Orange and white image with text, "Utaina! Load the precious freight on board!"

The Utaina Project: Navigating the Digitisation of our Nation’s Audiovisual Heritage

Karyn Lo · Madeleine Ross · Victoria Chu4 minute read

The Utaina Project is a nation-wide partnership between three prominent New Zealand institutions: Archives New Zealand, National Library of New Zealand, and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve these invaluable cultural treasures for generations to come. On Thursday 26th October at the National Library auditorium, come hear about how the project team navigates their way to ensure ongoing preservation and access to this rich taonga.

The Utaina Project is now in full swing, digitising the nation’s audiovisual taonga from Archives New Zealand, the National Library, and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Interpreted as ‘load the precious freight on board’, “Utaina!” is a catchphrase of Sir Āpirana Ngata when advocating for the recording and preservation of Māori language and heritage.

It is the first time that a collaborative project of this scale in Aotearoa New Zealand is being undertaken to preserve the nation’s audiovisual taonga. Our shared goal is to preserve audiovisual formats at risk of obsoletion or deterioration over time by digitising over a combined volume of 400,000 items held in our collections and holdings, some of which include broadcast news and current affairs programmes, documentaries, music, oral histories, and material from the New Zealand Film Unit.

Digitisation commenced in July 2022 with Ngā Taonga sending their first items to digitisation partner Memnon based in Motutawa Avalon, Lower Hutt. In October 2022, Archives and National Library sent their first shipment of audiovisual items. A year on, the Project is in full production. We are currently digitising multiple items including professional video broadcast formats such asone-inch and two-inch video reels, and Betacam SP video cassettes, as well as vinyl records, audiocassette, and VHS tapes.

The video shows the journey of Archives New Zealand and National Library’s taonga from shelf to digitisation, highlighting the care and attention taken by staff to prepare, track, send, and receive each audiovisual item throughout its digitisation path. The care and long-term preservation of these heritage treasures have been central to the planning of the project.

Over the next two years, the Utaina Project will continue to digitise audiovisual materials held by Archives New Zealand, the National Library, and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Each item that is digitised is another piece of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history that is preserved, capturing this invaluable heritage for New Zealand's future generations.

Our event for the Wellington Heritage Festival 2023 coincides with the upcoming World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2023 on 27 October. This commemorative day celebrates the priceless heritage captured by audiovisual archives and raises awareness of the need to take urgent measures to acknowledge and preserve our audiovisual histories. Read more about it on the UNESCO website.

Join us on October 26, 2023 at the National Library’s auditorium and discover the remarkable journey of the Utaina Project. Our presentation will provide a unique opportunity to highlight some of Wellington’s audiovisual heritage digitised by the Project.

Utaina: Preserving the Nation’s Audiovisual Heritage | Wellington Heritage Festival

For more information about the Project, check out our institutions’ websites below:

Utaina – Archives New Zealand Loading the precious freight on board | National Library of New Zealand Our preservation work - Ngā Taonga

Or, learn more in this video showcasing the digitisation process and more:

Utaina! — audiovisual digital preservation project - YouTube

About the speakers

Te Rua o te Mahara Kāwanatanga | Archives New Zealand's regulatory role ensures effective, trusted government information for the benefit of Aotearoa. We preserve and protect more than seven million official records created by the government and public institutions of Aotearoa New Zealand. From treaties, documents and data, national film, and art, our goal is for all New Zealanders to easily access and use this taonga, connecting you to your rights and entitlements and stories – now and for the future.

Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa | National Library of New Zealand collects, connects, and co-creates knowledge to power New Zealand. Focusing on taonga, knowledge, and reading, we are caretakers of collections such as music, paintings, prints, manuscripts, newspapers, oral histories, and comics. Alexander Turnbull Library is part of the National Library with collections including oral histories, photographs, music, digital materials, rare books, and fine printing. We are here to help you access and use the collective knowledge of the nation.

Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision collects, catalogues and stores film reels, video tapes and sound on disc and tape. Our experts work against time to preserve original nitrate film, television broadcast tapes and sound recordings, before they degrade. We manage rights and clearance processes and facilitate access to the collection for researchers, the media industry, the museum sector and anyone who wants to discover the audiovisual stories of the past. We digitally preserve audiovisual material to ensure that it stands the test of time for future generations.

Karyn Lo

Preservation Technician, Archives New Zealand

Madeleine Ross

Logistics Coordinator, National Library

Victoria Chu

Film and Audiovisual Specialist, Archives New Zealand