Merger with National Film Archive | Open letter
Warsaw, 20th April 2017
Professor Piotr Gliński
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Culture and National Heritage
Esteemed Prime Minister,
As members of the Program Council of the National Audiovisual Institute, it is with trepidation that we observe the continued efforts to conclude the merger between two separate, independent institutions: the National Audiovisual Institute (NInA) and the National Film Archive. We urge you to reconsider the upcoming consolidation of the National Film Archive and the NInA, a process which we believe will inflict harm on Polish culture.
It is with a large measure of admiration that we have been observing the work of the Institute since its inception, and since 2014 we’ve been doing so in a formal capacity, as members of the NInA Council, sworn in by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. In our official role, we’ve advised the management and the staff of the NInA on important changes, strategies that were implemented in connection with important milestones in its development, such as its full opening to the public, but also on the impressive evolution of its online platforms, held in high regard by industry experts across the globe.
Our collective experience in the matter lends credibility to our claim that the NInA’s operating model, combining efforts in the fields of archiving, producing, and curating highly diverse audiovisual content is an exemplar of how a 21st century audiovisual archive should function. Although created in the image of the French Audiovisual Institute (Institut national de l’audiovisuel, Ina), the NInA quickly forged its own path, creating a cutting-edge model of a public institution striving to accommodate the rapid pace and sweeping changes of contemporary digital and audiovisual culture. Given our expertise and extensive experience in a number of different fields, including international collaboration, we would like to emphasize that keeping audiovisual archives separate and independent from film culture-oriented institutions has been a staple of all tried-and-tested models of public audiovisual heritage management, including those implemented in the Netherlands (with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision separate from the EYE Film Museum) and in France (with the Institut national de l’audiovisuel separate from Cinémathèque Française).
Institutions tasked with preserving audiovisual archives face a number of difficulties in discharging their primary missions of preserving cultural heritage and making it accessible to future generations that will be increasingly comfortable in a digital environment. The dynamics of efforts undertaken by the NInA, a rare example of an archival institution working primarily with digitized resources, allow it to achieve a very high degree of effectiveness in discharging both these missions.
Ever since its inception, the Institute has distinguished itself by orienting its efforts to serve its audience and the public. Purposeful and deliberate dissemination of NInA resources and their relevant contexts was instrumental in building audience engagement. The Institute’s online platforms were later complemented by opening its premises and grounds to the public and designing its new office building in a way that provided the Institute with full independence in designing its own cultural offer around digital heritage. The NInA digitization labs, small but furnished with cutting-edge hardware, were established to allow the Institute discharge its statutory digitization mission completely on-site: from scanning the tape, through digital restoration of video footage, up to screening it in auditoria equipped with state-of-the-art projection and sound hardware. Although insistent on self-sufficiency, the Institute has been collaborating with external partners ever since its inception—the Institute’s statutory digitization efforts have always been dictated by in-depth analyses of industry needs. This allowed the Institute to preserve the video archives of the Museum of Literature. The NInA has also established a collaborative relationship with the Krzysztof Kieślowski Archive. Preparedness to launch or get involved with initiatives that serve the public interest, as well as the curatorial consistency of its statutory efforts, are hallmarks of the NInA. Preserving them would be impossible in the face of the vast needs of the National Film Archive whose analog resources require immediate intervention at mass production pace.
The rapid pace at which new technologies permeate the sphere of creating and disseminating cultural content requires careful observation, extensive support of promising development avenues, and responsible comprehension of phenomena emerging in audiovisual and digital culture, all of them tasks that transcend the run-of-the-mill preservation of VHS tape. Analysis of the evolution of culture and the behaviors of its consumers has always been a part of the core mission of the NInA as an “institute of the present,” and merging the missions of the NInA and the National Film Archive—the latter an institute with tremendous potential but burdened with significant organizational overhead related to the immediate need of digitizing kilometers of film reels stored in its collections—poses a direct threat to the NInA’s capability to discharge its statutory tasks.
Both institutions have often partnered to serve the public interest, both also have separate and independent plans for their own future. A future based around respecting the independence of their respective operational profiles. The independent and individual nature of their organizational structures and areas of expertise allows them to freely exchange experiences, know-how, and inspire one another. We believe that the planned merger will hamper the potential of both the NInA and the NFA and will curtail the public’s ability to access the resources managed by the two organizations. Managing digital (the NInA) and analog (the NFA) archives requires different strategies, strategies that will be simply incompatible which, in the long run, will inflict significant damage on Polish audiovisual heritage.
As the Program Council of the NInA, we implore you to reconsider the plans for merging the two institutions.
On behalf of the NInA Council:
Agnieszka Holland, the Chair