Thursday, 19 April 2012

BBC Bristol Archives

Yesterday I attended a visit to BBC Bristol Library organised by SWRLS. This was a unique opportunity to explore a service that is for all intents and purposes virtual with the exception of a small reference stock. The majority of material held is footage from regional programming such as Flog It and Bargain Hunt and BBC Bristol is also the home of the BBC’s Natural History Unit. Staff from the BBC took us through the different tools they use to provide a comprehensive catalogue and service for productions commissioned on the Bristol site. They also shared their views on the challenges they are facing in the current climate.

We were lucky to be shown different tools such as Telstar, BBC Gateway, the BBC motion gallery and a database of pronunciation which are all used on a daily basis in the Information and Archives Service. There was also discussion regarding new software called Fabric which would add to the efficiency of cataloguing and searching the databases of the BBC. The roles of the Media Managers are very much computer based, from cataloguing rushes to sharing information, checking rights and answering customer enquiries. A lot of time is focused on the metadata behind material, providing taxonomies so the material is as accessible as possible. Unfortunately because I'm not as technically savvy as I probably should be a lot of discussion went over my head but that which I understood was very interesting... would be interesting to find out more about different operating systems and the databases that are vital in different sectors.

We also got the opportunity to enter the news rooms of Points West to speak to the Media Manager for the news that work to strict deadlines and are vital support for broadcasters helping them find shots and captions that are needed for news stories both throughout the day but also for breaking news. We were given the example of cataloguing shots such as Bristol Water which need to be catalogued using key words so they are as easy to find as possible and can be used at short notice. The news is archived the same day it is broadcast and it is vital that it is catalogued correctly for future reference especially with ongoing news stories.

The largest challenge they’re against at the moment is storage of the material they archive. For each programme that is transmitted there is a vast amount of rushes that need to be held. These are weeded in the way that you or I may go through a collection but there are many things to consider including the viability of re-use and a commercial aspect. There is also the matter of evolving technology, moving from reels to tape to digital files. The storage devices have also changed over the last decade and the longevity of these devices are called into question as they are being used on a regular basis. It is then quite interesting that the BBC are planning to sell buildings that hold the BBC’s significant Natural History Unit archive (items such as Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and a beautiful short film that tickled me – “Wild Wensleydale”), whilst also trying to find a new home for the archives being brought down from Birmingham over the Summer.

It was interesting to note that although the sectors and materials dealt with could not be any different, the staff at the BBC are finding themselves up against the same problems as the public sector. Some of these include issues of staffing and restructuring, the storage of data/material and the need to keep up with ever evolving technologies and software in order to provide efficient customer service.

Thank you for SWRLS and the staff of the BBC for giving up their time to organise such an interesting visit.

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