IASA Award of Recognition - Ilse Assmann

It is with immense pleasure and my honour to write this tribute to an individual whose contribution and loyal service to IASA and passionate dedication to the advancement of the audio-visual (AV) archive and preservation profession spans several decades. And…. not to mention that she is one of my favourite people on this planet! I feel quite daunted with this task, because how do you encapsulate such an illustrious career built on hard work ethic, principle, and unwavering commitment to preserving our AV collective cultural heritage, in a few short paragraphs? I need to start at the very beginning.

I met Ilse Assmann in 2009, at IASA’s 40th anniversary conference in Athens, Greece. I was a rookie IASA delegate, and she was an IASA VIP and Secretary-General extraordinaire at the time with several years of experience. So naturally I thought she was a hugely serious individual but to my surprise she was wickedly funny, quick witted and naturally warm with a vivacious smile. She immediately put me at ease and that was the beginning of a wonderful working relationship and friendship. I quickly came to realise that Ilse was part of the fabric of IASA, someone who was widely respected within the IASA community, a consummate professional and a role model with the uncanny ability to bring people together for the greater good. And I am not the only one who thinks so. A few quotes from her colleagues and friends reads as follows:

“She really finds joy in seeing her team excel in what they do. I'll have her anytime as my personal cheerleader”
"She is passionate and compassionate and has an admirable drive to realize dreams for the greater good”
"Ilse is an inspiration to me”
“She is a forward planner, a strategic thinker and a selfless worker”
“When it comes to continuous learning, she is a role-model”

These sentiments so aptly encapsulate her charismatic and consistent leadership and her life-long passion for developing and mentoring others to their full potential that would characterize and inform her career and service to IASA and beyond.

Starting out as an assistant archivist at the Radio Archives and using her research to also make radio programmes in the early days of her career, she consolidated her archiving practice and nurtured her expertise at the SABC, South Africa’s publicly mandated broadcaster where she successfully managed the SABC Media Libraries and then later as Acting Manager of the SABC TV News Resources division. This wealth of archive broadcasting experience and expertise paved the way to what she described once as “one the best jobs I have ever had,” when she joined the MultiChoice Group, a commercial Pay TV broadcaster in 2013 heading up the Media Information Management department. By the time she retired in 2018, she consolidated the department and successfully digitised the Television Archive to lay the foundation for the digital environment the broadcaster was venturing into. Through all the highs (and lows) of her professional career, what remained constant was her impact felt within the wider AV archiving community, which included participating in local regional and international AV associations such as Southern African Broadcasting Association, South African Archive Society, Legal Act Deposit Committee, South African Communications Industry Association and of course most notably IASA.

Ilse wore many IASA hats from the moment she joined as a member. I remember her saying that she joined IASA and immediately felt welcome and at home amongst a community of experts enthusiastic about AV archiving and preservation and yet were so relatable and authentic because they managed to have tremendous fun at the same time – something with which she could instantly identify! This reminds me of how she made me feel when I joined IASA – warm, welcoming, and supportive.

Soon after she joined IASA, she became active on the Board, first as editor, then as Secretary-General from 2008-2010. Kevin Bradley, who was IASA President at the time had this to say about her tenure:

“Having Ilse Assmann elected as Secretary General at the same time as I was elected President of IASA became the foundation of a marvelous working partnership and was for me a matter of great fortune. Ilse Assmann is an astute person with a clear understanding of how to work with a group of people to achieve results. Guided by strong ethical aims, all the work she undertook was for the greater good and served first those who needed that support. Working in such a partnership we were able to achieve many things for IASA, and I remain pleased and grateful for her support throughout that time. Ilse has, of course, gone on to extend that work in IASA and in the broader international sound and audiovisual archiving community, where she is universally respected for her work.”

Ilse’s leadership skills were acknowledged and recognized when she was elected President in 2013 in Cape Town on her home continent. Under her leadership, she steered IASA into new territories by developing and implementing IASA structures and policies, such as the Code of Conduct and the Code of Ethics that now governs and guides the IASA membership. Under her watch she sought to consolidate and grow the membership by championing diversity and inclusivity especially amongst marginalized countries and communities. She passionately advocated for training programmes and workshops to train and develop communities of practice within South Africa and Africa so that they could preserve their own archive collections and cultural heritage, which to this day she is very much still actively involved in. The development of the Ambassador programme, which she keenly campaigned for, became an important lynchpin where the growth of an inclusive and diverse membership became more possible and unstoppable. Her capability as an astute leader and skilled communicator resulted in several lucrative and mutually beneficial partnerships and associations. For years she supported the idea of a joint confefence with FIAT/ IFTA which no one thought could ever happen, yet it occurred in 2020. During challenging situations, Ilse never wavered, she remained consistent and steadfast on her principles, and this ensured that she was steering IASA in the right direction. As Past- President she was always available to guide, advocate, and mentor to ensure a smooth passing of the torch to the new executive board, and she did it with such grace, dignity, and integrity. Her impact on IASA and the AV community is immeasurable and it is still ongoing with her involvement in local and international AV archive consultancy projects.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the tremendous influence Ilse has had on me personally – professionally as a mentor and a role model but also as a friend. She recruited me into IASA and gave me the confidence to represent IASA on the Executive Board, which has turned out to be one of the best experiences of my professional career. Her generosity in selflessly sharing her knowledge, time, and effort in supporting others to flourish and grow has been the hallmark of her stellar career and relationships with colleagues and friends. Her impact and influence will indeed be a legacy for the IASA community and beyond.

And so, on behalf of the IASA community we thank you Ilse, for your dedication, loyal service, and passion that you have given us over all these years, and will no doubt continue to do so for many more to come – we owe you a debt of gratitude and appreciation.

It is therefore my immense pleasure and honour, to announce the Executive Board’s unanimous choice for this years’ recipient of the IASA Special Recognition award to our deserving colleague and friend, Ilse Assmann, for her loyal service, mentorship, integrity and selfless leadership for the development and upliftment of IASA and for the greater good of the larger global AV community. Congratulations Ilse!

-Lynn Johnson