The systematic collection of photographs, sound documents, films, and videos began only a few decades ago. The preservation of Switzerland’s audiovisual heritage must rely on recent knowledge of collecting and conserving such cultural assets. The technological developments coinciding with digitisation over the past 20 years pose new challenges, because long-term digital archiving, as well as providing access to and disseminating such data, differs fundamentally from the preservation of analogue items.
Archiving and digitalisation have proven to be extremely important over the years. For example, the Swiss National Museum’s online consultation has more than tripled in recent years. It accounts for an important strategic point in the 2021-2024 Culture Dispatch and sets as a goal the progressive digitalisation of archives and collections (National Museum, National Library), films that have had their first presentation with the support of the Federal Office of Culture, etc.
The Swiss Confederation supports the preservation of the country’s audiovisual heritage. It funds four institutions responsible for collecting, preserving, restoring, and disseminating Switzerland’s audiovisual heritage in different areas:
- Fondation Cinémathèque Suisse (Lausanne)
- Schweizerische Stiftung für Photographie (Winterthur)
- The SAPA Foundation, Swiss Archive of the Performing Arts (Bern / Lausanne / Zurich)
- Memoriav, association for the preservation of Switzerland’s audiovisual heritage (Bern)
Digitalisation and cultural mediation are important goals to follow in the heritage strategies. This concerns both public access to culture, restoration, and archiving.
The Swiss National Library has a certain number of coordination and promotion programmes at its disposal to carry out the conservation work of documentary heritage, partly or entirely funded by the federal government. These include:
Helvetica: Under the name “Helvetica”, the Swiss National Library collects publications related to Switzerland, works printed in Switzerland as well as works printed abroad if they are related to Switzerland and its population, regardless of the importance of these works;
The e-Helvetica archive is the digital platform of the Swiss National Library. This digital library and web archive are the result of the continuing digitalisation strategy and the representative collection or original digital content (“digital born”) of the Confederation. Besides digital books and historic websites, digitally published books, magazines, theses and standards can be subjected to a full text search on this platform. The digitalisation of books in print, plus the maintenance and securing of the original digital collection will be the main challenges over the next few years.
Literary Archives: The remit of the Swiss Literary Archives, besides the collection and preservation of the estate of Swiss authors, is to open up, research, and convey to a wider audience the works of such authors. Inventories are made accessible online via the archival databases of the National Library.
Graphics Collection: The Graphics Collection contains iconographic documents pertaining to geography, social mores and customs, and Swiss cultural and political themes, especially as depicted in printed graphics from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. The collections of printed graphics and photography both emphasize vistas of Switzerland and portraits of famous Swiss personalities.
Swiss newspapers: from 1997 to 2018, the National Library conducted the coordinated microfilming of newspapers. It is currently engaged in the cooperative digitalisation of newspaper titles from all the language regions, which it places on the e-newspaperarchives.ch platform.
Audio documents: the Swiss National Sound Archives in Lugano, part of the National Library since 2016, collects and receives Swiss audio cultural heritage and makes it available to interested parties.
The Federal Archive for Monument Preservation (FAMP) undertakes the documentation of restored objects, including approximately two million photographs and negatives as well as plans and reports on the history of architecture, historical monuments, and landscape protection. FAMP acts as the “Swiss picture archive” and is open to the public.
An important library network is Bibliosuisse, an organisation that represents their interests and projects. They support the Biblio2030 campaign (linked to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Goals), where libraries position themselves as active members of sustainability, social justice, and equal rights’ issues.