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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday October 26, 2018

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Rasa Bocyte

Rasa Bocyte

Researcher , Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision

portrait of Aleksandra Strzelichowska

Aleksandra Strzelichowska

Senior Adviser Online Marketing & Events , Europeana Foundation

Preserving culture for the future: archiving GIFs

GIFs have become an important means of creation and communication in our digital society. Brigitte Jansen and Rasa Bočytė from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision see GIFs as part of our cultural heritage that needs to be preserved for future generations.

Beeld en Geluid Labs, Netherlands, 2018, CC BY-SA

The cultural relevance of GIFs

GIFs are a great example of the contemporary remix culture where audiovisual materials are continuously reused and reinterpreted. Giving immediate visual cues, they help us tell stories, express our feelings and give new meanings to the existing visual material.

GIF is a community-oriented medium; something that originates in community efforts and becomes distributed across digital platforms by and for people recognising the same cultural references.

Since GIFs draw meanings from other cultural texts, their interpretation is not always universally accessible. When extracting particular moments from audiovisual culture, GIF makers represent the outlook of certain communities who are able to decipher their meaning.


Preserving GIFs for future generations

When thinking about archiving GIFs, the action of saving the GIF file is not enough. To make the process successful and useful, we have to think about capturing the context of the culture and the community that creates and uses it. Archiving GIFs requires an investigation of methods that would preserve and represent these frameworks.

Exploring the possibilities of preserving GIFs raises questions around authorship, contextualisation, the role of users and presentation of digital objects with multiple meanings. Rasa and Brigitte plan to research these questions, which institutions would need to address when making their attempts to preserve GIFs and create GIF collections.

A Dutch GIF Collection for World Day of Audiovisual Heritage

On 27 October, we celebrate the UN World Day of Audiovisual Heritage. It’s a great opportunity to promote the work of archives holding audiovisual materials and spread the message about the importance of cultural heritage preservation to wider audiences. The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision has decided to use this day to announce the start of a new venture - a Dutch GIF collection.


On 26-28 October, the public will be able to vote on the GIFs that they want to see preserved for the future using Sound and Vision’s Instagram. They will also invite the audience to submit GIFs that they would like to preserve for the future generations.

The GIF collection would offer an entry point into the analysis and discussion of the Dutch society, its behaviour and representation in the digital space.