L’Institut national de l’audiovisual (INA, or National Audiovisual Institute), was established in 1974 to take responsibility for archiving French radio and television programmes. In 1999, when INA began a sixteen year project to digitise its collections, 60% of the television programmes and 90% of radio programmes held in the archive only existed as a single copy in its original state. Between 1999 and 2015 INA is digitising its complete professional archives. In 2006, the INA archive held 2.3 million hours of footage, of which 1 million hours is television footage.
The great majority of this material dates from 1995 (when French law required all television programmes to be archived) to the present day, and with the introduction of dozens of new digital terrestrial television channels in recent years, the archive will not take long to double in size. Before the television legal deposit law, INA could only preserve a select portion of television output, however, its professional archives, including its historic archives (between the 1930s and 1974), are a dense and rich treasure trove for historians.
Not only is INA undertaking the extraordinary task of digitising all its material, currently held on scores of different types of obsolete tapes, films and other media, but it is also making access to its archive as widely available as possible. While accredited researchers can consult the entire digitised output of the legal deposit and fonds of the five professional archives at the Inathèque in Paris, the whole world can view a selection of the material on INA's public website. Viewing most items is free of charge, and some clips can be downloaded for a small fee.
Since June 2009, the most recent addition to the online version of the archive is the ina.pub pages, which holds 200,000 television advertisements from the last forty years (1968 to the near present). As a taster to this remarkable source, these videos show a number of adverts for products that are now on our dead objects list.
[please note videos may take a short moment to load before they play]
'The ear that stays at home'
Long before television viewers had heard of the internet, the Minitel could help you find your childhood friends, tell you what films were showing at the cinema, sort out bank payments, and reserve a holiday.
Errors disappear with Olivetti
The defendant's alibi in court is that he was watching a film on television at 5am. The judge interjects that everyone knows television is not broadcast at that time. Ah no! bursts in the lawyer, with the VHS recorder you can watch recorded programmes at anytime you wish, up to three hours in length. Can you watch your holiday movies too?, asks the judge.