Memory, Images, History
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Blog written by Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Last the Fall I wrote a blog about my professional mentors who had influenced me while I was a student. Since completing my PhD. more than 25 years ago, I have become a mentor to many of my own students. They are in many ways my proudest accomplishment. Publishing a book or restoring a film has nothing on the emotional kick I have gotten watching some of my students grow, develop, and succeed. I’m incredibly proud of them, like a mother hen with her brood.
Two of my former students are now themselves moving image archive directors with PhDs. Claude Bertemes has been the Director of the Cinémathque Luxembourg since 1997. He took a seminar with me as an undergraduate thirty years ago when I was at the beginning of my teaching career, myself still a doctoral candidate. He recently confessed to me that he was not very happy with the grade he received in my “Photography as Communication” seminar. Hayden Guest was my student at the School of Theater, Film & Television at UCLA ten years ago; He’s been Director of the Harvard Film Archive since 2006, where he has revitalized that institution. One of my interns, Dr. Sabine Lenk, was Director of the Düsseldorf Filmmusuem. And I guess I can take credit for training Dott. Paolo Cherchi Usai, whose illustrious film archive career spans three continents.
Among my UCLA Moving Image Archives students, many are ensconced in various film and digital archives, including: Karen Barcelona (Academy Film Archive), Gillian Borders (UCLA), Robert Dirig (Art Center Pasadena), Melissa Dollman (Schlesinger Library, Harvard), Zac Fink (Film Technologies), Dave Gibson (Library of Congess), May Haduong (Academy Film Archive), Benji Harry (Cooperstown), Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive), Leah Kerr (Mayme Clayton Library), Chris Lane (MGM), Oki Miyano (Kurosawa Project), Stephanie Sapienza (LA Filmforum), Amy Sloper (Harvard Film Archive), Julio Vera (Academy Film Archive).
There is a whole cohort of former graduate students from the University of Rochester who hold a special place in my heart. All of them took my film historiography seminar in the early 1990s, and are now themselves professors.
We’ve tried to get together regularly at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conference: Mark Lynn Anderson is a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of numerous articles and the forthcoming Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920's America. Mark Betz is a lecturer at King’s College, London, and recently published, Beyond the Subtitle: Remapping European Art Cinema (2009). Heather Hendershot is a Professor at Queens College, presently the editor of Cinema Journal, and the author of Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation before the V-Chip (1998) and Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (2004). Amanda Howell is senior lecturer in media studies at Griffith University in Australia and has written widely on popular film and music. Laura U. Marks is Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and internationally known film programmer. She is the author of The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (2000) and Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (2002). Maggie McCarthy is an Associate Professor of German at Davidson College, and edited Light Motives: German Popular Film in Perspective.
Then, there are my more recent UCLA students, many of whom have now completed their PhDs. and have gotten their first or second teaching jobs: Jun Okada is an Assistant Professor at SUNY Geneseo; Michael Baskett is an Associate Professor at University of Kansas; Paul Macolm is a film programmer at UCLA Film & Television Archive; Ross Melnick is spending this next year on a post doc at Emory University; Qi Wang teaches at Georgia Institute of Technology. Lindy Leong is teaching at SUNY Purchase. Others completing their PhD.s include Snowden Becker (co-founder of Home Movie Day, UT, Austin), Emily Carmen (UCLA), Andrey Gordienko UCLA), Bill McClain (USC), Doron Galili (University of Chicago), Mary Samuelson (UCLA), Pauline Stakelon (UC Santa Barbara) and Noah Webster (UC Santa Barbara).
Sorry, if I forgot anyone.
Am I bragging? You bet I am.
I do hope to see a lot more students make good before I hang up my mortarboard.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
As we enter into the second decade of the new millenium, moving image archives have taken a few more steps towards complete professionalization by establishing formal training programs for moving image archivists. Not surprisingly, the major impetus for the yearly Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference had originally been the real need for training and the professional exchange of archival methodologies and practices for moving image preservation. Thus, the second official AMIA conference instituted workshops where older colleagues spoke to novices and younger colleagues, a sort of moving image archiving 101.
Beginning in the mid 1990s, then, film archives in connection with universities began for the first time to offer professional training courses for moving image archivists. One of the first programs in Europe was founded as an M.A. in Film Archiving at the University of East Anglia in England. The Selznick School at George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., was established in 1997 as a one-year non-academic certificate program. The school now offers a Master’s Degree in conjunction with the University of Rochester. The first graduate degree program in Moving Image Archives Studies was established at UCLA in 2002, followed a year later by New York University’s Moving Image Archive Program.
These formal training programs which incorporate theoretical and research oriented studies with real world archive internships, move beyond the autodidactic approach that previously characterized training in the field. Many individuals presently working in moving image archiving and preservation have received on the job training and little else. I may be one of the few archivists of my generation to actually receive a semi-formal training in moving image archiving. In 1975-76, I spent a year at George Eastman House as a postgraduate intern, funded by a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship program for Museum studies.
Now a young generation of academically-trained moving image archivists and curators is rapidly moving into the field. Most entry level positions in this still expanding field of moving image archiving are now filled by graduates from the above programs, as well as others established at the University of Amsterdam, in Germany, Italy, the University of Texas Austin, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Just this last week, my alma mater, George Eastman House, where I was the institution’s third curator, named Dr. Caroline Frick as its 6th curator of film. She is the first graduate of a film archive M.A. program to ascend to a leadership role in a major American archive.
These academic programs are important, however, not only to train film archivists, but also to establish methodologies and best practices. We have to remember that despite decades of practical work, moving image archival practice has until quite recently been based on nothing more than an informal set of anecdotally communicated “recommendations.” Few standards had been theorized or codified, even fewer practices had been formalized in a program of action. Most of what we call archival ethics and theory had been borrowed from other fields, whether the library and information sciences or curatorial practices in museums. AMIA’s founding in 2001 of an official journal, The Moving Image, began to change that, as over the last decade it has built up a body of literature on many aspects of archival theory for moving images.
Numerous contributions to The Moving Image originate at one of the academic institutions involved in the field. It is a project that must continue, if the field hopes to produce competent professionals, yet one that cannot be completed by working archivists alone. In fact, the establishment of codes and practices for moving image preservation, whether in the analogue or digital realm, must be conceived as a huge, collaborative project between working professionals, professors in academic programs, and students. By questioning informally established procedures, students force both working professionals and professors to explicate and rationalize their current use. Documenting these types of discussions in protocols, student papers, and formal academic articles will create a body of knowledge for moving image archive professionals and hopefully engender better technologies and methodologies for saving our visual heritage.