Moving Image Archiving and Preservation

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Howard Besser's Remarks at the MIAP Program Kick-Off Reception

From the beginning, film has been many different things: documentation, art, entertainment

And even though, in most peoples' eyes, "film as entertainment" has won out, our department/school’s commitment has remained to film in all its myriad forms. So this program will not just treat old Hollywood films, but also art films, conceptual films, political films, documentaries, newsreels, etc.

And we will not only deal with moving images on film stock, but will spend significant amounts of time dealing with video and new media. Our students will gain experience with material ranging from 1950s television documentaries, to the large videotape library of performances at The Kitchen, to videotapes and CD-ROMs made for art museum installations, to Web-originated moving image art (and beyond).

But in order to learn how to preserve this type of material, our students will need to be highly interdisciplinary. They'll need to:

With this large set of interdisciplinary skill sets, there's no way that we can effectively teach them alone. We expect this to be a major collaboratory effort, and we hope that many of you in this room will join us in partnerships to make this happen. We hope to be working with NYU's existing degree programs in Museum Studies, paper-based archives, and art conservation. We would like to work closely with the wide number of museums, archives, and commercial enterprises that have large collections of moving image materials. And we expect to utilize the skills of area archivists and librarians to both teach our students and to provide important internship opportunities.

I truly believe that NY is one of the few places that we could pull off the kind of complex instruction needed for the Moving Image Archivist of the future. Nowhere else is there such a rich set of repositories of film, video, and new media. Nowhere else is there the number of commercial labs that do the important kind of experimentation and restoration work that our students need to be exposed to. And nowhere else is there such an incredible set of talented individuals with the skillsets needed and the interest in Moving Image Preservation.

I'm looking forward to working with many of you here in this room in order to train a new generation of custodians of our cultural heritage. This training has to involve more than the kind of apprenticeship that has traditionally characterized this field. To be an effective Moving Image Archivist in the future will require a combination of the professional and the theoretical, and the ability to apply concepts to communications technology of the future that we’ve never even dreamed of today. We want our graduates to act as "change agents" in the organizations they go into. We want to instill in them a commitment to preserve the future as well as the past. And hopefully, many of us will be working together to make sure that the moving image artifacts of the 20th century and beyond are available to our grandchildrens' grandchildrens' grandchildren.