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Activating the archives

by Roger Field on Jun 28, 2017

Abdullah M. Alyazeedi, project manager, old films archive at Qatar’s Private Engineering Office.
Abdullah M. Alyazeedi, project manager, old films archive at Qatar’s Private Engineering Office.

He adds that the PEO also has redundant equipment and maintenance engineers on-site 24/7 in case of a break-down.

The PEO team also learned and mastered the latest techniques to repair partially damaged film. “With great efforts exerted from our side, we could fix the semi-damaged films through some phases up to ten stages,” Alyazeedi says. “These take a great effort and a long time from our side. However, we achieved satisfying results which we are proud of. Despite the large variety of films and tapes, difference in their years of production and type of manufacture, we overcame all the challenges, including finding the skilled specialists. ”

The team working on the project consists of about 100 people, including engineers and specialists in restoration, digitisation, digital curation and file management.

While Alyazeedi didn’t provide specific numbers about how many hours of footage have been digitised, a walk around the facility offers some insight into scale of the project. Two floors at the facility consist of enormous open-plan rooms with row-upon-row of shelves specially equipped to store individually-cased film reels. The rooms are temperature and humidity controlled for optimum preservation of the tapes and every case is meticulously logged and labelled.

While the bulk of content is expected to be digitised and archived by the fourth quarter of this year, the project can be viewed as an on-going initiative. Once digitisation and ingest is complete, the digital archive will be further enriched with metadata. “The next step is inauguration of ‘Digitisation & Electronic Archiving Project’ after completing all the materials we have. In my point of view, the work will continue during the foreseeable term and perhaps in the future with the rapid technological development,” Alyazeedi says.

The digital archive will hold huge potential for broadcasters and content producers who want to tap into the library archives. Alyazeedi points out that the potential for historical and cultural documentaries is huge. Furthermore, having personally viewed much of the historical footage, Alyazeedi is also convinced that the archive can help change perceptions about Qatar. For example, after viewing footage of Qatar hosting three or four GCC championships in past few decades and tournaments such as Army World Cup in 1981 and Asian Soccer Games in 1987, Alyazeedi says that he is filled with optimism about the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Doha. “These films remind us of some of the amazing achievements from Qatar’s past. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generation were handling numerous major sporting events but this generation doesn’t always realise it. Now, thanks to this archive we have a lot more to show to our future generations. I am optimistic that we are not only creating a national asset out of our film heritage, but that we can also give future generations an even greater sense of pride in their national history,” he says. 


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