Looking back at the year of change (December 31, 2016)

With the change in the Bundesarchiv’s nitrate policy, 2016 marked a turning point in the history of film archiving in Germany. Upon my question, I received from Dr. Tobias Herrmann, head of the Bundesarchiv department GW 1, the following details on the internal decision process:

“Since March 2016 the Bundesarchiv as well as the administrative and technical supervision at the BKM (Amt der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien / Federal Government Representative for Culture and Media) looked intensely on the subject of the handling of nitrate films after having been copied. This assessment took place with regard to the growing public debate not only on the storing of nitrate films but also on modern strategies for securing films and on the question of the ‘national film heritage’. Among other things, inquiries by members of parliament Carsten Müller und Tabea Rößner are to be seen in this context. […] Following a legal assessment that involved several persons at the Bundesarchiv including the head of department Z (Zentrale Verwaltungsangelegenheiten) and the Bundesarchiv vice president, the Bundesarchiv president in April 2016 drafted for internal use the future direction of already-duplicated nitrate films: These films should generally be kept as long as they have not reached the state of decomposition. Henceforth, this position has also been expressed in dialogue with the administrative and technical supervision at BKM which, by decree of July 14, 2016, notified the Bundesarchiv: ‘Provided that the Bundesarchiv is capable of ensuring overall control on the film material in question, […] the renunciation of preventive disposal is acceptable at least as long as the films do not show any signs of decomposition’.”

The era of the preventive disposal of nitrate film documents has therefore, at least at the Bundesarchiv, come to an end. I would like to express my gratitude to the two persons named by Herrmann, MdB. Carsten Müller (CDU) and Tabea Rößner (GRÜNE) standing for many others who supported the campaign against the Bundesarchiv’s copy-and-destroy-policy.
In terms of film heritage preservation, the news from the Bundesarchiv are certainly the best to come for a long time. In this respect, the lack of publicity work of the institutions involved, including the Kinematheksverbund, is somewhat surprising – even more so, if one considers that the decision has been made in mid-2016. Shouldn’t this change be worthy a press release on the part of BKM after state minister Monika Grütters has frequently emphasized her concern with the German film heritage?

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