Many of the members of my department will be attending this year’s AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) conference which begins today in Philadelphia, PA. It is the 20th year anniversary of this organization made up of international institutions and individuals representing a broad range of the field, including: archives, studios, universities, funders, vendors and other commercial entities.
From the AMIA website: “In the early part of the 20th century, most people, even those in the film industry, considered movies to be only a cheap and disposable form of entertainment. Now we realize that a moving image is many things: a form of entertainment, an art form, an historical record, a cultural artifact, a commodity and a force for social change.”
I was lucky to be a founding member back when AMIA was known as FAAC/TAAC (Film Archive Advisory Commission/Television Archive Advisory Commission) and to serve as a member of the Board for four years. In 1990, the whole audio visual field was changing and archivists were looking to formalize a group that would reflect emerging key issues— from nitrate film handling and training to the latest software to artifact copyright. Quite a bit has changed since that first conference in New York City, and each year I am amazed at the resource and knowledge exchange that comes from this gathering of professionals from around the world.
As a representative of George Eastman House over the years, AMIA has given me a chance to benchmark the latest and greatest preservation technologies and methods— and to impact and shape them. Eastman House frequently showcases projects there and this year is no exception. On Nov. 4th, Motion Picture Department Preservation Officer Anthony L’abbate will participate on a panel discussing Applied Color: Restored, Revived, Revisited. The following day, I will be introducing a newly discovered and preserved Essanay splitreel during Archival Screening Night.
Scenes from the 1910 preserved Essanay splitreel ‘A College Chicken’ (top) and ‘Mulcahy’s Raid’ (above). Previously thought to be lost, this film was recently discovered during a routine vault inspection.
Finally, I should emphasize that AMIA strives to encourage student presence and participation. The conference provides an unparalleled experience as THE place to gain an awareness of the field and build relationships. Not only are the sessions invaluable to career development, but there aren’t too many other places I know of where a student can walk right up to the head of preservation of a major movie studio with a question. We fully support this idea, and each year our staff is joined by students from the Museum’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. I can’t help but notice how each conference seems more and more like a reunion for the School as we meet former students who are now presenters and colleagues. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of and truly characteristic of what this organization is all about.