Play/Back 2016

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Portraits of keynote speakers David Isay & Nancy Watrous
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Join keynote speakers David Isay & Nancy Watrous at Play/back this fall. 

Registration is now closed. To find out more about the event and how you can still participate, please e-mail 

Click here to download the Play/back program

Click here to download the program for the Screening of NEH-Supported Audiovisual Heritage




“The evidence of the past - whether documents or film and sound - represents the foundation of our future.  It is critical that we take the time and spend the resources to preserve this material.  If it disappears, so do our chances.”

 Ken Burns - Walpole, New Hampshire

Play/back is an exciting one-day symposium on Friday, September 30, 2016, that will bring together scholars, archivists, librarians, curators, educators, students, filmmakers, and audiovisual preservationists for dialogue and collaboration on ensuring access to America’s rich audiovisual heritage.


Over the past 50 years, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has been instrumental in preserving America’s national heritage. NEH’s Play/back symposium seeks to call attention to the vital importance of our audiovisual past, and invites participants to assist in planning for the future of preservation of our vast legacy of audio, video, and film recordings.


Panels, breakout sessions, and keynote addresses will explore topics such as the role of sound recordings and moving images in documenting and interpreting society and culture, the challenge of prioritizing and selecting materials for future generations, creative approaches to long-term care and digitization, the value of interdisciplinary collaboration to audiovisual collections stewardship, and how to communicate with a broader public the importance of preserving our recorded heritage.


The Play/back symposium at NEH follows the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives 2016 conference in Washington, D.C.

Below, Martin Scorsese comments on A/V preservation at the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Watch the full lecture here