Theory class Questions

Intro to Moving Image Archiving & Preservation


General discussion questions

  1. What do you collect now?(Howard collects T-Shirts) What have you collected in the past, and at what points in your life?
  2. What does Baudrillard have to say about collecting reflecting stages of life/development? (substitute for lack of physical sexuality; an anal stage with accumulation, ordering, aggressive retention; like a harem) How does this make you feel?
  3. What is the difference between collecting and accumulating?
  4. What are the differences between institutional collections and a personal collections? Are these differences always true?
  5. Why does an individual collect? Why does an institution collect?
  6. Is authenticity important in a collection? What are ways of assuring authenticity?
  7. Are objects in a collection important because of their own attributes, or because they represent a group or class of objects or ideas?
  8. Are objects collected because of use-value, exchange-value, or something else?


  1. Are there clear boundaries as to what constitute Òmoving imageÓ works?
  2. Why might the word ÒarchiveÓ not necessarily be apt for all moving image repositories?
  3. What are the functions of an audiovisual archive?
  4. Is audiovisual archiving a profession? Is it a subset of a larger profession (like Archiving) or is it totally independent? What other professions is it related to? Does it have its own theories and methodologies? Is it a discipline?
  5. Should a moving image repository look at a work as informational? Artistic? Historical?
  6. Taxonomies of archives:
  7. What are some of the ÒlabelÓ categories for audiovisual archives?
  8. What are some of the ÒprofileÓ categories ? that govern what a repository collects?
  9. Can we (or should we) try to save everything? Is selection important? Is the act of collecting sometimes obsessive or fetishistic?
  10. What are the personal and institutional ethics associated with this field?

Benjamin -- Unpacking Library

  1. Does Benjamin seem more interested in the content of the books, or in the fact that he possesses them? Is there a major difference between informational value of a work, and artifactual value? What does reformatting do to the artifactual value of a work? Can a video work have artifactual value? Can a digital work?
  2. Books are mass produced commodities. Is BenjaminÕs experience with his collection a mass experience or a unique one?
  3. Collections have their Òprize piecesÓ and general pieces. What would a collection of just one without the other be like?
  4. Benjamin says that the primary relationship a collector has is with collecting rather than with his/her collection. Do you think that this is true for collectors? Should it be true for collection managers?
  5. What do each of you collect? As Benjamin contends, does looking at any piece in your collection conjure up memories of how that piece was acquired? How does this relate to the role of an institutional collector, and what happens to those memories when the person who acquired it dies?
  6. Benjamin implies that a collection gets its coherence by being a set of objects that its owner likes for some reason or another. Do institutional collections ever (or sometimes) get their coherence the same way?
  7. Benjamin also implies that collecting is more about possessing and owning, and that objects are not collected for any kind of functional value. He says that the ÒcollectorÕs attitude towards his possessions stems from an ownerÕs feeling of responsibility towards his propertyÓ. And he says that Òownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objectsÓ. Do you agree? And is that also true of institutional collections?
  8. Comment on BenjaminÕs statement: ÒEven though public collections may be less objectionable socially and ore useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter.Ó
  9. Comment on ÒOnly in extinction is the collector comprehended.Ó
  10. How is an institutional collector different from an individual collector?

