Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bringing New England to Cork ; CLIR in Memories of Maine Magazine

Karan Sheldon, Work Life project director, and I attended different sessions throughout our three days at the University College Cork (UCC) Saving Private Reels Conference, reuniting for keynote addresses, evening meals, and discussing our sessions over breakfast each morning. While I wish to speak about every detail, I'll do my best to provide the highlights:

First things first: to be in a conference setting where we do not need to fight for the acknowledgement, inclusion or importance of nontheatrical film is a true gift.

Friday, September 17, began with an inspiring presentation by Paolo Simoni of the Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia. Simoni spoke on the exhibition of amateur films and home movies, highlighting the role of Associazione Home Movies--Archivo Nazionale del Film di Famiglia, who are working with artists, filmmakers and other institutions to find innovative ways to share amateur films with the public. My favorite example included the use of two screens: playing films with a second screen providing commentary from interviews with the family members or movie makers. I loved to see the interviewees' faces react to the film and could feel their feelings without knowing any Italian.

Roger Odin's presentation brought me some discomfort due to his declaration that men shot all of the home movies. And while he did include a lengthy passage highlighting his home town, St. Etienne, where family film was shown and appreciated, I was struck by a statement he made regarding home movies only having meaning to the families in them or when re-worked into a new film.

Richard Kilborn's presentation about the documentary practice of Peter Forgacs (whose aim is to "open up the secret vaults of a personal memory archive..." to produce "a hidden cultural history.") provided a beautiful example of this recontextualization Roger Odin discussed. Working from his personal archives of home movies from 1920-1980, Forgacs couples archival footage with interviews from surviving members of families in his films, highlighting the power of sharing our stories.

Friday evening, Karan Sheldon and I presented Describing Amateur Films of Work Life. We were able to provide a history and institutional layout of NHF, and then present our project experiences while engaging in international conversations about metadata and descriptive practices. I am always glad to be able to share the technical foundation and details of a project and to then engage with others about how the materials affect us. Our conversations have continued, and we are currently building relationships with Lotte Belice Baltussen at the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Karen Lury at The University of Glasgow, and Sue Howard at the Yorkshire Film Archive, among others.

Our presentation audience: Front row, Jane Alvey (East Anglia), Lotte Baltussen, Ruth Hinkel-Pevzner (London).

On Saturday, I enjoyed the Historical Moment panel. Sunniva O'Flynn from the Irish Film Institute had us exploring clerical collections in the IFI Irish Film Archive. My favorite was a clip shot by a nun. Kodachrome footage of nuns sitting seaside with blue skies, cliffs, sunshine, and then diving into the ocean in their swimsuits, laughing and smiling. I learned about the lip-reading technology (software that matches lip movement angles to a database of sounds) used to restore sound to Hitler's home movies in Rachel MagShamhrain's (University College Cork) presentation: Adolf Talks! Oyvind Vagnes finished the panel with his discussion of the Zapruder film's transformation from home movie to evidential record to million-dollar aesthetic image up for auction.

I thought that starting with Paolo Simoni's presentation set the stage for how this conference would resonate as one of my most valuable professional experiences. His presentation echoed the main ideas of keynote speaker Patricia Zimmermann's presentation on Saturday. I felt very affected by Zimmermann's call for us to breathe new life into our archival collections. She asked for us to build upon our beliefs and practices to include collaborations with artists and other creative institutions to engage our communities. I felt inspired in the same way I felt when first discovering postmodern archival theory. We will not be mere custodians of information! We will provide access! We will invite people in! We will share!

Sunday, screenings day, I was able to enjoy the home video work by artist Kate Rowles, and to wholly feel one of the best documentaries I have seen, Ashley Maynor's For Memories' Sake.


In other news, I am happy to report that my article "The Big Reveal: Northeast Historic Film Unveils Previously Hidden Collections" has been published in the Fall 2010 issue of Memories of Maine Magazine. Happier, still, to say a woman called to discuss the transfer of her home movies after reading said article!


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