As Assistant Archivist at the BFC/A, I recently had an opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) in Seattle. It was immensely informative (and more than a bit exciting), giving me a chance to see what work is being done in the preservation and restoration of film materials around the world—not just within dedicated film archives, but in all repositories that house these materials and have to deal with the issues that then arise.
Since many of these issues are ones that we deal with here at the BFC/A (such as identification, storage, and handling), it was nice to see that they are universal and to have a chance to get outside perspectives on them. On a personal level it was good for me, as a fairly new member of the community, to really get a sense of what that community is about and the connections that exist. It was an overview of what areas in film are still in need of attention and resources–a look at the bigger picture that can be adapted to suit the needs of the BFC/A. The amount of new information, ideas, and methods was a bit overwhelming at first—and before the end of the first day I had resolved to take in as much as I could and not get lost in the details—but by the end of the conference I felt I had come away with a general idea of where to go from here.
The issue that stuck with me the most was the need to preserve non-commercial films, including home movies. There have been strides made to draw attention to these films—and Indiana University does participate in the annual Home Movie Day—but most of the attention when it comes to issues of preservation and restoration is given to commercial film. That remains an important and vital section of film history, certainly, but equal attention should probably be given to these amateur productions. They provide us with a living document of our past, a candid look at our history, and ensuring that these items are kept in a condition where they can be continually screened should be at the forefront of every archive that deals with film materials.
Trailer for the 10th Annual Home Movie Day, 2012
This was the topic of the first session I attended, “A Decade of Home Movie Day,” and the issue stretched throughout the remainder of the week. I have to admit that going into the conference I had never put much thought behind the challenges of such films, having spent most of my time at the BFC/A working with commercial film that usually has a large amount of metadata. I understood that preserving amateur film was important, but the issues of how to process, preserve, and screen these films had never really been laid out in such a way before. Needless to say, I returned from Seattle eager to see this work continued and expanded upon here at Indiana University and the BFC/A, and to see Home Movie Day continue to grow.
Of course, the conference encompassed other issues and I returned with a broader understanding of the field in general, and the work that is needed to continue to make the films held in archives accessible to the general public. And it does seem to be a continual effort: the conference started with an examination of the film-related clean-up efforts undertaken in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, AMIA2012 was a great opportunity to see the fruits of some of this preservation and restoration work, as a variety of these films were presented at the Archival Screening Night.
So—a bit of a whirlwind overview into the world of film archives. But nevertheless, I came back to Bloomington with a new way of looking at the challenges we face, a better understanding of the variety of material being collected, and a better knowledge of the newer developments in film preservation. But most of all, I returned with stronger than ever conviction that, in preserving film, we are preserving our shared history.