The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML), one of the biggest repositories of books and periodicals in the country housed in the capital’s Teen Murti complex, has taken up an ambitious project to develop what would be the country’s first electronic media archive. While both Doordarshan and All India Radio have their own archives, there is no archive for electronic news encompassing various channels, even while newspapers and periodicals are getting methodically archived in more than one organisation countrywide. NMML director Mridula Mukherjee, who is spearheading the project, talks to Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari on why there is the need for such an archive:
What is the idea behind the move to set up the electronic media archive?
If you are looking for a newspaper of, say, 14th of January, 1932, you will get it either in NMML, the National Library of some other place. But if you are looking for the main news of Doordarshan of 27th August, 2001, you will not get it anywhere for public access. There is no archive for electronic media news, and that is why the need was felt to set up one.
How will such an archive help people?
Even though public opinion is being increasingly modulated by television, there is no archive for anyone who wants to access them later. It’s an information black hole that is being created. It is about preservation of historical records based on audio-visual news. People will be able to use the archive for academic analysis. But we are archiving them only from the present times, and not going into the past bulletins.
How is NMML approaching the project?
Archiving is not selective storage or access. Even if the TV channels are archiving their news, it is for their own usage. The government’s electronic media monitoring centre is already downloading almost all the channels, but they do it only for monitoring the content. As a pilot project, we will have one terabyte of information comprising four major channels – DD, Star News, NDTV and Zee News – as a test case.
Are you coordinating with the various channels?
We are undertaking a study of archival practices of various channels, as we want to be first sure what they are doing. We have information that the archiving by channels is very random and selective. There is no system with most of the channels of even preserving the most important bulletin of the day. We know that we cannot be the answer to this lack of archiving. The idea is that we want to intervene in this scenario by asking these questions, doing the survey and the pilot. We want to be clear that we are not setting up a monitoring system. We are purely archiving. The idea is to spread the message to people to be conscious of their own records. Maybe from this can emerge a national repository, just as all publishers are supposed four copies of all books to the National Library. Each news channels should have some obligation to preserve one or two bulletins every day.
Why have you chosen only a few channels for the project?
While the desirability is there to archive all, there are so many complications that we don’t want to take the plunge fully. We want to first understand preservation and archiving practices by media houses. We have to decide on standardization of downloading. We cannot keep on increasing the storage space infinitely. There is also the issue of copyright. The pilot project will look at the response from the channels, and what orientation the process should take.
What about audio-visual documents that are outside the realm of news?
We are also buying documentaries related to social issues, with the view of turning NMML into a repository of documentaries from all over the country. We are in touch with a large number of organisations that are dealing with documentary film distribution. We plan to put them up not as film material but as research material. These films will be viewed by users as historical resource for the academic community. For example, most people don’t even know about films made by the Sahitya Akademi. We have bought all their films.
How will people access all this?
The idea is to set up a multimedia library. We want to put up all the digitalized films and tapes onto a server available through LAN to the library users, as a kind of a network access server for clients. We are calling it a pilot project since we still do not know what kind of people will use these materials, as we don’t have the experience of handling such audio and video materials so far. There will be a system authenticating the person who is going to access them and what are the kind of things they are looking for. We will take feedback to fine tune and make it user friendly. This is part of a huge digitalisation project involving manuscripts and newspapers and later even books.