- Archival SpotlightCommunity Archiving with the National Black Programming Consortium
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"I'm thinking, now, preservation is the next important place that we all need to go because we do all of this work and then we die but we need to be very strategic about leaving our footprint. So, I'm here to learn with everybody else and I appreciate the opportunity to learn and it's been great for me," proclaimed Mable Haddock, cofounder of the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), at a community archiving workshop that took place in 2015 at Downtown Community Television in New York City.1 It was at this workshop that Haddock got the spark that ultimately fueled the collaboration [End Page 298] between NBPC and the graduate students from Community Archiving: Media Collections, a graduate course in New York University's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program. Community archiving workshops bring together those who study archival practice and those who are interested in it to inspect and inventory endangered media collections. In the process of putting together a workshop, relationships are built with local organizations. The idea is to jump-start an initiative within an organization to begin the inventory process of their collection. Mona Jimenez, Co-Associate Director and Associate Arts Professor at MIAP, summed it up perfectly: "My idea was to bring people around a collection, people who had some expertise in archiving and those who were new to archiving. That's part of the whole tradition within independent media, which is we don't have to BE experts, we can learn how to do things, we can share with each other, we can do it, whatever it is. Teaching one another to do the work."2
As stated in the press release for the workshop, "NBPC is one of five minority consortia funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and has worked to bring Black voices to the airwaves since the 1980s, expanding into in-house production in the 1990s. However, much of NBPC's rich and precious resources have been locked away in older video formats."3 Their historic collection includes U-matic videocassettes as well as other legacy video formats used by pioneering and pivotal documentarians "starting in the 1970s to record stories showcasing the rich spectrum of the Black experience."4 The MIAP program has been organizing these workshops since 2009, but in 2010 the Independent Media Interest Group of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) held their first workshop based on the model created by the MIAP program.
ImageNation, a Harlem-based media arts group, provided a warm and inviting atmosphere for the day of the workshop at their RAW SPACE venue. This was a pleasant departure from the storage space the class had rescued the dusty boxes from the morning of the workshop. Leslie Fields-Cruz, executive director of NBPC, attended the workshop and stated, "I've been with NBPC for the last fifteen years and I've only kind of known what's in these boxes, but not really how far back do they go, what kind of tapes do we have. For my own personal understanding of the archiving process, I'm really interested to see how we go through our own collection and to log that information. Now, I can think about where we are going to send it and who we are going to give it to."5
By inspecting and inventorying these tapes, NBPC will be able to make an informed decision about how to preserve the content of these videotapes. The goal of community archiving workshops is to do just that. This workshop brought together librarians, archivists, friends of NBPC, a historian, an archival producer, and budding archival students, many of whom had never [End Page 299] seen a U-matic tape before, which only elevated the curiosity of the participants. Not only were they going to learn about the content of these tapes by attending the workshop, but they would learn...