As a pre-program art conservation student, the prospect of traveling across the country to be under the tutelage of Kristen St. John at the UCLA Library Conservation Center [LCC] was thrilling. Before starting any projects, I was able to have a conversation with Kristen regarding what I was hoping to achieve from this internship. My objective was to further enhance my understanding of treatments of ephemeral materials, as well as to learn basic treatments for book conservation. Outside of treatments, I also wanted to learn how to make various enclosures for future storage of objects. Kristen made sure I fulfilled my goals and so much more. Before starting treatment, I read articles, wrote condition reports, and photo-documented to get to know the object.
My work as a conservation technician for the UCLA Libraries Conservation Center exposes me to a broad range of materials from special collections. I relish the surprises that come my way and love to tell friends about what I learn from these objects. I am very pleased, then, to have the chance to share with you a book which, just in time for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, teems with macabre images of skeletons, disembodied organs, and fetuses preserved in jars.
My last blog post introduced some tricky video formats that could potentially store audio information in their depths. As promised, here is the continuation of that story. We left off pondering the differences between Betamax and Betacam. Betamax was released in 1975 with a horizontal resolution of approximately 250 lines. In 1983 Sony introduced BetaHi-Fi, where your Betamax tape recorded FM audio tracks with separate audio heads. There was also a VHS competitor for this known as VHS Hi-Fi. These formats were attractive as they provided noticeably higher quality audio than the popular compact cassettes. The bandwidth allocated to Betamax Hi-Fi was 500 kHz as opposed to VHS Hi-Fi’s 150 kHz. Eventually with the addition of PCM units Betamax could record full CD quality digital audio information on a video tape. There was a SuperBetamax format with approximately 300 lines of horizontal resolution and an “Extended Definition” or ED Betamax with 500 lines of horizontal resolution. Alas, their introduction came too late and JVC and its VHS tape won the format war. The last Betamax machine was manufactured in America in 1993.
Betcam came on the scene in 1982, modeled after Betamax but using component video rather than composite and with a much higher tape speed. It also had 300 lines of horizontal resolution and a much higher chrominance resolution than Betamax. With Betacam SP came 340 lines of horizontal resolution and two tape sizes: cameras used the small size and tape editing and playback decks could use either the large or the small size. Betacam SP also used a totally different magnetic tape formula than any previous iteration (Metal-formulated versus ferric oxide). A feature of Betacam SP decks is that they can play back regular Betacam tapes as well. Technically they could also potentially play back Betamax tapes, but since the newer decks travel at faster speeds, it is not recommended. Digital Betacam and Betacam SX cross over into the digital realm of recording video signals to tape—and frankly, I don’t even want to go there right now.
Lastly, I would like to introduce the format known as Fischer-Price’s PixelVision (or PXL-2000). Released in 1987, this was a format marketed specifically for children and young adults to record low resolution video signals onto their mounds of cheap, already purchased audio compact cassette tapes. In order to do this, PixelVision camera’s recorded bandwidths remarkably lower than a standard TV video signal, while at the same time utilizing a higher speed than audio requires in order to increase the bandwidth of the tape. There was also a special accompanying display monitor for playback. Each tape recorded approximately 10 minutes of footage. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFNkdHDaPNQ
The moral of the story is: you can find a collection of “mixed tapes” lovingly recorded onto VHS; a live professional musical performance’s PCM audio stored on Betamax (which you could theoretically play in a Betacam SP deck); and some 12-year-old aspiring filmmaker’s remake of GODZILLA on a compact cassette tape. All bets are off with magnetic tape. Happy hunting, my archivist friends!
This second blog post focuses on paper labels that have been cut into patterns before being adhered to the bookbindings. For pictures of other types of labels (ownership, library, etc), see my post from last week.
I find these cut paper labels completely charming. They record a title and sometimes composers name. The labels are adhered on to the front board of a binding. The bindings themselves are not luxurious and usually have paper covered boards or sometimes green vellum. I’ve seen marbled paper, paste papers, block printed paper, and solid-colored paper. As with the previous post click on an image for a larger view of the label. And again apologies for the poor quality cellphone photos taken in a dim basement!
The label below comes from Ferdinand Cortez: Oper in 3 Acten by Gaspare Spontini (M1503.S77feG 1832):
Yesterday University Librarian Virginia Steel announced our new unit head, Dawn Aveline. Here’s an excerpt from her message:
I am pleased to announce the appointment of our new Head of Preservation, Dawn Aveline, effective today, Thursday, August 1, 2013.
