Film archives and film archivists are the guardians of the world’s moving image heritage. It is their responsibility to protect that heritage and to pass it on to posterity in the best possible condition and as the truest possible representation of the work of its creators.
Film archives owe a duty of respect to the original materials in their care for as long as those materials remain viable. When circumstances require that new materials be substituted for the originals, archives will retain a duty of respect to the format of those originals.
Film archives recognise that their primary commitment is to preserve the materials in their care, and – provided always that such activity will not compromise this commitment – to make them permanently available for research, study and public screening.
The following are specific statements of these general principles:
- The Rights of Collections:
1.1. Archives will respect and safeguard the integrity of the material in their care and protect it from any forms of manipulation, mutilation, falsification or censorship.
1.2. Archives will not sacrifice the long-term survival of material in their care in the interests of short-term exploitation. They will deny access rather than expose unique or master material to the risks of projection or viewing if the material is thereby endangered.
1.3. Archives will store material, especially original or preservation master material, in the best conditions available to them. If those conditions fall short of the optimum, archives will strive to secure better facilities.
1.4. When copying material for preservation purposes, archives will not edit or distort the nature of the work being copied. Within the technical possibilities available, new preservation copies shall be an accurate replica of the source material. The processes involved in generating the copies, and the technical and aesthetic choices which have been taken, will be faithfully and fully documented.
1.5. When restoring material, archives will endeavour only to complete what is incomplete and to remove the accretions of time, wear and misinformation. They will not seek to change or distort the nature of the original material or the intentions of its creators.
1.6. When providing access to material by programming, projection or other means, archives will seek to achieve the closest possible approximation to the original viewing experience, paying particular attention (for example) to the appropriate speed and the correct aspect ratio.
1.7. The nature and rationale of any debatable decision relating to restoration or presentation of archive materials will be recorded and made available to any audience or researcher.
1.8. Archives will not unnecessarily destroy material even when it has been preserved or protected by copying. Where it is legally and administratively possible and safe to do so, they will continue to offer researchers access to nitrate viewing prints when asked to do so for as long as the nitrate remains viable.
The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) brings together institutions dedicated to rescuing films both as cultural heritage and as historical documents.