Belk -- A Brief History of Collecting

  1. In Hellenist Greece, art that had previously been confined to fixed installations in public spaces (frescos, architecture) became portable (on wood) and suitable for the home. How did this change art? How did this change the popular perception of artists?
  2. During Greek and Roman times, items from foreign locations and cultures were collected. How did the notion of Òthe otherÓ contribute to peoplesÕ interests in collecting?
  3. What kinds of attributes have been important to collectors almost from the beginning?
  4. Belk says that forgery emerged in ancient Rome, and gives examples like the display of clothing purported to be worn by Odysseus and selling of silver cups belonging to Achilles. What makes an object valuable? Is it craft/aesthetics, utility, or association? Are different collecting institutions today particularly interested in one or another of these types of value? And what makes an object ÒauthenticÓ? Is authenticity more important for some types of value than for others?
  5. What methods are used to assert authenticity? Apparently, during the late Ming Period, forgeries and bootlegs were so common that only 10% of the paintings owned by collectors were genuine. And forgers put more effort into producing seals and inscriptions (that served as assurances of authenticity) than into producing good imitations. What methods do we use today to judge authenticity?
  6. Individual collecting as we know it today really began during the Renaissance. What kind of factors gave rise to this?
  7. Personal collections developed in the form of Wunderkammern and Kunstkammern (cabinets of curiosity). These had all types of weird things in them, and seldom followed the specialization collections that we have today, both in cultural institutions (where they are specialized by form or by discipline) or personal collections (where they are usually specialized by a very precise thing, like baseball cards). In any individual collection of that time period, what was the unifying theme? And how were the objects arranged? Does arranging objects in certain ways create a new way of looking at them? 
  8. Classification systemsÑhave they always been with us? What form did they start to take in 15th and 16th century Europe? As these collections became more specialized in the late 17th and 18th centuries (ethnographic, art, natural history), how did that parallel popular views of the world?
  9. Why do we acquire any type of object ?clothes, cars, furniture? Is it merely utility? 
  10. Do collections gain their power from the rarity or uniqueness of the individual objects? Or from the perceived cohesion of the collection as a whole? (Think also of programmed film series, festivals, particular theaters, etc.) Is rareness critical?
  11. Most art museums and many history museums only collect unique objects. With the advent of mass production, more and more historical and artistic collections are mass produced. How has this affected attitudes towards collecting? What is ÒauthenticityÓ in an age of mass production? It has been said that the more common a symbol is, the less powerful it becomes. Does power/value only come from uniqueness? What about mass produced images or consumer goods? Is favoring uniqueness and aura and elitist position?
  12. On what basis do we value a collection? How important is our evaluation of the taste of the person in charge of selection? Is there a difference between art and bric-a-brac? If someone with authority suddenly declares that a piece of bric-a-brac is art, do we believe them? Is the Prelinger collection something we consider valuable? Was it always? Do class and gender play a role in what we consider worthy of collecting?
  13. The notion of Connoisseurship arose during the Enlightenment. What does a connoisseur bring? What are the differences between a connoisseur and a mere collector? Is connoisseurship a way of attempting to assert class superiority?
  14. How has connoisseurship over building a private collection, then donating it to a public institution ? how has this been used to overcome negative public perception over ill-gotten gains? What factors have made this less successful? What is a Òpatron of the artsÓ?
  15. Collection development is related to what the collection is attempting to be. How would collection development policies be different for a collection that tries to reflect the selectorÕs aesthetic ideas vs. one that tries to be encyclopedic over a particular taxonomy?
  16. What is the relationship between the rise of collecting and the rise of consumer culture? But arenÕt collectors also producers?

Baudrillard -- System of Collecting

  1. Baudrillard says that for objects we possess that have no utilitarian value, itÕs value is only in relation to us. The object then reflects back our own personal subjectivity, and becomes only part of a system of all the objects that we possess.
  2. Baudrillard contends that we value each item in our collection both because of its own fairly unique attributes, and for it really being substitutable with others. What does he say are the implications of this?
  3. What does Baudrillard have to say about a collection that needs just one more object to make it complete? 
  4. What does Baudrillard say that an individual gets from his/her collection of objects?
  5. Baudrillard says that a collection gets some of its power from the jealousy it creates in others. Do you think that this is true for moving image collections? Are they as closely guarded as Baudrillard says?


1.How are moving images and sound part of the larger visual culture and ways of looking and seeing? How does our understanding of visual culture impact our role in moving image archiving and preservation?
  1. Is there a social context to viewing an object? (is viewing a video at home the same as viewing a film in a theater? Is viewing a mural on a screen the same as viewing it in-situ?)
  2. Are there ethical considerations in format conversions (e.g., film colorization, pan-and-scan?)
4.Who collects what? for whom? and why?  How do collections define their collectors?
5.How have museums influenced colonialism, nationalism, and taxonomies (categories) of knowledge?

6.What kinds of interdependence exists between institutions of collecting and certain methodological goals of art history and anthropology?

7.How can we learn to read exhibits critically?  What is a ÔrhetoricÕ or ÔpoeticsÕ of display?

8.How do ethnicities and genders appear--or disappear--in museum contexts?

9.How do museums also function to support a local community memory and history?

10.How do artists view museums as social institutions?

11.How can we imagine collecting practices and museums in the future?

12.How can the history of collecting be read as an interdisciplinary intellectual practice?

13.Why do we need museums?  What should  they look like? What kinds of museums and collections  might we have in the future?  What role might electronic media play in the  rethinking of the museum?  Would changes in museum practice necessitate changes  in the disciplines of art history and anthropology?

  1. How do reformatting and multiple formats of the same work change how we look at a work? (e.g., are videos the same as films? Are digital photographs the same as analog photos?)
  2. Who attributes value to a work, and under what circumstances? How does one deal with the different values that different communities may have towards any particular set of works?
16.Issues of evidence and authenticity

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