Audiovisual Archives of the Baltic Diaspora Attract BaltHerNet and BAAC

May 22, 2009

On April 25th 2009 the National Library of Sweden (Kungliga Biblioteket) hosted the seminar Mapping and Preserving the Audiovisual Heritage of the Baltic Diaspora in Sweden which was organized by the Baltic Heritage Network in co-operation with the Baltic Audiovisual Archival Council (BAAC), National Library of Sweden and the Estonian National Congress in Sweden. The event was supported by the Compatriots Programme (Ministry of Education and Research, Estonia) and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The NPA Baltic Heritage Network was founded in the beginning of 2008 with the aim to develop co-operation encompassing both Baltic, expatriate and foreign archives, libraries and museums, memory and research institutions, and diplomatic, cultural and other organizations of the worldwide Baltic ethnic communities, societies and individuals passionate about preserving the cultural and historical heritage of the Baltic diaspora with the objective to secure the preservation, research and accessibility of historically significant cultural values of the Baltic diaspora. The organization developed from the renewed and new contacts made at the conference of the Baltic diaspora, held in Tartu in 2006. The NPO maintains the website that gathers the archives-related information concerning the Baltic diaspora, holds archives-related venues in Estonia and Estonian diaspora, and is involved in several co-operation projects, the aim of which is to preserve the cultural heritage of the Baltic diaspora, and to make it available for interested parties.

The NPA Baltic Audiovisual Archival Council was founded in 2005 and it gathers the specialists of Baltic and Nordic audiovisual archives. As at 2004 this group has held international conferences Riga Seminar which were held in Riga up to 2007 (in 2007 the conference was held in co-operation with IASA, the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives). In autumn 2008 the Riga Seminar was held outside Latvia for the first time – in Tartu. This year it is hosted by Vilnius (Aggregationa and Management of Audiovisual Content in Digital Space, October 4-7).

The BaltHerNet and BAAC have special relations. Both organizations are interested in the cultural heritage of the Baltic diaspora. Several persons are the founders or active members of both organizations. Therefore it is logical that these two finally co-operate in holding a joint event.

The Estonian archives abroad working group that consists of the employees of the Estonian memory institutions has held seminars for Estonian diaspora communities from 2006 about the cultural heritage in the Estonian diaspora – in Stockholm, St Petersburg and Hamburg. Last year the local Latvian and Lithuanian communities participated for the first time during the Toronto event. This tradition was continued in Stockholm this year.

Earlier meetings with the local Estonian community and co-operation with the archives’ working group in Stockholm had revealed the need to pay special attention to the audiovisual heritage of Estonians in Sweden. As the collections are technically rather pretentious and handling them requires special skills, it was natural to include the BAAC members. The aim of the Stockholm seminar was to give an overview of the situation of the audiovisual cultural heritage of the Baltic diaspora, the relevant collection, preservation and research activities, problems and future challenges. Exchanging ideas and experiences, archives-related skills and contacts was equally important.

The seminar’s 44 participants included Estonians and Latvians living in Sweden and interested in the preservation of their cultural heritage, and the specialists from Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Swedish and Norwegian memory institutions.

The seminar was opened by Piret Noorhani from the Estonian National Museum who is also the President of BaltHerNet and the founding member of BAAC. She gave an overview of the activities of BAAC and BaltHerNet. Ivi Tomingas, the Director of the Estonian Film Archives and the Vice President of BAAC, introduced the audiovisual archive materials of the Baltic diaspora that have arrived to the Estonian memory institutions. The Estonian Archives in Sweden was represented by Peeter Grünberg who gave a thorough overview of the audiovisual materials, including photographs, in the archive, problems related to them, and the activities of the archive’s working group. P.Grünberg also showed Harald Perten’s movie about the Estonian Supplementary School in Stockholm in the 1940s.

The Latvian community in Stockholm was represented by Jānis Krēsliņš from the National Library of Sweden who reflected on the cultural heritage and national identity of the Latvian diaspora, trying to find out why the audiovisual heritage of the community has received so little attention when compared to printed materials or other written sources. The next speaker was from Kaunas, the Lithuanian Emigration Institute. Linas Saldukas, the Vice President of BaltHerNet introduced the efforts made in Lithuania for recording the history of the Lithuanian diaspora and the locations of the most significant audiovisual collections.

The aim of the last session of the seminar was to provide the assistance of professional archive specialists to the members of the Baltic diaspora. One of the BAAC piers from the very beginning, Lasse Nilsson from the Swedish Television (STV), shared his experience in working with film archives. Nadja Klich, his colleague from STV, examined the photo collections and Gunnel Jönsson from Swedish Radio gave an overview of the audio collections. In addition to giving instructions they provided an overview of the archives of the Swedish Broadcasting, giving examples of interesting Baltic-related archive materials.

At the closing ceremony P. Noorhani thanked all the presenters and people who helped with organizing the seminar: L.Nilsson, Isabelle Midy from the National Library of Sweden, Andris Ķesteris from the Library and Archives Canada, and gave her special thanks to Mai Raud-Pähn. In addition to her organizatory help she and her archive working group helped to make the stay of the representatives of the Estonian memory institutions in the Estonian Archives in Sweden most productive and memorable.

Piret Noorhani

Presentations are available here:

Peeter Grünberg, Audiovisual collections of Estonians living in Sweden

Gunnel Jönsson, From phonograph cylinders to digital sound files. How to document, preserve and store sound heritage

Lasse Nilsson, Keeping and old 35mm film in your drawer? – Don’t! How to document, preserve and store your moving image heritage

Piret Noorhani, BaltHerNet, BAAC and the Baltic Diaspora