Attention Human Rights Activists: Learn How to Archive Your Video with our New Guide

We produced a feature length documentary on sex trafficking that included many interviews with survivors, advocates, and experts. A year after the documentary was released, we had an opportunity to create a new video for a training. Our producer wanted to re-use some of the footage that had been shot for the original film, which was stored on a hard drive in our office. When she plugged the drive into the computer, however, it would not start. The drive had failed and all of the footage, shot over months in cities across the country, was lost.*

Michelle Guelbart, ECPATUSA  (a WITNESS partner organization)

Does this story sound familiar? This, or something similar, has probably happened to all of us at one time. It is just one of the ways that digital videos can be lost, corrupted, or rendered unusable over time.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it, and our new Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video can help!

Developed for human rights activists, small NGOs, media collectives, and citizen activists, this guide provides practical steps for managing, storing, sharing, and preserving your videos.  If you are creating, collecting, or curating videos, this guide will walk you through how to maintain your videos so that they stay intact, authentic, and accessible.


The homepage of the Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video

We created this guide because we frequently hear from activists and other organizations that managing their videos are among their most difficult challenges. While many of us take great care to capture important events as they unfold, or to interview survivors of human rights abuses, we often have no plan for making sure the recordings remain safe and usable over even a short period of time.

Unfortunately, we hear stories about videos that are accidentally deleted, that cannot be retrieved from hard drives, that cannot be found in a collection, or that are unidentifiable and unverifiable due to lack of documentation.


Good archiving practices can help prevent this from happening.

The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video is an easy-to-understand resource that demystifies and clearly explains archiving concepts and practices. The guide breaks archiving down into eight stages, and shows how to incorporate it into your work.

While archiving is part of making your videos accessible and usable in the present, we also must bear in mind their long-term purpose. By protecting and preserving videos, we enable them to be used as human rights evidence and for the historical record.  Our archives ensure that underrepresented voices endure and act as a bulwark against impunity and forgetting.

Take a look at the Guide and share it with your friends and colleagues! Tell us what you think – we’d love to know how you use it.

The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video is now available in English, and will shortly be available in Arabic and Spanish. We look forward to adding more languages in the near future. It is licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

*In ECPATUSA’s example above, a copy of the videos had been archived elsewhere, and they were able to get a new copy of their footage.

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