For the past year, Dawn Aveline has served as the Preservation Specialist in the UCLA Library’s Preservation Department. Prior to that role, Dawn worked closely with Jake Nadal in Preservation as a Library Assistant from November 2010 – March 2012. From September 2006 – October 2010 she was a Business Development Manager for Fluidity Design Consultants in Hollywood, California. In 2002-2006, at Fox Entertainment Group, Dawn assisted the vice president in charge of information technology infrastructure services, where she gained broad expertise and understanding of state of the art digital and information technologies, project management and stewardship of digital assets. Dawn holds a Masters of Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archival Studies from UCLA. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Civilization with a minor in Italian from Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana, and a Baccalauréat in Literature from Lycée Gustave Monod, Enghien-les-Bains, France. Dawn is an active member of Preservation Administrators Group, Co-Chair of the Book and Paper Interest Group in ALA, Steering Committee Member of Los Angeles Preservation Network (LAPNet) and has presented on a wide variety of preservation, stewardship and collection management topics. Dawn is active in the letterpress, typography design, Arduino programming and maker communities. She is also an enthusiastic advocate in the value of collaboration, team-building, planning and stewardship.
All of us in Preservation are excited to continue our work with Dawn and support her efforts as Head of our Unit.
MoviePaks are plastic cartridges holding Super 8mm film inside of it, spliced together in a loop to play continuously on a specially made rear projection machine. The MoviePaks we came across were manufactured by Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corporation as well as Dumont Instrumentation, Inc., had magnetic stripe soundtracks, and the color had seriously faded to red. We approximate that these date from the early to mid-1970s. These are also mostly duplicates of films and are not the only copy that we have in our holdings, although you may across something unique on a MoviePak (the only extant copy of an organization’s training film or something).
These cartridges are pretty awful and the film can get snagged, scratched, and the perforations scraped away very easily (despite the film being made from the more durable polyester plastic base). The only choice is to crack it open, cut the loop where its initial splice was made, and slowly and carefully reel it on an appropriately sized reel. Super 8 film is like a wily teenager and will do what it wants to do: just anticipate and be patient. And clear your calendar.
I hope you enjoy our video we made of how best to relieve the Movie from its Pak. Don’t forget the middle screw! Performing this feat is our new intern, Lauren O’Connor. Lauren is not wearing gloves, as suggested by her supervisor, since she thoroughly washed and dried her hands multiple times, and because the “gloves had to come off” for dealing with snot-nosed Super 8mm film. The music in the video was downloaded from the Internet Archive and is a 1922 recording of Ladd’s Black Aces playing “I’ve Got to Have My Daddy Blues” (because MoviePaks can certainly give you the blues).
<<Siobhan Hagan, AV Preservation Specialist
My name is Javier Servin and I am a recent graduate of the Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) program at UCLA. During my last quarter at UCLA, I had the opportunity to intern in the Library’s Preservation Unit AV Lab working with various audiovisual collections. I had a blast going through the different materials in the collections and learned a great deal from Siobhan Hagan, the Unit’s fearless leader and Audiovisual Preservation Specialist. While all the collections are important and contain infinite research opportunities, two of the collections stood out as my favorites to work with.
The first of my favorites is the Synanon Foundation Records collection, which consists of film, video and audio recordings of the foundation’s events and recruitment material. The Synanon Foundation was originally a drug rehabilitation program founded in Santa Monica in the late 1950s that eventually became an alternative community in the 1960s and ultimately a church in the 1970s before being disbanded in 1989 as a result of various criminal activities allegedly committed by its founder and members. I enjoyed working with this collection because it highlighted a segment of Los Angeles history that I personally had never come across.
In working with the Synanon collection, I updated the inventory of the materials so that it conformed to the newly adopted naming conventions of the Preservation AV Lab. I also inspected and rehoused some of the super 8mm reels and cartridges that contained films documenting and promoting the foundation’s activities. One such film is INSTANT GUIDE TO SYNANON (1973), which contains lots of funky transitions and animations. Loved it.
The second of my favorite collections is the SOUL Publications, Inc. collection, which consists of audio recordings of performances and interviews with different celebrities including Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross. My favorite recording is 1978 phone interview with Mick Jagger that captures a candid moment with his daughter (listen to the full interview). My work on this collection included comparing the documented running time of the clips against their actual running time and checking the links for each clip to ensure that they properly played. I enjoyed working with this collection because I got to listen to some fascinating sound bites from some of my favorite artists.
