Sunday, January 3, 2016

AMIA 2015 Conference- Portland, OR

I had first heard about the AMIA annual conference at The Reel Thing, which was held August 20th-August 22nd 2015 in Los Angeles, CA.  The AMIA conference (November 18th-22nd, 2015) sounded like the perfect event for someone who was new to the Moving Image Archive field. At the time I didn’t know if I would be able to attend the event, but thanks to the generosity of CAIDP and UCLA, I was able to embark on a wonderful four day journey to Portland.

A common theme throughout the conference, for me, was copyright law and copyright issues facing archives and libraries.  These are issues that plague small archives, large archives and every archive in between.

My conference began with The Copyright 101 Workshop, which was presented by Andy Sellars from the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic.  It provided an amazing overview of what copyright is, who it impacts and how it is dealt with by archives all around the world.  The workshop was held all day Wednesday, November 18th.  The workshop covered everything from the history of copyright law, the first movie that was copyrighted (Fred Ott’s Sneeze), works in Public Domain, through who holds the rights to Pizza Rat.

Fred Ott's Sneeze 1894

By the end of the workshop I felt like I had a greater understanding of both the limitations of copyright law and some of the ways that archives can work within the parameters of the current laws.  It is still a tough issue and certainly continues to prevent unlimited access to archival holdings without compromising.  We also learned about a great resource, Creative Commons, which is a website that provides some education about copyright and provides access to some content that can be accessed.

For the next 3 days I attended numerous sessions that covered a great deal of information and introduced me to many different types of people and different types of archives.  I learned about the history of FIAF, the George Eastman House Nitrate Picture Show, and even got to see some wonderful screenings, just to name a few things.  I noticed that in the end the types of discussions and panels that I gravitated towards and enjoyed the most often related to the tackling of a project or a problem and how it was navigated.  This was the case for both the BFI panel and the Paramount Studios panels that I attended.

The BFI panel: From Acquisition to Access at the BFI National Archive: Case Studies, was presented by, Helen Edmunds and Katrina Stokes.  What was so compelling about this presentation and this project was how committed the BFI is to encouraging people from all over the country to take part in this project.  This project is meant to help preserve British film heritage, as well as British history.  This means that they don’t just focus on produced films or studio films, but they are actively looking for home videos and amateur films.  Unfortunately, access to the BFI player and all of their material is not available in the US (an interesting copyright issue).

The Paramount Studios panel: 21st Century Film Preservation: A Case Study – Paramount Pictures was presented by, Andrea Kalas, Laura Thornburg, Nikki Jee, Sean Vilbert, and Charlotte Johnson.  This was a panel that covered a lot of information in what felt like a short period of time.  Each presenter discussed a different area of the preservation process, from the policy to determining which films were to be preserved first to the policy for data management storage.  It was very interesting to hear what it is like to tackle film preservation from a studio perspective.  Something that I found particularly interesting is that the driving force behind the preservation of many of the titles is not distribution.  Just because a film is preserved, it doesn’t mean that there are plans for home video distribution of the title.  Rather it is a means to preserve their “assets.”  This seemed like another obstacle concerning access, it seems like all archives, whether big or small still have some kind of hurdle when it comes to providing access to their holdings.

Overall, this was an extremely wonderful experience.  I feel like I learned a great deal about the current state of moving image archives and archivists.  The conference also provided a really nice atmosphere to socialize and engage with all different types of professionals.  I also got a deeper understanding for the wide variety of obstacles that many different archives face and how each of these archives overcome these obstacles.  I feel extremely lucky to have gotten the opportunity to attend this conference and look forward to implementing what I’ve learned and gained as I continue to navigate through this profession.

I also really enjoyed getting to see a new city.  I had never been to Portland before and I really enjoyed it.  There wasn't much downtime during the conference, but I took advantage of the breaks and got to explore the city, a little bit.  I walked myself over to Powell's Books, which was unbelievably amazing.  I had never seen such a haven for book lovers.  Unfortunately, they did not have the classic film books that I've been trying to hunt down for the last few years, they're still awesome.  I also had lunch a couple of times at some food trucks with my classmates.  It was a bit chilly, but still fun.

This conference was a really wonderful experience, it definitely took me out of my comfort zone (I tend to be a little shy), but it allowed me to interact with so many different types of people and learn so much about this amazing industry.  As I've been going through this career change I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "That's a job?"  "oh, so you'll just be organizing things?" "I didn't know films needed to be preserved," but going to this conference really helped me feel more comfortable and confident with this big career change.

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