Annotated Bibliography: How Humanities Scholars Find, Access, and Use Audiovisual Archives in Research

I recently completed a short annotated bibliography during a research project for Information Science 501 at the University of Illinois iSchool. I’m interested in the information seeking behavior of academic researchers in relation to resources in audiovisual archival collections, so as to better understand how the materials might be made more findable and useable by humanities scholars. I assumed I would find a wide range of research on this topic.

I was wrong.

I’ve been working with archival media materials in public broadcasting since about 1998. During this time, lots of great work has been done by audiovisual archivists and institutions to build systems to preserve the materials and make them accessible.  As professional audiovisual archivists we talk to each other at conferences and on listservs, working without adequate resources to preserve and extend the historical record represented in the fragile artifacts of recorded moving images and sound. We now have some great open source tools to digitize, catalog, and make the materials accessible through various databases and websites

I’d like to think that if we built it, people will come. I believe audiovisual materials represent some of the most important historical records of the past century, and are invaluable as primary sources for scholarship, journalism, and new creative works. But the question addressed my research for this bibliography is: What do we actually know about how people use audiovisual archives?

Short answer: not much. During this project I searched several dozen academic databases in the U.S. and Europe, and reviewed several hundred articles. Most of the articles were concerned with the design of archival systems, metadata, the costs of digitization, audiovisual preservation formats and workflow, and the challenges of annotating time-based materials. Even the discussions of user interface design were rarely informed by research with actual users.

This seems like a pretty big gap. If we hope to make materials useful to people, we should probably try to find out what they need.

Of course it’s possible there is great research on this I just didn’t find, due to a failure on my part to use the right search terms in the right places, or simply a lack of adequate time. If you know of research I missed, I’d be grateful to hear about it.

Meanwhile, below are annotations and citations for the “top ten” sources I discovered in this project. This is also published as a bibliography on Zotero, with annotations from the original sources.

I want to thank Laura Treat, who replied to my query on the AMIA listserv by sending me a copy of her 2014 dissertation “Real vs. Imaginary Users: Measuring the Impact of Home Movie Collections on Historical Scholarship.” She too conducted a literature review, focused on users of home movies, and found very little research had been done on the needs and information seeking behaviors of actual users. Thanks also to Erwin Verbruggen of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision for pointing me to a great Zotero bibliography compiled by Europeana. I cite Laura’s excellent paper, and several of the sources in the Europeana list, with gratitude for the help!

Bibliography: Research on Use of Audiovisual Archives by Humanities Scholars

Angelis, Stavros, et al. “User requirements analysis and case studies report. Content strategy report – University of Gothenburg, Sweden.” University of Gothenburg, Nov. 2015,

This report is the work of several teams of researchers and technology professionals at Europeana who sought to more clearly understand the requirements and information seeking behaviors of Europeana scholarly users in the humanities and social sciences, so as to develop a more effective long term content strategy and inform the development of improved digital tools. The report provides a literature review, and summarizes extensive mixed-methods research comprising case studies, interviews, surveys, and focus groups. It emphasizes the rising impact of digital resources and tools on scholarly research, and assesses the requirements and practices of researchers in shaping the future of content strategy and technology at Europeana.

Noruzi, Alireza. “YouTube in Scientific Research: A Bibliometric Analysis.” Webology, vol. 14, June 2017, pp. 1–7.

The article provides a bibliometric analysis of scholarly citations to YouTube videos since it launched in early 2005. The findings are presented as most frequent citations by subject area, country/territory, and language and document type of the resources using YouTube in their citations. The study concludes that YouTube has been cited 36,486 times based on documents in the Scopus citation database, and that the majority of citation resources are articles published in English pertaining to the social sciences, computer sciences, and arts and humanities.

Hewett, Richard. “Academic Requirements for Pre-1989 BBC Archive Content.” 3 Dec. 2014,

This source is a research report from a working group of scholars, technology researchers, and librarians seeking to assess the needs of the academic community for online access to archival BBC radio and television materials broadcast between 1922 and 1989. The study used a mixed methods research strategy to assess the availability of pre-1989 BBC archival materials, to identify which materials academics would like to use and how they would use them, and to clarify current barriers to access and how to address them. The report concludes that while scholars already make significant use of BBC media archives, improvements in discoverability would likely significantly expand their scholarly use.

