June 30, 2011

Controversial (Video) Material in Museums

Dear all

I am posting to seek advice/guidance on the handling of controversial materials in university museums.

Within the Theatre Collection, the Live Art Archives contain a certain amount of ‘controversial’ material, such as footage of performances which may include nudity and self-harm (I use this term loosely as the artists do not view it as this in the context of their work).

We are currently working on a project to make the video material from the National Review of Live Art archive which is part of the Live Art Archives available online – permissions allowing. As a result we are refining and developing  our access policy so that we are quite clear what material we are allowed  to put online under UK legislation, but also within the University regulations and other guidelines which we should adhere to.

For the material which we do make available online from the National Review, ‘controversial performances’ or not, we intend to have an over 18 log in (we abide by this age restriction/accompanying etc with visitors in person), however, because of the strong feelings surrounding censorship of this type of art, we are having to tread very carefully to ensure that we maximise the research potential of the online resource, deliver the best outcomes of the project to the funders (AHRC) and also maintain our good relationships with the artists involved, in addition to upholding the reputation of the University of Bristol.  Therefore – I’m currently trying to gather as much information as possible around the law and other institutions’ policies and experiences in similar situations.

Any advice you can offer would be very much appreciated. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a minefield ….. I get the impression that although other institutions are also beginning to tackle this issue no one has actually solved it yet, but I may be wrong – please let me know!

Please email me at bex.carrington@bristol.ac.uk (obviously posting to the list too if you wish).

I have already trawled through other guidance such as our own uni ethics policy, BBC/iplayer, Youtube, BBFC, plus the MA, MLA and CILIP, plus all the jolly interesting reading (!) around the Obscene Publications Act, Video Recordings Act etc.

Many thanks

Best wishes, Bex