Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Preservation Intensive Institute, UCLA, 1994

Preservation Intensive Institute, UCLA, 1994

From: Robert Espinosa <rje>
Date: Thursday, September 29, 1994
The following is excerpted from my notes (with help from Sondra Bierre)
taken during the course "The Preservation of Moving Images" at the
Preservation Intensive Institute, 1994, UCLA.  The course was filled to
overflowing with ideas and information from the collective experience of
the team of presenters, all from the UCLA Film and Television Archives.
I thought these comments by Robert Rosen, Director of the UCLA Film and
Television Archives and organizer of the course,  were especially
thought provoking and worth sharing because of their value not merely to
the field of moving image preservation but to the whole field of library
and archives preservation, if not preservation of all cultural

I was especially reminded of these ideas by the recent query of Karen
Motylewski regarding the future of conservation/preservation funding and
subsequent comments on the DistList. I think these thoughts add
significantly to that exchange, and present not a bleak picture of the
future but a challenging and dynamic one that will undoubtedly cause us
to reaccess what is preservation and why do we do it. [These notes have
been transcribed without knowledge, editing or permission from Robert
Rosen, and any mistakes or misrepresentation are solely my
responsibility. Any bracketed material is my addition for

** Part I

Five Existential Facts of Life of a Film Archive
by Robert Rosen

1.  Preservation and access fundamentally work against each other, but
    you have to do both.

Preservation and access are often competing for same resources.  One has
to figure out principal trade-offs:  policies that will help to carry
out both.


    A.  A policy that distinguishes use copies from preservation copies,
        for the purpose of minimizing risk to the "master" copy.  This
        policy might further delineate master copies, preservation
        copies, and use copies.  One has to elaborate ways to draw these

    B.  UCLA Film and Television Archives Festival of Preservation. This
        is a film series that advertizes the fact that the audience will
        be able to see the best print of a particular film that will
        ever be screened.  This generates interest and support (maybe
        even some income) for the preservation program.

2.  There is always more to do than you have money for.  This raises the
    question of how one sets priorities and makes principal trade-offs.


    Historically there has been more interest within film preservation
    circles in copying films than in the storage of films.  But today
    environmental storage issues have moved to the foreground, with the
    realization of the tremendous impact proper storage can make on the
    survival of film.

    The question becomes, how does one make commitments, but remain
    flexible enough to change those commitments.

3.  Archives are torn between users who want everything immediately and
    owners who want to provide nothing ever.

In film archives, unless you own the copyright, which is rare, you
essentially have someone else's property in your collection.  The trick
becomes to keep these "owners" happy with the knowledge that their
rights are being protected, but also to satisfy the needs of users who
want access to these materials.


    A.  The users who want "frame enlargements"  from motion picture
        films.  Do you provide enlargements without violating the
        copyright restrictions, but even more importantly, by providing
        frame enlargements do you jeopardize the relationship with the
        donor/owner, the legal issues notwithstanding. Archives must
        elaborate specific policies that address such issues reasonably,
        showing good faith to both parties.

        Archives are inherently positioned between the donor/owners of
        the collections on the one hand and the scholars/users of the
        collections on the other.  You have to make them both happy.

4.  There is no intellectually justifiable way to make selection.

All movies are valuable to somebody for something.  History will turn
the tables on what is important.  In the end, everything might be
important. *But* there is no way practically *not* to make selection,
because you don't have endless resources.  The answer:  Have Humility!
Don't precipitously make judgments, but you still have to make


    Since there is no justifiable way to make selection and everything
    cries out to be preserved--but there is not money to preserve
    everything--choices need to be made.  One of the vastly overlooked
    area of preservation is in the "orphaned" films, i.e. those with no
    owner, amateur productions, actualities.  Since the studios can
    contribute to the preservation of studio feature films, there must
    be attention put to those films that are orphaned.

5.  The inter-penetration of different aspects of the moving image media
    make it unjustifiable in intellectual terms to draw clear
    distinction between different modes of the media *but* you have to
    draw some distinction!


    Since multi media will create new problems of what to preserve and
    it is impossible to do it all, guidelines need to be drawn.  There
    is an interrelationship between purity of the art form and various
    types of copies,, film size, film generation, laserdisc
    etc.  Although each form is of interest, the emphasis in film
    preservation must rest with the closest to the original.  This
    master holds more information than any reproduction can.  We must
    also embrace the new technologies as they may hold the key to long
    term storage, however until stability occurs, caution must exist in
    using the new technologies at present for preservation.  We know
    film can last upwards to 100+ years vs. new technologies that are
    constantly evolving and becoming obsolete.