My time at the UCLA Library’s Preservation Unit was not only fun, but highly instructive. Siobhan strived to tailor the internship to meet my interests. For example, I expressed a desire to work with formats that I had no previous experience with and she made sure that I got plenty of practice handling Super 8mm film. Siobhan rocks and so does the internship at the Preservation Unit.
Last Friday, May 31, the UCLA Library welcomed collector, artist and archivist Rick Prelinger. Rick discussed his work and proposed provocative alternatives to existing modes of archival collection and access. His hour-long illustrated lecture was followed by a lengthy Q&A and was free and open to the public. It was presented by the UCLA Library in partnership with UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies program and Association of Moving Image Archivists Student Chapter, along with support from the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities, the Department of Ethnomusicology and the Ethnomusicology Archive, Melnitz Movies and the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. The presentation was captured on video and will be posted on the Internet in a few weeks. In the meantime, the following are some highlights.
6 stages of Rick’s archival consciousness:
1. Every film is precious
2. Seduced by style
4. Peripheral evidence
5. An egg is just an egg
1. Why do we do what we do? Why do we keep what we keep? Are we collecting in the domain that we should? Is “collecting by chance” potentially a good collecting policy?
2. Do physical objects have the right to exist? Like video tape and newspapers, archivists tend towards preserving the content rather than the object (video is reformatted to digital files, newspapers to microfilm)
3. Personal records are a new frontier. How can we incorporate records of everyday people in collections?
4. Could we do archives like scientists do science? Test hypotheses against reality and use the scientific method! For example, perhaps complete preservation impact statements much like environmental impact statements.
5. How can we bring archival materials into common spaces?
6. What needs to happen remotely and what needs to happen on campus/at the library/archive?
7. How can we encourage users’ exploration?
Challenges and ideas:
1. Let users help us to see our collections in new ways and deepen our codependency on users to transform ourselves.
2. Reward projects that step outside of the box.
3. Permaculture principles thinking can aid the archival workflow to obtain yield and to “use edges and value the marginal”, like regional archives.
4. Make archives DIY, local, open source, relational artworks, a social practice: not just to archive but to try to create a sense of community. With participatory spaces, workshops, archival research commons, etc.
5. Encourage transformative use. Rick showed an artist’s transformative use of AMERICAN THRIFT (1962) as a case study.
6. Home movie ethics: viewing is committing a sense of trespass.
7. Loss can be formative.
8. Diversify the inputs that inform appraisal policy. For example, assemble a random panel of people who have a baseline of reading and writing skills and compare and contrast what they think we should we be saving. And make sure that these appraisal systems can learn over time.
For more documentation of the event, also check out #aaaUCLA13 on Twitter for a record of attendees’ live tweets.
Also last Friday, UCLA’s Melnitz Movies through the Graduate Student Association had a free and open to the public evening event featuring Rick Prelinger. It was a feature-length screening of footage from the Prelinger Archives, curated and contextualized live by Rick as well as audience members. He showed several home movies of Los Angeles, including beautiful color home movies of the UCLA campus in the 1940s and 1950s. The city of Los Angeles was also represented in several rear projection plates, which are films that were projected as the background of moving vehicles in Hollywood feature films. Lastly, Rick shared clips that he has screened at LOST LANDSCAPES: SAN FRANCISCO and LOST LANDSCAPES: DETROIT events, plus the full-length of Redbook Magazine’s IN THE SUBURBS (1957)and the beginning and end of LONG DISTANCE (1941).
I had the pleasure of visiting Washi no Sato, a papermaking park, near Higashi Chichibu in the Saitama prefecture just outside of Tokyo at the end of April. The staff demonstrates traditional paper-making skills and lets visitors make their own sheet of paper and decorate it with leaves and flowers. They also make large sheets of paper which are fairly heavy and used for wrapping papers. When we visited they weren’t in full production mode, but I got some photos of their equipment and videos of one of their papermakers in action.
UCLA Library Conservation Center
The UCLA Library Preservation Department is offering a conservation pre-program internship for qualified students who are applying for Masters-level training in conservation. This internship will provide experience to pre-program students or individuals currently in graduate level conservation programs in conservation decision making, treatment and documentation for library and archival collections. The conservation intern will work under the supervision of the collections conservator to perform repair or make enclosures for materials selected from the collections. Relevant literature will be reviewed prior to conservation treatment and all projects will be documented.
Application deadline is May 7, 2013.