Michelle Caswell: Creating Archives, Making Space & Activating Records of the Now

I first met Dr. Michelle Caswell when I was at UCLA finishing my degree and I already heard how amazing she was back then.

Years later, I was lucky enough to finally get to meet Jarrett Drake in person because he was here in Los Angeles for a conference that (I think) Michelle was running and we talked a little bit about how Michelle’s perspective and work was to the things that we believed and fought for in the archiving world.

Fast forward to now.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Jarrett, Michelle and I are all still working for the same things just maybe not within the same formats or institutions and (obvs) there are many reasons for that as my podcast has shown.

I feel so grateful to have been able to sit down with Dr. Caswell and talk with her about what she does and has been doing because she is TRULY INCREDIBLE. The work that she does and the thinking that she pursues within the archives and memory field is larger than the archives and library/information world. She’s the best kind of academic: the kind who goes for access and important content over fanciness. It’s not that her work isn’t smart- it’s smart as hell!

But the fact that she produces and discusses topics and material that we can all get together on? That’s my jam!

Anyways, here’s our conversation and the bio and links are below as usual.

PLEASE check out those links!!! They are AMAZING!!

BIO: 

Michelle Caswell, PhD, is Associate Professor of Archival Studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where she directs the UCLA Community Archives Lab.
She is the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive, an online repository that documents and provides access to the
stories of South Asian Americans. She is also the author of the book Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory and the Photographic Record in Cambodia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), as well as more than three dozen peer-reviewed articles on archives, memory, and communities.

Info on the event at UCLA on 2/23 https://www.saada.org/ucla

Film mentioned in the podcast: “Lavaan” by Zain Alam https://www.saada.org/wherewebelong/lavaan 
Archivists Against:
http://www.archivistsagainst.org/
Michelle Caswell:
https://michellecaswell.org/

Archivist’s Alley Goes to AMIA 2018, Pt 3: Bob Curtis-Johnson, Alaska’s Moving Image Treasures and Strong Indigenous Voices

Getting to meet and chat with Bob Curtis-Johnson was super cool. I probably could’ve hung out with him for hours. To be honest, even emailing with Bob is awesome- I get to find out whether he’s spotted polar bears or not and what the temperature and light situation is. Which is like…so different from my life here in LA. Plus? I know from talking and hanging out with him at this past AMIA that he’s handling all that AND contributing in a huge way to the archives and preservation world so…my mind just sorta goes WOAH !!!!!
I don’t know how I never met Bob before this past AMIA. We must’ve been dancing around the same committees and people for the last 8 years and just never connected. I am just so happy that we were able to do that here.

His company, Summit Day Media, is based out of Anchorage and that was so exciting to me (it still is)! I was so thrilled to be able to talk to him about the amazing work that he accomplishes regularly and the insane lengths that he and his colleagues go to really make a difference in people’s lives and to work with communities to help preserve their histories.

I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I loved having it. Bob and the people he works with are all super rockstars. Huge fan of Alaska, now. Big fan. <3

This time we have some REALLY incredible photos from Bob so as usual, just after the link for the podcast download, don’t forget to check out his bio and these amazing pics & the information. Just great!!!

Bio:

Bob Curtis-Johnson is the owner and principal consultant for SummitDay LLC located in Anchorage Alaska, specializing in audiovisual media preservation for clients that include corporations, museums and archives in eight U.S. states. SummitDay has over a decade of experience in mass digitization project management, digital media management, storage environment assessment, a/v media assessment, and development of preservation and disaster plans. Bob has also produced, directed or edited dozens of documentaries, commercials, and artistic and sponsored films for National Geographic Explorer, Black Entertainment Television, The Discovery Channel, PBS and othersL

Links: 
http://summitdaymedia.com

https://fm.kuac.org/post/drums-winter-interview

 


This is a shot of SummitDay staff Mike R. Martz and Keenan Troll performing quality control verification on preservation files (2018).

Picture of Bob Curtis-Johnson and his friend Anagi (pronounced “ON-a-way”) Whitlam Adams (now deceased), taken in Utqiagvik (known at that time as Barrow), Alaska, at a Nalukataq whaling celebration. Bob notes that, “Anagi was an artist and carver, former whaling captain, and a film donor.”

