ED. NOTE: Stalwart AV grad assistant John Kostka has crafted the following report of highlights from his trip to the AMIA Conference in Savannah last week. John is starting his second year of the UCLA Moving Image Archive Studies program.
Over the past week (Oct. 7-11), archivists from across the nation (and indeed the globe!) turned out for the year’s annual Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference in Savannah, Georgia, with the UCLA Library preservation staff providing several members among their ranks. Over the course of a fun and enlightening five days, Library staff had the opportunity to make a number of new friends, sample the local cuisine and nightlife, and take in some truly exciting presentations!
Conference attendees didn’t have to wait long for exceptional food for thought, as an early talk by George Eastman House archivists Nancy Kauffman, Jared Case, Ken Fox and Stacey Doyle, “Return to the Fold: Reuniting Filmmaker Manuscripts with Their Films,” provided right from the start fascinating insights into issues of cataloging. Long held as semi-separate fields, moving image archiving and more traditional forms of paper-based archiving each tend to be equally confounding to practitioners of the other, with moving image archivists frequently viewing paper-based elements of collections as supplemental, and vice versa. In discussing Eastman House’s approach to conserving several film and paper donations from a group of notable documentary and experimental filmmakers, the archive staff attempted to bridge this divide, underlining the importance of each type of item as a complement to the other. In developing a more unified cataloging system to better encompass and make accessible the entirety of these collections, Kauffman et al pointed the way toward an important and exciting shift in thinking about the ways archivists process and provide access to diverse types of archival documentation, as well as providing a greater sense of unity for the archival field as a whole. Despite its location in the very first timeslot of Thursday morning (the first day of presentations), it was nevertheless immediately clear that this panel was one of the highlights of the conference.
Outside of the UCLA Library, representatives of many of the Preservation Department’s brother and sister staff made their presence known throughout AMIA with a number of similarly exceptional talks. UCLA Film & Television Archive staff Mark Quigley and Dan Einstein capped off Thursday as part of a delightful panel highlighting treasures rescued off 2” Quad video-tape (the earliest form of professional broadcast videotape, which appeared during the ‘50s), which also included Jeff Martin, Margie Compton of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection, and David Crossthwait of DC Video. Quigley again contributed, along with UCLA FTVA’s Todd Weiner, to an excellent panel on increasing digital access to LGBT research materials via the web. Quigley and Weiner’s presentation highlighted the FTVA’s recent push to digitize and make available online the entire run of In the Life, a groundbreaking LGBT public television newscast, the archives of which were recently deposited with the FTVA. Finally, students from UCLA’s masters program in Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS), made their mark with several superlative poster presentations, as well as an entertaining and enlightening talk by program first-year Jonathan Furmanski, also of the Getty Research Institute, on his recent rediscovery of playful 1970s LA video artist Cynthia Maughan.
While UCLA may have been represented in abundance, it was nevertheless well outstripped by the numerous other archive representatives at the conference, many of whom provided their own fascinating glimpses of current archival trends from around the globe. Irene Lim, Sanchai Chotirosseranee, Karen Chan and Mick Newham each contributed to a fascinating Saturday morning progress report on the current state of their home archives, which include the National Archives of Singapore, Film Archive Thailand, the Asian Film Archive, and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, respectively. Similarly, a follow-up presentation by Juana Suarez, Julio Cabrio, Paula Felix-Didier and Julieta Keldjian provided the Latin American counterpart, presenting a status report on institutions as varied as Proimagenes Colombia, Universidad de la Republica, Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires, and the Archivo Audiovisual Universidad Catolica del Uruguay.
As fun as presentations may be, however, AMIA 2014 nevertheless afforded numerous opportunities for attendees to let their hair down as well. Opening and closing cocktail receptions afforded many attendees – and particularly speakers – to get to better get to know each other, while Wednesday night’s annual AMIA Trivia Throwdown made for exciting and good-spirited fun, as usual (with this attendee even walking away with a brand-new Blu-ray of Louis Malle’s Au Revoir les Enfants!). Outside the hotel walls, the historic city of Savannah proved a charming backdrop for the conference, with dangling Spanish moss and the town’s numerous historic squares contributing to a distinctly homey charm. In terms of food and drink, conference attendees gravitated to the nearby Coffee Fox, which served up a horchata latte to die for, as well as Leopold’s Ice Cream, which made for a particularly sweet treat after the conference’s annual Archival Screening Night. Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, a traditional southern family-style restaurant which served up in excess of twenty (20!) all-you-can-eat delights, proved hands-down the highlight of this attendee’s dining experience in Savannah, though the dark horse Pie Society, purveyor of traditional English sweet and savory pastries, came in an improbable close second.
With so much to do, it’s unsurprising that the five days and nights of AMIA 2014 passed by in almost a blur, though it remains hard to believe that there are now twelve months to go before we all meet again. Nevertheless, if 2015’s conference proves anything like Savannah, I think we can all agree we have a lot to look forward to! See you in Portland!