My name is Amanda Smith and I graduated this Spring with a master’s degree from UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) program. During the quarter before I graduated, I was an intern in the Preservation Unit of the UCLA Library working with Siobhan Hagan on audiovisual materials. I had a great time and learned a lot, so I wanted to share a little bit of what I did.
My main focus during the internship was on the audiovisual materials in the Synanon Foundation Records collection. The Synanon Foundation, which had its headquarters in Santa Monica, began as a group for detoxification therapy and attracted members to its chapters both nationally and internationally. In 1979, Synanon’s founder, Charles Dederich, Sr. was forced to leave the group after pleading no contest to conspiracy to commit murder. After that, the Foundation quickly dissolved. The materials I worked with included film, video and audio records of Synanon events and recruitment materials. The UCLA Library recently received a National Film Preservation Foundation grant to preserve the 1973 short film “Instant Guide to Synanon”.
I helped to create an inventory of the materials so we now have a record of all the audiovisual titles and formats in the collection, as well as many of their characteristics. Some of my favorite finds included a film titled “The Adventures of Filthy McNasty” and others that were simply labeled “not very interesting.” I liked working with these materials because I encountered many formats I hadn’t seen or worked with before, such as 8mm film cartridges which allowed for easy replay of the material and tiny reels of 1/4” audiotape that could be sent via snail mail. I also finally mastered the ability to differentiate between polyester and acetate-based film. In case you’re interested: if you hold the reel up to the light and look through the side, polyester film is opaque and acetate is translucent.
I also had the chance to work with analog material reformatted to digital files when I learned how to perform quality assurance (QA). My favorite part of this was getting to listen to the audio. One collection I worked on was interviews done by journalist Roy Newquist with famous actors, directors and writers. The best thing I found was a highly enlightening interview with a young Michael Caine from some time in the 1960s: we have included a choice clip of Mr. Caine from this interview comparing male and female brain sizes. I also enjoyed hearing the voices and insights of Katharine Hepburn, Jack Lemmon and James Stewart.
As you can see, there is a lot of great stuff coming out of the UCLA Library’s new AV Preservation program and I feel very lucky to have been able to work with some of it. I’d highly recommend looking into an internship there!
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