Treat, Laura Jean. “Real vs. Imaginary Users: Measuring the Impact of Home Movie Collections on Historical Scholarship.” Aug. 2014.,

This Master’s Degree thesis by a staff member at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image reviews existing research on use of home movies in the scholarly work of historians, and reports a gap in published research concerning users of moving images archives of any type. The author conducted an analysis of history-related academic journals published from 1990 to 2012, reviewed conference proceedings of history organizations from 2001 to 2014, and augmented the literature review by surveying members of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. She suggests that in the absence of empirical research on tools and practices that facilitate use, curators of home movie archives may be allocating scarce resources on processing and preservation of materials that have little scholarly value or impact.

Nodler, Heather. “A Haystack Full of Needles: Scholarly Access Challenges in Museum Video Archives.” Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, vol. 38, no. 3, Feb. 2012, pp. 32–37. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1002/bult.2012.1720380309.

Nodler cites an increasing use of video in museums, and the value of Museum video archives as a primary resources for scholarly research. She then explores several barriers, both technical and attitudinal, that prevent scholars from accessing and making use of Museum video archives. Among these are intellectual property rights, difficulties in retrieving relevant subject materials from time-based resources, lack of descriptive metadata, and a “traditional” reluctance by researchers to regard video as authentic and objective.

Jong, Franciska de, et al. “Audio-Visual Collections and the User Needs of Scholars in the Humanities: A Case for Co-Development.” Nov. 2011.,

This paper examines barriers to effective use of audiovisual collections by humanities scholars. It describes different mindsets between the “tribes” of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) researchers, archivists, and scholars in the humanities, and provides suggestions for improving the dynamics of communication and collaboration. The authors detail some common methods of scholarly e-research, and argue that digitized content in audiovisual archives needs to be encoded and presented in ways that match the specific methodologies of scholars.

Emanuel, Michelle. “Finding Film Resources: Challenges of Formats, Policies and Intranets.” IFLA Journal, vol. 37, no. 4, Dec. 2011, pp. 289–95. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/0340035211430009.

This article considers an increasing interest in film by scholars of cultural studies, and issues in library lending policies and the nature of film materials that make the finding and use of films problematic. The author presents a literature review focused on management and use policies of library-based film collections, and argues that until recently the needs of patrons for access and use have rarely been assessed. He explores lending and interlibrary loan policies that restrict easy access to film resources, and his own research experiences while looking for films at film archives and research institutions in Los Angeles and Paris.

Marsden, Alan, et al. “Tools for Searching, Annotation and Analysis of Speech, Music, Film and Video—A Survey.” Literary and Linguistic Computing, vol. 22, no. 4, Nov. 2007, pp. 469–88., doi:10.1093/llc/fqm021.

This article reviews the well-known technical and practical barriers to scholarly use of audiovisual materials in contrast to print materials, including the difficulties in annotating, indexing and searching time-based media, copyright and digital rights management restrictions, and changing media formats and digital technologies. The authors then examine how humanities scholars currently access and use audiovisual materials for research purposes, and report on a user needs study consisting of interviews with 28 humanities researchers and technologists. They note several common misconceptions among the scholars about information and communications technology tools in general, which create barriers to effective use of the digital audiovisual access systems now being used, and limit scholarly use of the resources themselves.

Stockinger, Peter. “Digital Audiovisual Archives in Humanities. Problems and Challenges.” Workshop on Multimedia in Digital Libraries., 2003. HAL Archives Ouvertes, doi:10.13140/2.1.2949.9842.

This paper introduces the audiovisual archive programme for humanities established in 2001 at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (MSH) in Paris. Stockinger describes the purpose of the archive as an “incubator” for novel knowledge in research and teaching communities, and identifies the principle needs and access scenarios for typical users. Based on observations of use, he identifies barriers to access where humanities scholars are often unfamiliar with the classification and descriptive schemas used in the archive.

Auffret, Gwendal, and Yannick Prié. “Managing Full-Indexed Audiovisual Documents: A New Perspective for the Humanities.” Computers and the Humanities, vol. 33, Dec. 1999, pp. 319–44. ResearchGate, doi:10.1023/A:1002477204396.

This article describes difficulties in the use of audiovisual materials in humanities research as compared with text documents, largely due to a lack of full indexing and annotation of time-based materials. The authors introduce a “typology of user practices” with audiovisual materials in the humanities and examine current limitations in use, such as the cost of production processes, complexities of intellectual property rights, and the usability of technical tools needed to interact with the materials. To address the technical difficulties they propose a new system based on a “representational” model for full indexing of audiovisual documents (AI-STRATA), and a new format for the creation and exchange of annotations by scholars (AEDI).