Cinema Studies
For Students:

MIAP Internship Guidelines for Ethics and Professional Practices


Introduction

MIAP internships provide an excellent training ground in the conservation and management of moving images collections and related materials. Not only do the internships often offer an opportunity for hands-on work with collections, they also give the student a chance to observe institutional practices in a wide variety of repositories. The experiences serve the student well as s/he refines a set of goals for employment, and a focus for his/her contribution to the field of moving image preservation.

For the site, the work performed by the student provides very concrete benefits. While all sites involve mentoring by an archivist, a conservator, a librarian or a moving image preservationist, many of the sites do not employ full-time, permanent moving image professionals. The student will have the satisfaction of knowing that their contribution has enabled the organization address materials that are in great need of attention. For established archives, the student will help the site address materials in their collection both in more depth and at a faster pace. In other cases, such as at commercial television sites, the student's contribution substantially increases access to materials for researchers and producers.

The foundation of a successful internship is the proper match of student and site, where both parties understand and agree to a common set of goals and expectations. The first step is placement; the procedures for placement are outlined in a letter from the department which is emailed in July and October for semester internships and in November for summer internships.

A set of benchmarks help clarify goals and expectations and form the basis from which faculty of the Directed Internship can evaluate student progress for grading purposes.

Through bi-weekly Directed Internship classes, students will have an opportunity to discuss their experiences and gain support from faculty and fellow students. This may involve discussion of interesting issues of theory or practice raised by the work, sharing ideas for resources, and problem-solving approaches to the tasks at hand.


Professional Work Conduct 

Professional conduct at an internship is much like any other volunteer or paid position -- punctuality, meeting the required hours, communication about changes in schedules, follow-through on required tasks, a team approach, and open communication are some of the basics that we all strive for in our work lives.

The community of moving image preservationists is such that recommendations from internship supervisors are often key to  the student's future employment. MIAP internships can be very significant in terms of professional development on many different levels. In addition, the student is an ambassador of the MIAP Program, and his/her attitude and performance reflects upon the larger program and department. The student's role in maintaining relationships with our partners should not be under-estimated.

As with all partnerships, there are times when work relationships are not as we wish. Clarifying expectations/tasks and asking for guidance are basic to good communication and supervisors should be available when you get stuck. Often opening up lines of communication will go a long way to improving the work environment, but it is important to address issues as they come up, rather than letting an uncomfortable situation fester. In some cases, issues may be appropriate for group discussion during internship meetings, such as confusion about one's role in suggesting a certain approach to archiving, or general interpersonal problems such dealing with territorial staff or resistance to change. However, if problems are developing with the supervisor, or there are situations that are affecting the student's ability to do his/her job, the student should talk to the faculty of the Directed Internship.

In general, faculty will first act as a sounding-board and will discuss ways for the student to tackle the issues. Direct communication at the site is always preferable. However, if the problems are not resolving, a three-way conversation with student, faculty and site may be needed. 

It is important to know personal limits, and to recognize that most interns, at some point, feel under-prepared to undertake the work. Some sites are just beginning to address their moving images and related materials, while others have solid long-standing preservation programs. Depending on the site and which semester the student is working, the student may have more knowledge about the specifics of moving image preservation than the permanent staff.  Also, in some cases, the site's practices for handling moving image may go against what the student believes to be standard practices or common sense. Look at the experience as an opportunity to observe -- and use the internship meetings to voice your concerns and problem-solve. Moving image professionals, especially consultants, often need to suspend judgement to offer the best service and to gain insight into current practices, even those that one may feel have out-lived their usefulness.

Not every site will have the student fill out timesheets, so students may need to keep track of their own hours. It is very important to establish a record in case disputes arise over required hours. We also suggest that the student inform their supervisor well in advance of any changes in schedule, and have clarity about what is expected when they have an unavoidable absence. Sending confirming emails about agreements for time-off, schedule changes, and make-up days is also good practice.

 

Guidelines for Ethics and Professional Practices

Each environment or community will have its own codes of conduct and professional practices. During the course of the program, many of these will be addressed in depth. Below are a few to keep in mind as the student begins their internship. The student should also ask the supervisor if the site has any written policies in these areas that the student could take a look at.

For links to guidelines for professional practice see the syllabus for the Introduction class -- the week Perspectives on Collecting, Conservation & Preservation. (http://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/curriculum.html). See also FIAF's code of Ethics.

