BBC, British Library explore digi archive

Friday, December 11 2009, 12:51 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

The BBC has joined forces with the British Library to explore ways to create a new digital archive for content and assets from both organisations.

BBC director general Mark Thompson and Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, will today sign a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) agreement.

Under a joint steering committee, the MOU will investigate ways to free up access to almost 1m hours of BBC TV and radio content, along with over 150m items from the British Library for use by researchers and the general public.

The committee will explore various issues around distribution of archive material, such as rights management, digitisation and storage. The BBC also recently signed separate MOUs with the British Film Institute and The National Archives.

"The BBC and the British Library share many of the same purposes - to guarantee public access to content in an open realm, creating a space where people can debate and exchange ideas and experiences," said Thompson.

"Unlocking the wealth of content in the British Library and BBC archives is a great opportunity as well as an immense challenge. It is vital we partner, harnessing the power of digital technology to give the public the access they deserve."

Brindley added: "This partnership not only demonstrates that we are keen to share content for the benefit of today's researchers and the knowledge economy, but also expresses our continued commitment to supporting the government's vision of building a Digital Britain.

"Through this MOU we aim to create a model of best practice which will allow the Library to develop similar opportunities with other public institutions. Providing unparalleled access to joint information services and world-class digital archival content will truly enable the business, academic, scientific, research and creative communities to flourish."

As one of the largest multimedia caches in the world, the BBC Archive includes over 6m photographs, 4m items of sheet music and 500,000 documents.

In October, BBC Vision director Jana Bennett said that that the corporation will start releasing its programming archive online by the end of 2010.