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The VRT’s objective is to inform the Flemish about what is happening in Flanders and elsewhere in the world. It connects us to five radio networks, three television networks and a website. Johnny De Meyer is an operational coordinator at the public broadcaster, and the archive is among his areas of responsibility. ‘Previously, our passive archive was stored in the American Theater, but the move to the broadcasting buildings on Boulevard Reyers meant that a solution had to be found for that archive.
‘We have a huge paper archive, including records of radio plays for young people, correspondence with the various management and administrative bodies, publications, annual reports, the photographic archive from the early days of Flemish television, documents and plans relating to the VRT buildings and scripts for radio and TV programmes. It represents more than 12,000 archive boxes in total.’
It was impossible for the VRT to store the archive itself. ‘Even when we move to a new building in 2021, there’ll be no room for that volume of paper,’ continues De Meyer. ‘No provision has been made in the new premises for the storage of our physical archive – only the digitised material.’” Thanks to Merak, the VRT now has a state-of-the-art storage centre that satisfies its requirements. De Meyer: ‘It was crucial for us that the archive should be stored in the very best conditions. Climate control is important, especially in terms of humidity and temperature. One of the other requirements we had was that the complete archive should be easy to consult. Merak relieves us of all the hassles of an internal archive. We don’t have to worry about anything now.’
The VRT`s passive archive is consulted several times a day by internal staff, but also by external production houses and students who are working on their dissertation. ‘For the programme Van Algemeen Nut, the archive combined with Merak’s efficiency proved an almost inexhaustible source of inspiration. It was a talk show on which Steven Van Herreweghe’s guests were well-known and lesser-known people who had made a special contribution to 65 years of public broadcasting. With more than 1 million viewers, it was a real boost for the ratings.`
The procedure for requesting archive boxes is quick and easy. ‘The collaboration with Merak is going really well,’ says De Meyer. ‘We have our own internal archiving system, linked to the numbers we get from Merak. We know exactly in which box a given document is located. If we request something, it will arrive at VRT within 48 hours.’