Michel Merten

The global content preservation and migration services provider, Memnon, celebrates 20 years of preserving archives, servicing content, and creating new opportunities for its partners and customers.

Launched in 2003, Memnon pioneered audiovisual archiving at high scale and has gone onto to digitise more than 4 million hours of content.

Without its efforts in standardising workflows and safeguarding invaluable skills, precious content of historical and cultural significance would have now been lost to time.

This milestone caries a mix of emotions, as it coincides with the bittersweet announcement that Memnon founder Michel Merten will be relinquishing his role as Director of Business Development to pursue passion projects in Africa. However, this is not a farewell for Merten, who will maintain a significant presence in the industry, with a particular focus on providing guidance and expertise for AV archives in developing countries.

Memnon’s origins in fact predate 2003. Before becoming Memnon the company was known as Musica Numeris, a music production and mastering studio founded in 1989. After attending an International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) event, Merten was deeply moved by a lecture on the growing issue of asset deterioration. This led him to buy out his co-founders’ shares in Musica Numeris and shift the company’s primary focus from music recording to archiving.

“I wanted to make an impact; to create a business that could drive high-capacity digitisation while preserving quality of service,” Michel Merten, Memnon founder and Director of Business Development commented. “At the time, the concept of large-scale digitisation wasn’t accepted or appreciated. Content was disappearing from history, and there were few commercial entities doing anything about it. It was something that demanded global attention and action. There needed to be a large-scale solution easily available.”

Clearly, Merten’s efforts weren’t in vain. In 2004, at just a few months old, Memnon won a tender to digitise audio assets stored at the British Library. The company then went on to secure contracts with Danish Radio, the United Nations and Utaina – a collaboration project between the National Library, Archives New Zealand and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision to preserve New Zealand’s cultural heritage. In 2014, Memnon beat strong local competition to win its first US tender, servicing Indiana University’s famed Media Digitisation and Preservation Initiative – a project that saw the birth of the company’s North American facility in Bloomington, IN.

Explaining the origin of Memnon’s name, Merten said: “In Greek mythology, the goddess Eos’s son Memnon was almost equal in skill to Achilles but died fighting him during the Trojan War. After learning about his death, Eos shed a tear that moved Zeus to grant Memnon immortality… and that’s what we do, we make archives immortal.”

Looking to the future

There has been a sharp increase in content owners approaching Memnon for assistance in the past three years, owing to an increased awareness of the risks facing archives, the rising cost of migrating ageing assets and competition for limited resources.

Content is also becoming more desirable and valuable, a thirst driven by the increase in streaming platforms and the way that people consume media. Additionally, AI and machine learning are evolving at a significant rate, giving organisations greater insight into their archives to help steer the decision-making process and make more content available to audiences.

Memnon’ future goals have been well-defined by both Merten and Memnon CEO Heidi Shakespeare. As the leading name in migrating legacy content archives, the company will continue to enable storytelling through partnerships with content custodians and media and entertainment organisations across the globe. It is committed to advancing large-scale audio-visual archiving, with a particular focus on addressing tape archives in both the developing and Western world.

The company plans to develop further its localised service model in a cost-effective manner, extending its reach to those who may be reluctant or unable to transport precious archives. Additionally, Memnon is dedicated to enhancing the expertise of its workforce, ensuring the transfer of invaluable esoteric knowledge.

“I’m proud of how Memnon has matured,” said Merten. We were the first to implement large-scale, systematic, quality-driven archiving and have become personally trusted by communities across the world. It is through them – our customers and partners – that Memnon has developed into the company it is today. We have great technology, but an even better team. Memnon has a team of people whom I feel very grateful for; it has strong leadership and a highly skilled workforce. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now, to pursue passion projects, if it weren’t for them. My baby is in safe hands.”

Heidi Shakespeare, CEO at Memnon commented: “Long before joining Memnon I was not only aware but in awe of what Michel had achieved in championing content preservation and creating a new technology that would enable mass migration while upholding the archives’ integrity. He is both highly respected and renowned in the industry for his knowledge, passion and affable nature. It’s been a privilege to work alongside him, and I look forward to growing Memnon’s esteemed heritage in his honour – helping organisations preserve their content, reaching communities far and wide and developing a team of experts with the skillset to serve them. Michel, this is definitely not goodbye, and I look forward to collaborating with you again in the future.”

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By • 18 Oct, 2023
• Section: Storage, Media management, Business