verner) said: "The board is a departmental agency, and is responsible for its own day-to-day operations...including conducting and acting upon the recommendations of their internal audits." Talk about hands-off! No Amazon. No government help. The NFB better find some rich film lovers. This is, obviously, a specific problem for Canadian films in the NFB vaults, but it is also telling of the struggle to maintain archives around the world. Something has to change, before our video history becomes dust.