Sound and Vision has more than just a pretty face

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision is perhaps best known for the building we are housed in, and considering the New York Times has described it as "mesmerizing" and "stunning" that is fair enough.But our innovation doesn't stop at the archi

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision is perhaps best known for the building we are housed in, and considering the New York Times has described it as "mesmerizing" and "stunning" that is fair enough.But our innovation doesn't stop at the architectural design. We've actually been busy working on some pretty forward-thinking projects within our four critically-acclaimed walls.

Opened to the public in 2006, we are a merger of several archives and museum institutions that dealt primarily with public media in the Netherlands, tasked with curating and collecting our nation's audio-visual heritage. Packed to the rafters with public media holdings, historical collections, documentaries and amateur film footage, essentially, we're a one-stop-shop for all things audio-visual – part public museum, part state-of-art archive, part digital media laboratory and knowledge institute.

When most of us think about museums, instinctively we conjure images of famous crown jewels, tattered and tainted bits of political parchment or the sparkling sarcophagus of an Egyptian pharaoh. But in the modern age, surely our audio-visual riches will be just as valuable (or maybe more so) for future generations as the private belongings of presidents and princes.
Think about the early television shows that brought families together and the historical moments like the Moon Landing and Richard Nixon's famous 'Checkers' speech – these will be (and already are) hugely important historical artifacts. This is what we think about everyday, and we have been able to successfully save moments similar to these in the Netherlands.

Here at Sound and Vision, we have demonstrated our love of technology and media through the process of digitization, where we have been able to preserve over 200,000 hours of film, video and audio recordings, plus 2.5 million photos, as part of our Images for the Future project. Every day, we receive TV and radio productions into our system, where we preserve them for the future. 

For example, we have digitally restored famous titles, such as Dutch documentary film maker John Fernhout’s Oscar-nominated Sky Over Holland.Through these efforts, we are able to preserve the cultural impact of these audio-visual documents, and save them for future generations.

We think about things differently here, in terms of digitization and what it can mean for future generations, not just in Europe, but all over the world. We want to connect the past with our present and with future generations. In an ever-changing society, keeping pace with the newest technology practices is very important – and one of the things that keeps our team up at night!

For the last 10 years, we have been diligently working on our digitization efforts at home. Through these efforts, we have curated a vast set of content and data that can now be manipulated through innovative new ways.

In the R&D department, we are researching utilization of new technologies to analyze and document media holdings (image recognition, speech detection recognitions) and how to process the material so we can provide better access to it. This is all to provide a more meaningful and engaging experience to the end-user, as we move towards more user-focused services.

The time has come to take our knowledge and insights to a global audience, as well as pick up some lessons learned from others passionate about preserving and presenting our audio-visual heritage.

We realize that the United States is also conducting highly innovative research. For example, some of the more interesting projects and initiatives underway are those of The Knight Foundation in their News Challenge, the LOD-LAM summit, the DPLA which we have followed closely and are akin to the work we have been doing in Europe.

While research is crucial in the world of historical preservation, there is also considerable scope for some real-world practical applications. 

Given its love of all things innovative, our hunch is that we might find these application ideas in the United States. 

This is why we joined Dutch Media Innovators (DMI), a consortium of seven forward-Dutch digital media organizations on the hunt for meaningful US collaboration. Our partners include a range of Dutch public and private sector organizations with expertise ranging from mobile app development to AV engineering to wearable tech for sports events. Our goal is to share our knowledge, spark innovation and foster relations between both countries.

We’re excited to come to come to the US and showcase what we’ve been working on behind our “stunning” façade.

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