The End of the Television Archive as We Know It? The National Archive as an Agent of Historical Knowledge in the Convergence Era

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

The End of the Television Archive as We Know It? The National Archive as an Agent of Historical Knowledge in the Convergence Era


  • Berber Hagedoorn Research Centre for Media and Journalism Studies, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • Bas Agterberg Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, The Netherlands


Abstract  Professionals in the television industry are working towards a certain future—rather than end—for the medium based on multi-platform storytelling, as well as multiple screens, distribution channels and streaming platforms. They do so rooted in institutional frameworks where traditional conceptualizations of television still persist. In this context, we reflect on the role of the national television archive as an agent of historical knowledge in the convergence era. Contextualisation and infrastructure function as important preconditions for users of archives to find their way through the enormous amounts of audio-visual material. Specifically, we consider the case of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, taking a critical stance towards the archive’s practices of contextualisation and preservation of audio-visual footage in the convergence era. To do so, this article considers the impact of online circulation, contextualisation and preservation of audio-visual materials in relation to, first, how media policy complicates the re-use of material, and second, the archive’s use by television professionals and media researchers. This article reflects on the possibilities for and benefits of systematic archiving, developments in web archiving, and accessibility of production and contextual documentation of public broadcasters in the Netherlands. We do so based on an analysis of internal documentation, best practices of archive-based history programmes and their related cross-media practices, as well as media policy documentation. We consider how audio-visual archives should deal with the shift towards multi-platform productions, and argue for both a more systematic archiving of production and contextual documentation in the Netherlands, and for media researchers who draw upon archival resources to show a greater awareness of an archive’s history. In the digital age, even more people are part of the archive’s processes of selection and aggregation, affecting how the past is preserved through audio-visual images.


Keywords  archival footage; broadcasting; convergence; cross-media; digital media; history programming; media policy; online circulation; preservation and contextualization practices; production research documentation


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v4i3.595


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