- Audiovisual Archiving and the World of Tomorrow:Explorations into Accreditation and Certification
A profession is a body of people in a learned occupation who agree upon and maintain codified values, ethics, and practices within their field, which in turn safeguard the integrity of the profession. Professionals require a specialized education in which these values, ethics, and practices are taught. Professions require a forum in which these values, ethics, and practices are debated. Thus, professionals compose a professional community, but they also give back to the community. As such, professions are widely recognized by the general public, the government, and the private sector, who all hold the professions accountable for the actions of all their practitioners. The presence of accountability—both internally and externally—is integral to a profession, as it indicates that a profession has a function in and a responsibility to society. Among the common elements that inform a profession are work autonomy; a specialized core body of knowledge, ethics, principles, and values defined and upheld by committed individuals and organizations; a body of literature; and control of a job market. In order to synthesize all these elements, there must exist a standardized method of educating a profession's practitioners.
The type of education may vary from internships, workshops, individual courses, and long-distance training to college diplomas, advanced university degrees, examinations, and certifications. In most professions, such as law, medicine, and accounting, the successful completion of one or a combination of these options is required before a practitioner may legally commence working. Standardized education is used as a tool to ensure that would-be practitioners share the essential background knowledge and skill sets to perform their job according to a set of established standards. One method of standardizing education is through the process of accrediting professional or specialized graduate-level education. Accreditation refers to the recognition process whereby a governing body—usually part of an existing association—outlines standards in graduate education and has the power to accredit programs that meet established criteria. A second method of standardizing education is through certification, whereby an individual is recognized as possessing defined skills and knowledge to perform required tasks in accordance with minimum standards set by one or several governing bodies or institutions.
It has been more than one hundred years since Boleslaw Matuszewski wrote his futuristic text "A New Source of History" and the first paper prints of films were deposited in the Library of Congress. In terms of being a professional field, however, audiovisual archiving has yet to mature. One factor contributing to this state of affairs is that audiovisual archiving has lacked a formalized method of educating [End Page 102] its practitioners. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, such education was largely a matter of on-the-job training supplemented by occasional workshops and seminars.2 During this period, there were limited forums for discussion outside of a handful of institutions, such as the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), and professional literature was scant. There existed neither codified values nor standards by which the community of audiovisual archivists could work or be identified. The 1998 UNESCO publication Philosophy of Audiovisual Archiving: Principles and Practices was one of the first attempts to codify values and standards within the audiovisual field. Its author, Ray Edmondson, observed that the field and its practitioners lacked a clear identity and recognition within the collecting professions, the government, the audiovisual industries, and the public as a whole. He noted that a lack of synthesized values, ethics, principles, and perceptions created a vacuum at the profession's core.3
Today, however, the outlook is less bleak. Best practices and standards in every aspect of the field—from preservation to cataloging to access—are beginning to emerge. The Moving Image Collections (MIC) initiative is an example of organizations and individuals both within the audiovisual archiving field and in related fields creating and sharing cataloging and access standards. Opportunities for community discussions and lobbying have increased with the proliferation of professional associations such as the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), the International Federation of Television Archives (FIAT), the International Association of Sound Archives (IASA), and the Audiovisual Archiving Philosophy Interest Network...