Archives at Work
Film Archives UK takes a look behind the scenes of our film archives and finds out more about the people who work at the film archives and the variety of their roles. In this fast moving, digital age, it is important that our film is both preserved and made available and the archives are also sustained as a business to service research and footage sales. By reporting from the archives around the UK, ARCHIVES AT WORK will focus on this very special industry, the people involved and the valuable work they do to keep our archives alive.
FAUK aims to feature as many people as possible from our Member archives across the UK – Please get in touch if you would like to be featured in ARCHIVES AT WORK – firstname.lastname@example.org
Film Archive Officer
The Girl Pat herself, abandoned at Demerara and with her owners now reimbursed for her loss, remained as a loose end, and some who had been diverted by the saga formed a syndicate to bring her home. The Captain for the journey home was Commander R W Lawrence, ex-navigator of submarine E14.
Such was the interest in the saga, that 500 applicants applied for positions in the crew. The Girl Pat made her way home after reconditioning and being fitted with wireless. On the 9th of May 1937, thirteen months after leaving Grimsby, the Girl Pat arrived in Portsmouth for paying off, having crossed the Atlantic in 11 days, 19 hours. The footage we hold shows the Captain, and crew coming into harbour at Portsmouth.
STACEY ANDERSON, Executive Director and Archivist, South West Film & Television Archive/SWFTA, Plymouth.
What is your role? My primary responsibility at SWFTA is to oversee the strategic development of the archive which includes: management of staff and collections, media relations and promotion, curation and outreach, funding and budgets, partnerships and projects, social media and the website.
How long have you been at the archive? Since December 2012
Career history? I was appointed Executive Archive Director in December 2012. As a qualified Archivist – the first in SWFTA’s history – I have over 13 years experience of working in and managing a variety of traditional and specialist media and digital archive services in the region: Firstly as a Volunteer, Project Cataloguing Officer and Archive Assistant with Plymouth & West Devon Record Office (2003-2005); a Records Management Analyst with Cornwall County Council (2006); an Archive Assistant at Cornwall Record Office with a part time secondment as a Documentation Officer at the Courtney Library (Royal Cornwall Museum) from 2006-2007; and as the Founding Archivist and Manager of the celebrated South West Image Bank (2007-2012).
Experience/qualifications? A BA(Hons) in History (2002), a Post Graduate Degree in Archive Administration (2008) and is currently undertaking registration with the accredited body for Archive professionals; the Archives and Records Association (formally the Society of Archivists) as well as membership with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
The trustees were looking for someone to manage the collections at SWFTA and to develop opportunities for projects and partnerships. Given my background with SWiB and working within the regional heritage sector, they interviewed and subsequently appointed me to pick up the challenge!
What attracted you to the industry? A life-long love for history. Following university, I knew I wanted to work within the heritage sector, working alongside raw historic collections and alongside that inspiring knowledge that shines through those who have developed careers in heritage. I started as a volunteer, like most of my contemporaries, and my passion simply grew from that really. Kept a look out for any job opportunity, temporary or otherwise. After a few years of that, I secured a unique opportunity to set up and develop a specialist archive from scratch. The rest is as they say history!
Describe the work involved in a typical day:
- Attending and contributing to key strategic partner meetings (pretty much on a daily basis) particularly with the Plymouth History Centre partners as there are many work streams SWFTA is a member of each with their own lead and meeting schedule. We’re also a member of the Project Programme Board which I attend monthly.
- Updating Twitter, Facebook and the website to sustain audience interest and facilitate engagement.
- Feeding into the social media campaigns of project partners with digitised content.
- Depositor relations, following up on depositor or client requests.
- Assigning research tasks to the volunteers.
- Assigning footage requests to the technical team.
- Meeting with internal UFH colleagues to catch up on project delivery
- Following up on regional project engagements, telephone or email catch up with project collaborators/partners.
Challenges? Funding and time. Funding is always a concern. SWFTA is a charity dependant on funds from GiA and earned income streams. It’s hard not to be anxious about the sustainability of that. There’s not enough time sometimes to do everything. I have several ‘to do’ lists which help me manage time effectively. This can be a little stressful at times however.
Favourite footage? The Endicott collection. 1930s-1950s beautiful insight into the region captured by amateur film-maker (Butcher) Claude Endicott. Simply fabulous and so raw, no scripts, no gloss, no stage, just the people, places and lifestyles of the region as it was then.
How much has the work of film archives changed and in what way? We’ve become more outward looking I think in recent years and that has changed the way we operate to a degree in terms of the variety of enquiries we receive for footage etc. Aside from having to be more outward – as is the case with most heritage organisations these days – it is an entirely positive change. I relish the opportunities, collaborations and partnerships that have come through that sense of stepping out from the archive. It’s all really exciting and has given the archive a strong profile that we didn’t necessarily have before.
How do you see the future of the film archives? Ongoing partnerships and collaborations are essential I think to all of us. The collections must be accessible, they must be properly recorded, usable and of course preserved. We can achieve that most effectively if we all work together towards that shared goal, with resource behind us to drive us forward.
