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Audiovisual archives crucial to preserving folk culture

Author  :  Li Song     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-07-17

Established in 1992, the UNESCO Memory of the World program and its associated register place a high premium on audiovisual archives. Recording the memory of all humanity, the program takes a holistic approach to promoting and preserving folk culture. The Traditional Music Sound Archives of China is the country’s first archival data that was inscribed into the list of the Memory of the World Register.

After that, the Library of Congress funded the American Memory project. A product of the information age, the project aims to digitize and make public the wealth of historical materials collected by the Library of Congress. In addition to the traditional written literature, the project preserves an array of other records, including photographs, maps, musical scores, and audiovisual recordings of oral history.

With the advent of the information age, countries all over the world are paying increasing attention to the role of audiovisual archives in preserving human culture. At the time that the UNESCO Memory of the World and the American Memory programs were created, IT-based, audiovisual cultural resources were starting to account for a larger proportion of the overall cultural communication system of humanity. Countries around the Pacific Rim have set up specialized agencies to carry out the work.

Comparatively, China started a little late in this respect, and there is still a lot of work to be done. Although there are some audiovisual materials scattered throughout various archives, reference libraries and academic research institutes in China, few of them have been established specifically for this type of records. The China Film Archive could be considered one, but its collections are limited to film. Audiovisual archives about cultural relics and intangible cultural heritage are mainly located in various institutes and museums of the cultural sector.

In the 1980s, the Center for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art Development of China’s Ministry of Culture organized the compilation of the “Ten Annals and Collections of Chinese Literature and Art.” A total of 300 volumes were compiled, with 10 volumes for each province, autonomous region and municipality directly under the central government, excluding volumes for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. Throughout the whole process, not only valuable words, atlases, music scores and dance spectrum but also many pictures and video materials were preserved.

Generally speaking, these annals and collections have sparked nationwide enthusiasm for collecting ethnic and folk cultural resources. However, text publishing was after all the foremost goal for the program, and limited by the concepts and technologies at that time, audiovisual archive database had not been established in a systematic way. Today, we have come to realize that it is vital to systematically sort and collect audiovisual archives to protect cultural resources and carry out the national cultural strategy. These archives will become a crucial testimony to the ethnic and national history of China one day when we tell the story of Chinese civilization.

Since the start of the new century, the Center for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art Development of the Ministry of Culture has made the audiovisual archives a priority in planning, designing and implementing several of its national programs, such as the Image Chronology of Chinese Festivals, and A Hundred Chinese Epics, the two ongoing projects, and the upcoming Recording Project of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Image Chronology of Chinese Festivals is a major research program that for the first time collects image recordings of the traditional Chinese festivals. Over the course about 10 years, the program plans to study, record and collect the representative festivals of different ethnic groups and in different regions, including temple fairs, folk concerts and memorial rituals.

To tap ethnic and folk cultural resources by means of various instruments, these programs also necessitate cross-disciplinary cooperation. For decades, thousands of people have been plowing ahead on this cultural land which has cultivated a great number of all-round, compound talent for the inheritance, protection and development of Chinese cultural resources.




Li Song is from the Center for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art Development of the Ministry of Culture.


(Edited and translated by BAI LE)

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