** Part II

Robert Rosen's
Buy all the Hype!
Head in the Sand!

Five reasons why the new digital technologies are precipitating changes
that are radically new and causing fundamental shifts in our conception
of what film archives do [and probably what all archives do].

1.  Digital technologies mean that records--sound, images, text,
    etc.--are infinitely reconfigurable, both practically and

Fundamentally a "packaging" issue arises, because so many aspects of
media were formerly in different packages.  But with digital they are
all in the same box, physically and conceptually, i.e. the digital


    A.  These materials can now be related to each other in new ways.
        [Sound, images, text can be reconfigured in myriad new
        combinations]. This also means the nature of institutions has
        completely changed, because institutions that formerly only
        collected one kind of media potentially have everything in the
        digital world. Institutions are actually creating a new
        products.  Now institutions must ask "What do we collect?" since
        with infinite reconfigurability one literally has hundreds of
        new products.

    B.  All materials are now recyclable.  Now access to everything is
        possible in new ways.  This prompts radical change in the
        demands on these "new collections."

2.  Digital records are infinitely mutable and transformable.

Seeing is not believing!


    A.  This has important implications for conservation.  Now materials
        can be "recreated" or "fixed" invisibly [and without affecting
        the original].

    B.  New "product",  i.e. new versions that can be created so easily,
        present new problems for keeping track of these new works or
        multiple versions.

    C.  Images can be "fixed" so easily that this creates a basic shift
        in the reliability of information about an institution's
        holdings.  This means the institution must now create new kinds
        of documentation or cataloguing about the mutations.

3.  Interactivity--Quantitative [Quantum] Leap

There is no longer one way communication.  The audience is not just
passive. There is no end to the array of interactivity.


    A.  Implications about access:  paradigm shift.  Before, the user
        wanted to get his/her hands on the item, the record, etc.  Now
        they want to get their mind around it.  The spectator is
        empowered to get a handle on the work to conform to the
        aesthetic agenda that the spectator can expect.

    B.  Access to all the back up materials is possible:  set-ups, sets,
        text, etc. can all be looked at once.  This makes possible
        dialogue between all the forms, the medium is much more intense
        and expansive.

    C.  Redefines publishing.  This opens the interpretive possibilities
        that actually guide the user and opens different paths through
        the collections one has.

4.  Digital technology is infinitely and perfectly reproducible.


    A.  The loss of information in traditional preservation is always
        there as a cost.  But preservation without loss is now possible.
        Preservation used to be a single act, but now it may be an
        ongoing process, i.e. periodic recopying.  This changes the
        institution's notion of preservation.

    B.  Copyright--how it plays out between donors and users.  Copyright
        owners will be able keep copyright longer because the item will
        be out there longer.  But, of course, digital technology will
        also strike terror in owners because of the ease of copying.
        Paradoxically, because of the proliferation of copies, there
        might be less paranoia, i.e. a new attitude of trust.  In a
        nutshell, the relationships between owners and archivists and
        users will all be affected by this factor.

5.  Digital technologies are easily transmittable.

Huge amounts of data are easily movable.  This will bring about the
ability to transmit excellent images at relatively low cost over vast


    A.  Where is the archives?  Virtual or physical building.  Archive
        boundaries become vague.

    B.  Access agreements are tremendously affected, especially when
        institutions want to transmit items that they don't own or have
        the rights to.  This is new terrain.

    C.  Exhibition.  What "prints" [here alluding to motion picture
        prints] will the archive collect.  Since there may be relatively
        few prints around, what does an archive collect and exhibit.

    D.  Recreating the "experience" may create an increase in the
        commitment to be able to recreate the experience of collections,
        e.g.  maintaining the hardware to show 35mm [motion picture]

    E.  Either an institution will become a museum of the analog art
        form and cease to function as an archive of new forms *or* the
        institution has to go through some radical changes about the
        principles of what it acquires, how these items are configured,
        and how access is provided.  There is nothing wrong with museums
        [in the old fashioned sense], but if one is going to continue to
        be an archive, the changes are of huge qualitative dimensions
        and have to be confronted.

    F.  Institutions may play a new role in keeping track of what media
        is available and what was available, i.e. documenting the media.

In sum, there is a paradigm shift from an economy based on real estate
to an economy based on information.

Robert Espinosa
Preservation Librarian
Brigham Young University
Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT  84602

                  Conservation DistList Instance 8:24
                  Distributed: Sunday, October 2, 1994
                        Message Id: cdl-8-24-003
Received on Thursday, 29 September, 1994

[Search all CoOL documents]