October 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A very tiny film camera

Dino Everett let the audience handle this tiny movie camera, invented by Eric Berndt in the early 1960s.

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!

-John Kostka


Internship Report: Lyudmyla Bua

November 14th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

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.

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Halloween with Frederik Ruysch by Amanda Burr

October 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


 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.

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Never Judge A Tape By Its Shell, Part II (The Song That Never Ends)

September 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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.

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!

<<Siobhan Hagan

Resources for this article:;; and

Lots of labels (pt. 2)

August 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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):









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New Preservation Unit Head announced!

August 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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.



The MoviePak Blues

June 28th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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

Internship Report: Javier Servin

June 26th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

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.


June 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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
3. Over-determined
4. Peripheral evidence
5. An egg is just an egg
6. Prophecies

Questions raised:
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).

<<Siobhan Hagan

Papermaking in Higashi Chichibu, Japan

May 7th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

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.

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