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5 questions for Bas Agterberg


In our ‘5 questions to’ section, we talk to interesting people and dive deeper into the field of oral history. Bas Agterberg, Curator of Media History at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision; , talks more about collection policy, media history and plans for the future.


1/Can you (briefly) introduce yourself?

“After studying Theatre, Film and Television Studies, I taught at Utrecht University and also worked in film production. I have been working at Sound and Vision since 2007 and have worked on various projects, ranging from setting up the Sound and Vision Wiki to participating in education and research projects. As curator, I am involved in formulating collection policy, as well as increasing and spreading knowledge about the collections.”


2/What is your expertise?

“Actually, my expertise is that I know a little bit about a lot of things, and that comes in handy with the large and varied collections of Sound & Vision. I make connections between the collections and media history. What I like most is the connection between the various media and that I am often surprised by programmes, diverse subjects, the form or the makers involved. The history of the archive itself is an important subject for me. You can understand many productions by putting them in the context of when they were made and distributed. Preserving media was not obvious for a long time, so analysing the origins is crucial with many collections. How did different collections end up in the archive?”


3/ Within the archive of Sound and Vision, there are several and valuable Oral History collections housed, can you tell us a bit more about this?

“Sound & Vision was formed in 1997 from the mergers of three archives and the Broadcasting Museum. The Film and Science Foundation was one of the partners. Officially founded in 1955, but before then there were initiatives for sound archives in particular. Eventually, recordings from various universities ended up at the Film and Science Foundation, and many Oral History collections can be found here. For me, the conversations with filmmakers are relevant. Another example is Philo Bregstein’s interviews on memories of Jewish Amsterdam. A large number of these collections are not yet digitised and sometimes described in a limited way. However, well described and available is an Oral History collection of the broadcaster itself. The Broadcasting Museum made a series of interviews with former broadcasting employees from the 1980s onwards and it gives a unique insight into the developments within the broadcasting company in the period from the 1930s to the 1990s.”


4/How accessible are your collections? Where can people go if they are looking for broadcasting (oral history) collections?”

“The digitised collections can be accessed by researchers in the Clariah Media Suite. In some cases, permission for use is not clear and not everything is accessible online. Then a visit to Hilversum is necessary. Unfortunately, many of the collections of the Film and Science Foundation are not yet digital either. We can share Oral History subjects, though, so that if researchers really need it, they can report to our Research & Heritage department and we can register, describe and digitise that collection as a priority or in collaboration.”


5/What developments are you working on when it comes to unlocking collections and/or how do you see the future/development of oral history?”

“Thanks to the major digitisation project Images for the Future (2007-2014), a large part of the collection has been digitised and we also have the ability to digitise material ourselves. For accessibility, continuous work has been done within the possibilities of copyright and AVG to make as many collections accessible as possible. The Clariah Media Suite is a milestone. Researchers can view and listen to almost the entire collection of Sound & Vision from the university or their institute. For the general public, a lot of material will come online in a treasure trove of Beeld & Geluid by 2025.

In a digital collection, the need for background information on available productions increases. You therefore see all kinds of initiatives to record history in Oral History. It has become increasingly easy to record audio or video. Preserving it properly and making it available, that turns out to be a challenge for research institutes or heritage institutions. Archives are an indispensable link. But many local or regional archives also have limited capacity or expertise about (digital) audiovisual collections. Image & Sound is therefore important, not only as a repository, but also to transfer expertise to heritage institutions.”


Read here more about Oral History collections at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision.


Follow Bas Agterberg on LinkedIn