Thesis Time in New York City

Thesis-presentation time is upon students in New York University’s two-year Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program. March 28, as part of the requirements for a master of arts degree, candidates will present an academic paper, a preservation project, or a professional portfolio.

Do their subjects provide some sense of the moving-image-archivist zeitgeist? Their topics range through archiving newsfilm collections, preserving web sites, archiving movie trailers, identifying film stock, projecting archival film, and the effects of copyright on film preservation.

A still from "I Remember Harlem," by Bill Miles
Candace Ming (“Bill Miles: Independent Producers and the State of the Archive”) surveys the career of Bill Miles, who from the late 1970s produced several award-winning films for WNET/13 I New York City, but today is little remembered. Ming checked on the state of Miles’s films, which are held at Washington University in St. Louis, Indiana University, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and suggests a preservation plan for them.

Miles became interested in making films about African-American life while working for 25 years in restoring archival films and early features for Killiam Shows, Inc., and the Walter Reade Organization in New York. His films include the four-part series I Remember Harlem (1981), in which he traces the history of that part of the city from the 1600s to the early 1980s – Harlem’s settlement, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, the Civil Right Movement, the era of Malcolm X, redevelopment in the 1970s…

Miles won an Emmy Award, was nominated for an Oscar, was inducted into the Black Filmmaker’s Hall of Fame, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) for his contributions to the history of African Americans in film.

Joan Crawford, in that dress, in "Letty Lynton"
"Letty Lynton" movie poster
Also visiting the past is Ashley Swinnerton (“Whatever Happened to Letty Lynton? The Long-Term Effects of Copyright on Archival Film”). In a case study of how the “copyright morass” keeps some film gems from exhibition, Swinnerton considers the 1932 film Letty Lynton,  memorable for its star Joan Crawford’s puffed-sleeve white-organdy gown and for being “nearly impossible to see since its original release.” Swinnerton also asks how the phenomenon of “locked but not lost” films bears on the culture of piracy.

Is the answer “archival-friendly projection in the cinema? Ask Brittan Dunham (“Reclaiming Theater Row: An Argument for Archival-Friendly Projection in the Cinema”).

JungYun Oh (“Preserving Local Memories: Archiving Newsfilm Collections and Creating a Guide for the KCRA Collection”) suggests that, compared with newsreels, newsfilm, a valuable record of local and national everyday life, has been neglected. Oh surveys American newsfilm collections and considers three well-managed examples, including the Center for Sacramento History’s collection of newsfilm from KCRA, a Sacramento television station.

Samantha Oddi (“Saving the New Idiot Box: A History of Web Series and the Challenges of Preservation”) explores the history of web series and video on the Internet, and the challenges of archiving them.

Erik Piil (“DuPont Motion Picture Film: A History of Manufacture and Physical Characteristics as an Aid to Identification”) investigates the “edge information” on film stock – the markings that manufacturers have long impressed on the edges of their film. Piil notes that the information, which was originally confidential, can be revealed to provide the film’s history – its manufacturing date, laboratory procedures, and provenance. He studies, in particular, DuPont motion picture film.

He compares ‘specimens’ of original Pathé newsreel elements shot on Du Pont stock, collected from the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections.

Samantha Losben (“Coming Soon to an Archive Near You: Movie Trailers and Their Need for Access & Preservation”) objects to the common view that trailers, which promote the industry as often are creative products, have long been viewed as disposable elements of the cinema experience. She explores archives’ treatment of trailers, and finds it often haphazard. She makes a case study of trailers from the 1940s to the 1960s, and studies the collections at several archives.

Categories: Shorts

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