This special “Histories of Moving Image Archives” issue began with a call for contributions “that explore moving image archive history, attending to archives large and small, urban and rural, government-run and independent, in the U.S. and abroad.” Many months later, this issue offers essays covering almost all the territory laid out in this original call, which sought to bring together documentation and analysis of an array of archival organizations and practices. Essays and Forum pieces appear in the pages that follow on the subjects of collections, collectors, and archivists based in Italy, the United States (Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Washington State), India, Cuba, France, and Austria. Although far from comprehensive, the writing gathered here paints an interesting international portrait of audiovisual archiving’s past, present, and future in contexts that vary quite radically in terms of resources and politics. These essays also collectively suggest how much we still have to learn about archival history.
The issue begins with an essay that is theoretically and historically engaged with the work of archiving: “From Nitrate to Digital Archive: The Davide Turconi Project.” This essay is focused on the legacy left by Turconi, cofounder of the Giornate del Cinema Muto, whose collection of frame clippings forms the basis for the archival project under discussion here. Alicia Fletcher and Joshua Yumibe grapple with issues of preservation and format migration through the lens of this major nitrate film project. As they put it, “a timeline of the collection’s care—from the early 1900s to present day—lays bare the history of film preservation and archival practices.” Indeed, their essay traces changes in archival practice in a fashion that engages with issues at the forefront of our digitally oriented culture to suggest the ways in which film’s very materiality is at stake in this time of radical technological transformation. [End Page viii]
Individuals like Turconi always play a role in the history of film preservation, and this is certainly the case for the collection that Dino Everett and Jennifer Peterson team up to discuss in “When Film Went to College: A Brief History of the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive.” Focusing on the archive’s nontheatrical film holdings, Everett and Peterson use this collection’s internally well-documented history in the non-theatrical field to suggest “the role universities played in the educational film market in the mid-twentieth century, at a time when 16mm nontheatrical cinema was at its peak.” The University of Southern California (USC) produced as well as distributed nontheatrical films, and the campus remains a major repository of this important part of the nation’s moving image heritage. Everett and Peterson aim to document the significant role played by the former head of Audio-Visual Services at the archives, Herbert E. Farmer, who created and cared for the collection from its inception (1947) until his retirement (1992), shaping the archive and its holdings in ways that are still evident today. Like so many unsung advocates, collectors, and gatekeepers, Farmer is somewhat of a lost figure to USC, nontheatrical film, and archival history, and Everett and Peterson have done the diligent work here of bringing his contributions to light.
Utilization and resources are key issues for the archival community, and the next essay in this issue addresses these in a very particular set of circumstances. Using her experience in Cuba with the International Federation of Film Archives’s (FIAF) School on Wheels initiative as a jumping-off point, Janet Ceja Alcalá’s “Imperfect Archives and the Principle of Social Praxis in the History of Film Preservation in Latin America” examines motion picture archiving in Latin America. Using the idea of “imperfect” archives, Alcalá discusses the intersections between politics and archiving in this national and political context, arguing for the value of these archives despite, and perhaps precisely because of, the financial limitations and censorship practices that have made their existence so problematic and difficult. Linking ideas of national cinema to international politics, the author understands what has been widely acknowledged as the socially constructed nature of archiving in the unique contexts of Latin America. As Alcalá puts it, “the...