Old Movies, New Audiences: Archival Films as Public Outreach Tools
I went to this session because a colleague of mine who isn’t here in San Francisco is overseeing the digitization of many of our audio, video, and motion picture holdings. Now that we’re starting to receive digital files from our vendor, we need to figure out not only how to manage them properly but also to make them widely accessible, so I’ll give her my notes when I get back.
I came in a bit late, so I didn’t get to hear all of Bill Moore’s presentation. However, I did get to learn a little bit about how the Oklahoma History Center, which has worked with the National Film Preservation Program (NFPF) to preserve some of its holdings, highlights its audiovisual holdings through community screenings, production of DVDs, and provision of footage to television and film producers; his repository, which has commissioned creation of a new score for a private film and can supply footage in formats required by professionals, has apparently managed to develop a substantial technical infrastructure.
Christine Paschild, formerly of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), discussed how the JANM sought to make footage documenting life in prewar Japanese American communities and in World War II concentrations accessible to the K-12 educators who attend its summer curriculum institutes. JANM conducted focus groups with teachers and learned that the teachers wanted the ability to view snippets of footage, access footage without doing a lot of technological prep work, keyword searching, and subject headings that aligned with their lesson plans (i.e., geographic location, names of specific camps, topics such as family life and sports).
JAMN, which got NFPF funding, then worked with a vendor to digitize the footage, break it into short snippets, and create detailed descriptions of each snippet. The snippets are available online via the Nikkei Album, which also allows people who visit the site to comment upon the films and to add their own films, photos, lesson plans, etc. The Nikkei Album allows people to browse JAMN’s motion picture holdings and highlights the value of home movies to viewers and may as a result lead to increased preservation of such footage. JANM makes quite a bit of money through licensing, and Nikkei Album may enable producers to do more of their own searching.
JANM really lucked out in that it worked with a vendor willing to do all of the descriptive and editing work that it needed, and the editing and tagging took 4-5 times longer than JANM initially anticipated.
Paschild concluded by noting that the cataloging of materials on the Nikkei Album site doesn’t correspond to the cataloging of all of its other holdings and that this poses problems. However, the project also made JANM realize that access involved more than simply placing stuff on the Web: archives need to understand what kinds of description people need in order to make use of the material. Of course, Paschild isn’t alone in coming to this realization, and those of us specializing in archival description will likely spend the next decade or two coming to grips with its implications.
Snowden Becker of the Center for Home Movies focused on Home Movie Day, an annual event that began in 2003 and now is held in more than 60 cities on four continents; the next Home Movie Day will take place on October 18. Organizers of each Home Movie Day event invite local people with amateur film in their possession to have their film inspected, screened, and shown in a community setting. They are also encouraged to narrate their films, and audiences can often identify places, people, etc., depicted on the screen. Organizers get local businesses involved as sponsors and contributors and work with volunteers to secure equipment that enables film to be shown safely.
Becker argued that sponsoring a Home Movie Day event has a number of benefits for archivists and audiences alike. It’s an easy way for archivists to raise their repository’s profile (even though the focus will not be on existing holdings), allows staff to hone their identification, evaluation, and interviewing skills, and start identifying materials that they might wish to add to their collection. Moreover, Home Movie Day encourages audiences to recognize that home movies can be historically significant even if they don’t depict famous people or momentous events and to start learning about preservation of home movie footage and to become actively interested in preserving their own movies. Home Movie Day can also result in discovery of previously unrecognized personal or historical connections and bring together people with related interests.
Given my other commitments, there is no way I could organize a Home Movie Day. However, I really hope that someone else in my corner of upstate New York does so.
Game On: Leading Your Championship Team
The always amazing Rosemary Pleva Flynn was the solo presenter at this session, and she succinctly distilled a whole lot of business literature on team characteristics and dynamics and leadership styles and attributes. Pleva Flynn, who is keenly attuned to the managerial dimensions of archival practice, is absolutely right that a) archivists need to pay more attention to these issues and b) generally don’t have the time or, more importantly, the inclination to do so; even those of us who spend the bulk of our days supervising people and directing projects tend to see ourselves chiefly as archival practitioners.
Pleva Flynn’s presentation was really detailed, so instead of recapping it in detail, I’m simply going to point to the resources she identified as being particularly valuable:
- James Dyke, Leading Teams: How to Inspire, Motivate, Lead, and Succeed
- J. Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman, www.leadingteams.org/open/ToolsforCoaching.htm