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  • Surveying AMIA’s First Twenty Years
  • Jan-Christopher Horak (bio)

In February 1991, film and television archivists who had been meeting as the Film/Television Archives Advisory Committee (F/TAAC) for over fifteen years voted to formalize as an individual-based professional organization, the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). In the late 1980s, the ad hoc organization’s mailing list had grown dramatically from fewer than one hundred persons and organizations to more than seven hundred. Ballots were sent out to every individual who had attended at least two F/TAAC conferences since 1984. Of the sixty-eight ballots returned, sixty (88 percent) voted for formalization.1 By the time AMIA met for its first official conference in New York in November 1991, an “executive committee” consisting of William Murphy (president), me (vice president), Gregory Lukow (secretary), and Karan Sheldon (treasurer) had been elected and now presided over the fall conference, which was held between November 5 and 9, 1991, at the fabulous St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South.

President Bill Murphy called the first official meeting of the new association to order on November 8. One of the first orders of business was to establish a dues structure, which, after some debate, was approved at the level of fifty dollars per year. According to the minutes, “a number of attendees immediately gave personal checks to the Treasurer of charter memberships in the association.” The first five members were Steve Davidson, D. J. Turner, Richard Costellano, Ruth Tamura, and me.2 Unfortunately, dues-paying membership would grow much less quickly than the free mailing list had. In the first several years of AMIA’s existence, membership hovered around two hundred, with approximately thirty to forty nonprofit and for-profit institutional members. Given the initial slow growth, the executive board established an ad hoc Membership Development Committee in March 1995. That committee published its report in summer 1996 and was simultaneously transitioned to a permanent committee of the board. Among the committee’s recommendations were to develop membership among the production and broadcast communities, students, and faculty in moving image archive programs; among archivists whose mandate encompassed materials other than moving images; and among commercial and nonprofit institutions connected to moving image preservation. It also called for a Web site, an AMIA logo, a brochure, and alliances with similar archival organizations.3 By 1997, AMIA membership had grown to 419 from 266 in 1995, inching up to 576 in the year 2000. Not until 2008 would membership peak at 1,033 members. Analyzing just who was signing up year for year, one can see that membership not only grew relatively slowly but that there was a 43 percent attrition rate between 2001 and 2003 and a 35 percent attrition rate between 2003 and 2005, which meant that even though overall membership increased slightly from 633 (2001) members to 672 (2003) members, in fact, 312 new members had actually joined, with a concomitant loss of 273 members. Between 2003 and 2005, AMIA again gained 255 new members but lost 237 members. Indeed, for twenty years, AMIA has relied on a core of activist members, probably numbering only a couple hundred.

Even before the New York conference, the executive board had begun the process of incorporation so that AMIA could be registered as a nonprofit public benefit corporation with 501(c)(3) tax status. Lukow reported in New York that AMIA would be incorporated in the state of California, with Eddie Richmond from the UCLA Film & Television Archive as its resident agent. The process of incorporation was completed in January 1993 and was approved at the AMIA Chicago conference in October that same year. The association filed for tax-exempt status with both the federal government and the state of California in August 1993.

For the business meeting’s next agenda point, I spoke about AMIA’s relationship to the American Film Institute (AFI). Through its National Center for Film Preservation, AFI had been providing a whole host of secretarial and organizational services for F/TAAC, including publishing the conference programs and the F/TAAC Newsletter, which, with issue numbers 11–12, was renamed the AMIA Newsletter. [End Page 113]



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