Session 19: Issues in Moving Image Archives

Moderator: Lindsay Mattock (University of Iowa)
Authenticity and Value In Situ: A Case Study of Appraisal and Preservation Practices of Digital Moving Image Archives / Asen O. Ivanov (University of Toronto)

In this paper, I will present my dissertation research on appraisal and preservation practices of digital moving image (film and television) archives. To this end, I will discuss the goals and the theoretical arguments motivating my study. I will describe the conceptual framework I have developed to systematically analyze appraisal and preservation practices of digital moving image archives. And I will conclude by outlining my plans for operationalizing this conceptual framework within the context of a comparative, qualitative case study research design. In doing so, I will present for debate three overarching arguments. First, I will argue that appraisal and preservation in digital archives must be understood as kindred practices. This is because the question how to best describe the “significant properties” of digital materials for the purpose of digital preservation is inseparable from the question what is valuable about digital materials and necessarily must be preserved. Second, I will argue that an analysis of appraisal and preservation practices of digital archives could be enhanced significantly by drawing on the theoretical and methodological insights of the field of contemporary practice theory. Lastly, third, I will argue that practice theory informed analysis of appraisal and preservation practices could enrich our conceptual knowledge of the way in which work gets done in digital archives, but more importantly, could make an important contribution to the larger debate of whether the determinations of authenticity and value of archives are more accurately described as products of organizational practices or stem from the inherent properties of archival materials.

Film Archives at Moments of Crisis: The Sporadic Development of Motion Picture Preservation in the United States / Brian Real (University of Maryland)

Much of the development of major motion picture archives in the United States has been connected to a series of international crises. The government has seen American cinema – and Hollywood feature films, especially – as a way to reaffirm American cultural identity at home at times of external threat and to gain sympathy and approval abroad. This has resulted in the government often funding film archives and preservation activities in reaction to global challenges, and then usually retracting this funding after these moments are over.

This includes the government’s decision to fund the Museum of Modern Art Film Library and create a National Film Collection at the Library of Congress during World War II, then the cessation of this funding after the end of the war. Likewise, plans to create American Film Institute and its preservation activities started with plans to use national cinema abroad for propaganda purposes during the Cold War, and federal funding for the Institute ending several years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Beyond arguing that the rise and fall of government support for preservation activities has been clearly linked to national crises, the presenter will also show how this support has shaped what has been saved, with most federal funding going towards saving Hollywood films until the 1990s.

Developing a Pedagogical Framework to Prepare Archives Professionals for Effective Management of Audiovisual Archives / Karen F. Gracy (Kent State University) 

Current graduate programs in moving image archiving have well-developed curricula, encompassing the theoretical underpinnings and practical skills necessary for students pursuing careers as audiovisual specialists in various environments (from traditional LAMs to other entities where effective management of audiovisual materials is required). These curricula were developed without the guidance of a set of shared competencies or curriculum guidelines, because such guidelines did not exist. Even today, there are no national or international standards for developing audiovisual archiving curricula. Thus, each program reflects the particular organizational views of its developers and faculty, ranging from trained conservators, to film historians, to traditionally educated (records-oriented) archivists, to information science educators. With no generally agreed-upon set of core competencies, there can be great variation in what students take away from course offerings at the graduate and continuing education levels.

This paper argues that AV archiving has now reached a state of maturity that would allow educators and professionals to collaboratively develop a set of shared principles and a pedagogical framework to guide further development of curriculum. This framework would describe the domain of AV archiving and establish a set of core competencies from which educators could draw to create new courses and workshops or revise existing curricula. Competencies can be practical skills, such as knowing how to handle particular types of media, or they can be soft skills such as building support within an institution to support media preservation. The competencies could also differentiate between basic and advanced levels of expertise and indicate the role of practical experience in educational programs. As part of the paper, the presenter will review other curriculum modes and provide a definition of core competencies. She will also present a preliminary outline for the moving image domain and several exemplars of competencies at various levels of expertise.