Thank you to Stacey Anderson
MIKE BREWIS Senior Technician at the South West Film & Television Archive / SWFTA , Plymouth
What is your role? My primary responsibility at SWFTA is to oversee the equipment maintenance coupled with research, editing and clip production for broadcast and DVD production for public, community and project requests.
How long have you been at the archive? The Archive was set up in January 1993 and I joined as staff in October 1993.
Career history ? I started work in 1982 for Television South West as a Film Traffic Librarian and set up the Video News library in 1986. TSW lost the franchise at the end of 1992, I then volunteered and did holiday relief work in the Archive. In October 1992 I was taken on as a part time researcher/technician and Project Manager. In 2012 I was appointed as Technician.
Experience/qualifications? Qualifications none, I bring to the Archive 45 years’ experience working in Cinema management, Television libraries and Archive work.
How did you get your job? I got my position at SWFTA via volunteering and my knowledge of the core collection
What attracted you to the industry? I worked as a cinema manager for ten years and when made redundant I applied to TSW.
Describe the work involved in a typical day For me, my role involves:
- Checking and emptying the vault dehumidifiers
- Dealing with any new footage requests
- Researching, editing footage and providing to clients
- Any maintenance to equipment I can carry out in house or sourcing outside engineers .
- Overseeing research tasks given to the volunteers.
A typical day for me, apart from the above depends on reacting to the problems thrown up by the day to day running of the Archive.
Best part of your work?
- Viewing footage from the collections –It’s always a pleasure and the buzz you get finding that gem you were not expecting.
- Working with people, particularly the volunteers, from other backgrounds
Challenges? Equipment and time. The equipment needed to run the Archive forms its own ‘museum’, the main challenge is maintaining this equipment and sourcing spare parts.
Favourite footage? The Major Gill collection. 1920s-1930s. Shot in Cornwall, he captured the life and times of the people and Cornwall as it was, as he realised that it was all starting to change.
Best discovery? Best discovery was the “Nazi in Russia” film showing workers and forced labour, and the officers relaxing in southern Russia. Jeffery collection.
How much has the work of film archives changed and in what way? We started off as a news Archive working mainly with ITV, BBC and other broadcasters but as the public has found out they can deposit family films and have film shows themed to their area we work more in this area. Also the partnerships with education and museums has increased
How do you see the future of the film archives? More and more work in partnerships with museums and other outlets and if funding more equipment is not found less and less of this fantastic resource will be lost
Thank you to Mike Brewis
LARA REID Senior Administrator, Media Archive for Central England (MACE), University of Lincoln
What is your role? I look after all the financial and general administration of the organisation. I deal with a wide variety of footage enquiries ranging from members of the public to commercial footage requests. I am also involved in clearing copyright as and when required for projects and supplying footage.
Career history ? Over the past 20 years, I have worked in a wide variety of roles in customer service and administration in both commercial and not for profit sectors. Prior to joining MACE, I was involved in running a small business for 9 years, primarily looking after the financial administration, marketing and HR.
How did you get your job? I applied for the position at MACE as I had the relevant skills and experience needed. My previous roles in administration and running a small business were particularly relevant as well as being an excellent team player!
What attracted you to the industry? Having never worked in a film archive before, I was interested in learning more about the industry and fascinated to discover more about 70,000 strong collection of films held at MACE.
Describe the work involved in a typical day: I always start my day with a cup of tea and my task list! I like to be organised in planning and prioritising my workload. Most days I deal with a number of emails from new or ongoing enquiries, I will also raise sales invoices and keep up to date with book-keeping and payments.
Best part of your work? I find it very rewarding when we are able to meet the needs of our customers looking for a particular piece of footage. Members of the public are extremely grateful when we can supply them with footage which has some personal significance to them, such as family members featuring in the film. Boring as it may seem to some people, I also get a lot of satisfaction from the financial administration and ‘balancing the books’.
Challenges? Clearing copyright on titles we hold can sometimes present a number of issues. Trying to establish ‘who’ owns the copyright of a title we hold is sometimes the first hurdle and then we start a process of trying to track the right person down and make contact with them.
Favourite footage? My preference is home movies as I feel they capture so much about the person behind the camera and what was important to them, quite often children and animals! I love to see how people dressed in times gone by and the kind of activities families would engage in when they didn’t have TV or computers to occupy their time!
Best discovery? Without a doubt my best discovery was tracing a lady who appeared in a wedding film, taken 50 years ago. MACE had been working on a Heritage lottery funded project to preserve a number of films made by Warners, the Wolverhampton based production company. Amongst the collection was a professionally made wedding film, fortunately containing inter-titles with the bride and grooms names. I was able to trace the bride, who shared a fascinating story and had in fact, never seen her own wedding film. Providing her with a digital copy was such a pleasure, especially knowing how precious and personal it was to her to be able to see it and share these moving memories with her children and grandchildren.
How do you see the future of the film archives? I believe in order to secure the long term future of regional film archives, we must seek ways in which to be more self-sustaining and less reliant on funding.
Thank you to Lara