The EU Commission is encouraging film fans to push their governments to open up and digitize their heritage so that it can be shared with future generations.

According to a new report released by the EU Commission, most European film heritage institutions are not digitizing the material they have.

The report emphasises the importance of putting films into digital formats so that they are not lost, illustrating its point with the silent film era, from which only 10% of movies have survived.

The information provided by the EU Commission in this report also points out that it is not just films in can and on shelves that are at risk. Early digital era films may also be lost due to interoperability issues.

Just 1.5% of European film heritage is commercially available to the public. Although the majority of film is maybe not award-winning footage, it is a cultural stockpile that will doubtless be important over time. Currently around a million hours of European archives are locked away.

The ever succinct, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said:

“It is ridiculous that our film heritage is invisible in the 21st century. Culture is the heart of Europe, and film is at the heart of culture. I am determined to bring this film legacy online and will make a proposal in 2013 that helps Member States and stakeholders to join forces to get films online.”

The EU Commission points out that there is indeed  hunger for the archives. Two million films have been viewed on the EU-funded online platform, “Europa Film Treasures” since 2009. The Commission says that Member States should include film heritage in their national digitization strategies and archival policies; one outcome of this should be greater film content on the Europeana portal.

It might seem labour intensive to digitize all of that material, but of course it needs to be done in order to share it over the Web. From there, if film archives are accessible, the sky’s the limit for creative things that could be done if the licensing is open.

Licensing and funding to digitize the films are a couple of the common problems when it comes to sharing the cultural wealth. The Commission says that techniques need to be developed for scanning archived film to help reduce costs as well as preservation facilities to keep the originals safe.

So, if you want to see historical archives of European films made public, now might be a good time to support the EU Commission and ask your government or private collectors to help save and share what they have. Who knows what is still locked away and the possible new works that could emerge.

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