Two workers in a preservation area at Ngā Taonga.

International archival service expertise helps New Zealand preserve its audiovisual taonga

20 Apr 2022

New Zealand’s archival agencies have signed an agreement with international archiving specialist Memnon to digitally preserve precious sound and video recordings.

Memnon has almost 20 years’ experience in the large-scale digitisation of audio and video assets for libraries, universities, broadcaster’s, museums and government organisations around the world.

The contract with Memnon will bring 15 to 20 new jobs for New Zealanders, with Memnon preparing to operate from Avalon Studios in Lower Hutt, Wellington. The project received over $40 million through Budget 2020.

The Crown’s audiovisual (AV) heritage collections held by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa the National Library and Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga Archives New Zealand are at risk despite being stored in climate-controlled vaults. The playback equipment necessary for digital preservation is becoming obsolete and general age-related decay of these collections makes it progressively difficult and expensive to maintain.

“Equipment has been shipped to New Zealand with the aim that digitisation begins in the second quarter of 2022,” says Ben Whitney, Memnon’s New Zealand-based GM Operations.

“Our taonga will be digitised on New Zealand shores. The AV collections are a priceless window into our past, and one that the public will be able to keep looking through into the future,” says Jeanette Bullen, Acting Co-Chief Executive at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

The project name, Utaina, was suggested by Ngā Taonga. It has been interpreted as ‘load the precious freight on board!’ and was a catchphrase of Sir Apirana Ngata when advocating for the recording and preservation of Māori language and heritage.

"As this project is aspiring to 'load on board' precious AV heritage so it can be digitally preserved for generations to come, it’s a very appropriate name," says Sarah Davy, Group Manager Accessible Collections – Pou Takatū at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

Memnon’s appointment followed a rigorous open procurement process and a comprehensive evaluation led by Te Tari Taiwhenua Internal Affairs.

“The government’s investment, and our selection of a world-class vendor, is critical to the preservation of our cultural heritage that covers a range of audio and visual archival material including broadcast archives, music, and oral histories,” says Mark Crookston, Programme Director, National Library of New Zealand.

“We are delighted to have Memnon as our digitisation partner. They have expertise, specialist equipment and experience at working with precious AV material at a scale and quality never before seen in New Zealand.”

Ngā Taonga will provide approximately 350,000 original AV items in various formats, the National Library 106,000 and Archives New Zealand 10,500 items. Utaina is expected to be completed in 2025.

Media Contact:
Media Desk
Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs
Mobile: +64 27 535 8639

Hero image: Workers on the Utaina Project.