Episode 6: Erica Lopez- Mexican American Home Movies, Being “Seen,” and Gauging Class in Amateur Films

The best thing to come out of the last election was that I met Erica Lopez.

As you’ll learn about in the first few minutes of this week’s episode, we met at the AMIA conference in Pittsburgh, PA. It was November of 2016.


 

 

The sad thing was that the actual conference was amazing. Some of the best panels I’ve ever experienced at AMIA. But we were all so goddamn numb because of the election results that we were somewhere between zombie, “Is this real life?” and wanting to go to sleep forever or the next 4 years (whichever came first).

But I met Erica Lopez and her badass partner-in-archivey-action Caroline Oliveira and I was so thrilled. These women were my kinda ladies!!!!! These women were still students and considerably younger than me but I was so excited to find women who were just as passionate about the field as I was in a positive and pro-active way!

Obviously I kept in touch with both women.

Erica got in touch with me earlier this year and told me what her thesis was going to be about and I was floored. Her title, as presented at the end of March, is Mi Voz: Latin@ Self-Representation in Home Moviesand this was the description that was posted in the schedule for NYU MIAP thesis presentations. “The portrayal of Latin@s in the media has been constructed by stereotypes that attempt to suppress their voice. This thesis will focus on home movies of Latin@s, primarily on Mexican-American/ Xican@ communities. These movies challenge, threaten and question stereotypes of  Latin@s because these are images of self-representation. This thesis will look at different collections of home movies, specifically looking at the content, film format, the year they were shot and the year they were acquired in a cultural institution. The thesis will also consider how this community is represented in metadata since Mexican-American, Latin@, Hispan@, and Xican@ are labels that connote problematic issues. The thesis will end with a case study on The Fuentes Collection of home movies, which has been added to the National Film Registry’s list. After giving an historical background of the Fuentes family, I will discuss how they represent life in a border-town-space.”

I genuinely love home movies but let’s get real: the ones that most people see and the stereotype of the “Home Movie” is pretty damn white.

Home Movies are not white. Looking at those in the US, they are African American. They are Japanese American. They are Mexican American. They are Italian American. They are Pilipino American. So why do we just imagine blond babies toddling by the Christmas tree while Dad drinks a beer when we consider the “home movie”?

Erica Lopez is subverting the dominant paradigm by saying: I’m looking at Mexican Home Movies, movies that people have been ignoring. Films that have been sitting there because they are of people of color, cultures who have systematically disparaged and considered “less than” by a structure that still requires fixing. Erica Lopez is a critical scholar in this area. She did exactly what archival professionals are supposed to do: she saw a void in our field and said, “Oh hell no. I’m gonna fix that!”

Full disclosure: Erica is one of my best friends. So of course I’m going to say amazing things about her. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to praise her scholarship or social justice passion if it wasn’t present. That would not fit my ethical guidelines for myself and how I live my life.

I invite you to listen to this podcast that I did with a woman who continues to impress me the longer I know her. I think you’ll enjoy it.

I know we enjoyed doing it.

Erica’s Bio:

My name is Erica Gloria López. I am a graduate student at NYU Moving Image and Archiving Preservation program. I’ll be graduating this May, hopefully, so the pressure is on to join the ‘professional’ world is scary, for many reasons, and obvious ones. Growing up in a Mexican family, living in America, was an experience that with time and experiences, has influenced my life. I never thought I would be an archivist, let alone, ever imagined finishing school at my age, 35, since I did not go to college after High School. I was too busy going to punk shows and dancing to 80s music in Downtown LA. But, for some odd reason, I stumbled across this program. It’s been one of my biggest life challenges, and the most rewarding.

Check out The Fuentes Collection:  http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php/Category:The_Fuentes_Collection

 

Episode 5: Elena Colón-Marrero, Digital Preservation, Forensics and Creating Your Own Field

 

Every episode of this podcast gets more exciting to me but I think having this conversation with Elena was deeply personal in a way that I never expected it to be. We’ve been Twitter pals for some time and I knew that she worked with Jarrett Drake so she already had major bonafides there. But I’m always really nervous when I go to talk to people about digital preservation because I’m still learning SO MUCH.

In my last job, they thought I knew a LOT more than I did about digital materials. I told them I didn’t at the very beginning but they didn’t seem to get it? It was a disaster. So I get really nervous about the idea of what I do/don’t know and how that comes across. Part of the reason I started Archivist’s Alley was to help myself better understand some of the things that I don’t completely “get” in the areas of preservation that I know BRAINBURSTINGLY INCREDIBLE people in.

Elena went beyond what I ever would have expected or thought. The work that she is doing and how she is going about it is revolutionary and our conversation left me jumping up and down and super excited. I hope that you get that from this.

One of the most (if not THE most) difficult things to do in preservation is to discover a void or area that has not been worked on/with and then go for it. This is what Elena Colón-Marrero is doing. When you have little to no research or previous work to assist you, it can be the hardest thing in the world and LONELY AS HELL. But it’s also super freeing because it means YOU are the one to develop the field. Period.

I can’t say that I’ve had that experience with something as complex as digital preservation but I MOST CERTAINLY have had the experience of wanting to do less traditional preservation work than your average bear. My entire career has been spent searching for those voids in our field. It’s very exciting work but GOOD GRIEF. It’s exhausting and frustrating and sometimes you feel like you’ve got 2 strikes against you at all times. It is an exceptionally tough road to travel down. But it’s so worth it.

Clearly, Elena knew what formats she was going to work with from the VERY start.

I feel extremely lucky to have been able to have this conversation about digital forensics, preservation, personal identity and the incredible work that this woman is doing.

Speaking of work, let me link you to some of her brilliance!

A short bio:

Elena Colón-Marrero is responsible for processing and reading the Museum’s digital collection with an emphasis on historic software objects. Colón-Marrero has a Master’s of Science in Information from the University of Michigan and B.A. in history from Christopher Newport University. Prior to joining the Museum, Elena was the 2015 John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellow for Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.

Some of her written work:

Also, here is a link to the 2017 Core Magazine. On page 17 (pdf pg 19) you will find a great article entitled, “Preserving Software with Digital Forensics” that Elena wrote, highlighting her work at the Computer History Musuem. Check it out here:
Finally, here is the website for the ultra fabulous Computer History Museum! Go! Visit! Check it out! Tweet about it and join their social media pages!!

http://www.computerhistory.org/

Episode 1: Siobhan Hagan and MARMIA

Welcome to the first episode of Archivist’s Alley!

Please enjoy this conversation with one of my dearest companions in moving image archiving and preservation. Siobhan Hagan is a SUPERSTAR in the field and a women that I continue to be inspired by.

Her continued work on MARMIA is truly astounding and I hope that you all love listening to her talk about it as much as I enjoyed talking to her about it!

 Fall in love with MARMIA & donate some funds to support this important women-led institution!

Here is MARMIA’s website: https://marmia.org/

Here is MARMIA’s channel on the Internet Archive:  https://archive.org/details/marmia

And click here to donate some monies to this badass place!

 

Here is a little background on Siobhan:

Siobhan was born and raised in Maryland and holds her M.A. in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has worked in a variety of collecting organizations throughout her career, including the UCLA Library and the National Aquarium. She is currently contracting at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and is also active in the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA): she is a co-chair of the Regional Audio-Visual Archives Committee and a co-chair of the Local TV Task Force, and was an AMIA Director of the Board from 2015-2017.

Here are a few of the clips that we talked about in the podcast:

Investigative report on blockbusting:

https://archive.org/details/WJZ-QUAD-01

 

One of Oprah’s first acting gigs: https://archive.org/details/WJZ-PAT-001-006