History, Identification, and Preservation of Motion Picture/Video Materials

Current Faculty: Snowden Becker

Description: Special collections librarians, archivists, historians, collectors and dealers alike will benefit from this course, which provides a comprehensive overview of motion picture film and videotape formats, with particular focus on those materials most likely to be encountered among collections of personal papers and corporate records.  Topics covered in depth include the fundamentals of identification and assessment for motion picture film and video; basic film handling, repair, and preparation for storage or transfer; information resources useful in identifying and assessing the uniqueness of specific holdings; appraisal criteria for moving image materials and collections; and preservation planning for collections that include film and video materials.

This course includes a substantial hands-on component, which will introduce the essential tools and techniques of the motion picture archivist, including use of manual rewinds, split reels and cores, tape and cement splicers, cameras and projectors. Site visits and case studies will demonstrate the variety of approaches to media preservation taken in dedicated motion picture archives, smaller media-focused collections, private collections, and sites where film and video exist alongside material in a wide variety of other formats.

While strongest emphasis will be placed on media from the first half of the 20th century, their material characteristics and critical affordances, this course will also engage with the unique challenges of digitizing film and video and providing contemporary access to historic motion pictures. We will also discuss the impact of technological change—particularly the transition to digital modes of recording, transmitting, and exhibiting sound and motion pictures—on the collection, valuation, and preservation of film and video. Students are warmly encouraged to bring examples of audiovisual materials from their own collections to the class as object lessons in identification and assessment.

The National Film Preservation Board’s Film Preservation Guide is the basic text for this course; bound copies will be provided to students while supplies last.

Requirements: No previous experience necessary.

Years Taught: 2014, 2016, 2018

Leave a Reply