 

Respect for mission and goals 

In order for an organization to function well, all staff, volunteer, and board members must agree with and respect the mission and basic goals. Thus, in selecting a site, it is important that the student feels that they can get behind the organization and help it carry out its mission. This may seem unimportant to mention, but it is essential, as the mission gives meaning and purpose to our work. Neither the organization nor the student benefits from a mismatch of goals. While we may not agree with every detail of implementation of the mission, reminding ourselves of why we do the work we do can help us take the "high road" in working through daily decision-making and less-than-perfect communication. Observation of the congruence (or lack thereof) of mission, goals, and activities is an invaluable lesson for moving image preservationists.

 

Confidentiality

It is important that you ask your supervisor about the organization's policy on confidentiality. These policies are derived from one or more of the following concerns:

  • That volunteers/staff not benefit personally from access to materials
  • That the privacy of certain donors or subjects be protected
  • That the organization wants to control the manner in which the public and community are apprised of the practices and scope of the collection
  • That business interests may be affected by disclosure

Confidentiality policies and professional codes of conduct typically try to balance the needs of organizations with the recognition that information about collections, when shared, advances the field of preservation by providing case studies for education and research.  They may include the following:

  • Relationships with an owner, custodian, or authorized agent may be confidential.  In the case of MIAP internships, the student does not need to keep their relationship confidential. However, privacy may be required in your role as a consultant when your professional career begins.
  • Information derived from work on a collection should not be
    published or otherwise made public without written permission
  • The practices, scope and donors of a collection should not be disclosed without permission. Practices can be discussed in general terms if the identity of the organization is not disclosed, and the practices cannot be attributed to a particular organization.

Security

The security of collections is very important and there will often be spoken, or unspoken guidelines for security. For example, is it OK to leave collections unattended when you go to lunch? What doors need to be locked? Again, asking about security policies will avoid mis-understandings later.


Care & handling and treatment 

As noted above, repositories will have different levels of expertise in archiving and moving image preservation. The student may find themself setting standards for care and handling, or carrying out very specific, well-established procedures. The student should use the wisdom of the group and faculty as guidance for how and when to discuss these matters, and how to gain knowledge or access to resources. For example, a student who feels uncomfortable or rusty on film handling can practice splicing and film inspection in the Film Study Center by appointment. In the Intro class, students will be exposed to the identification of film and video elements, which may be very confusing in the first few weeks of the first internship. The best policy is for the student to be honest about their abilities and to be very open to learning.  Going into unknown territory is a theme of the internships and the program as a whole!

There are many resources for care and handling that will be covered in the Intro class. In the interim, the student should seek the advice of the group or faculty. And the student should feel comfortable about asking the supervisor about basic supplies such as cotton gloves to protect the materials.


Health and Safety

Archiving and preservation can be hazardous to health, especially for someone with chronic conditions such as asthma. The internship should never require one to be exposed to hazardous materials without protection, or to have the intern undertaking tasks that are unsafe. Our sites have well-established internship programs and are usually quite cautious in the work that students do. However, information on health and safety for audiovisual archives is not commonplace and the intern should be the first judge of their comfort -- trust your instincts! Do the research necessary to make informed decisions about exposure. A good source of general information about occupational hazards of audiovisual archiving is ScreenSound Australia's Film Preservation Handbook.

If needed, the student should ask the supervisor where masks and gloves are stored, and if simple supplies (such as gloves and face masks can be ordered for the intern's use). It is especially important to have supplies on hand when tackling a collection that has been boxed and has an unknown storage history. The student may wish to invest in an OSHA approved respirator which will be useful as they continue in their career.

The following materials/situations can potentially pose health hazards:

  • Mold -- Some people are very sensitive to mold, and some molds are very toxic, while others are less serious.  Moldy materials are best handled by experts. Spores can be spread from both active and inactive molds. If the intern decides to handle moldy materials, they should wear gloves and a mask, preferably an OSHA approved, fitted mask.
  • Decomposition gases -- Acids created through acetate and nitrate film decomposition, as well as plasticizers in film and tape can pose health hazards. There are common sense rules, such opening a film can away from you, never bringing a tape or film up to your nose, and never burning nitrate film. Well-ventilated areas will decrease the exposure, but again, the intern should trust their instincts, and stop the work and do the necessary research to avoid toxic exposure.
  • Film Cleaning -- The most common film cleaners are solvents, which can be toxic to humans and the environment. Newer solvents, such as 3M's fluoroethers or HFE series, are safer but considered less effective. You owe it to yourself to research the safety of film cleaning before beginning a project. Again, a well-ventilated area will reduce exposure, as will the use of a resirator. For more information on film cleaners, see the chapter on Conservation Treatments in ScreenSound's handbook above.
 

Final Words 

These guidelines will be revised once a year as needed, and many of the topics here were suggested by students or sites. Please feel free to send your comments and suggestions to Alicia Kubes, Howard Besser, or Mona Jimenez. We welcome your contributions.