This is a 2009 photo of staff and family members from the Inupiaq Heritage Center in Utqiagvik, at the summer whaling celebration. Chris Danner (in the sunglasses) was part of the staff and also a member of a successful whaling crew that season. The Inupiaq have lived and whaled in this region for 10,000 years, and hunting is a deeply important part of their culture as well as a crucial component of their food security.

UKSUUM CAUYAI is a film of Yup’ik values and culture and is of a different group than the Inupiaq (people pictured above). This is the film mentioned in the podcast.

Archives & Intersectionality: Linking the Personal to the Professional–Panel from AMIA 2018, Portland, OR

The panel that I presented this year at the annual AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) Conference in Portland, Or. As a longtime member, I have been trying to get a panel accepted for many years but social justice and moving image archives have not always…been seen as congruent. I have always always always believed that you cannot discuss one without the other. They are the reel to the film. The lens to the projector. The 1 to the 0 (in digital).

This year I was HONORED to have some of the most talented and amazing colleagues and friends I know come to speak with me on the most meaningful and important issues within our community: issues of race, gender, sexuality, personal identity, and power and how these have influenced their work, their lives and their experiences as moving image archivists. Two of my panelists you may have met previously if you are a regular Archivist’s Alley listener: Brendan Lucas is the Outfest Legacy Project Manager and you would have heard him on my Outfest Legacy Project Managers episode!  Erica Lopez is continually referred to on this show due to her amazing work with the Fuentes Collection and discussion on Latinx home movies as we discuss here. Ina Archer is INCREDIBLY BUSY so I haven’t gotten her on the show, but it will happen! But she is an incredible writer, artist and is now a media conservator at The Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). You can check her out here.

Please forgive me on the video quality. It was recorded off my laptop because my actual camera decided it didn’t want to play nice. But you can hear everything except the young woman’s question at the very end (apologies) who was asking about some international issues and terms like diversity and inclusion and…I don’t think that my response was very good. I spoke with her afterwards and we sorted things out. I feel a little awkward about that! Thanks to Brendan for taking the mic and repeating the other announcement during the short Q&A bit.

I hope you enjoy and if you have any questions or would like to follow up on this, plan a panel with me or discussion on this kind of conversation with me (I already have some in my head) or would like to get in touch with my guests to tell them how amazing they are…feel free to contact me at archivistsalley@gmail.com

Anna St. Onge: Archival Labor, Community Content & Refocusing the Archival Narrative

Speaking to Anna was an absolute joy. We covered topics as diverse as Nice White Lady-ism to Open Source journal to language translation in cataloging. We also spoke at length about the challenges of getting funding when you’re not doing the kind of work that Big Money people care about and why it’s critically important to keep doing the work that Big Money people don’t seem to care about.

Anna is doing incredible work at York University and is a key figure of positive change, calling for high levels of care and attention for indigenous Canadian communities that York works with and looking to make certain  that the labor within her scope is fair and just. Her work and clear and ethical structure of archival outreach and development is one that I hope to see reflected in more archival organizations, especially in the United States. AND SOON. Please enjoy.

As usual, bio and links are below the episode link! I recommend you check them out!!


Bio:

Anna St.Onge is an archivist who is currently Director of Digital Scholarship Infrastructure at York University Libraries. She holds a B.A. in History and Celtic Studies from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Information Studies degree from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Archival Studies and Book History & Print Culture. She was previously a certified Nice White LadyTM but is working hard to undo decades of social programming.

Links:

The Portuguese Canadian History Project

 

Toronto Telegram Newspaper Photograph Collection, link to finding aid: 

 

York University Libraries bots (randomly posts from our DAM which is made up predominantly of scanned photographic negatives of the Toronto Telegram – created by my colleague Nick Ruest) –

YUDL bot (general holdings)

YUDL cat

YUDL dog

 

Home Made Visible – a project of the Regent Park Film Festival:

Patricia Ledesma Villon: The Challenges of Home Movies & the Complexity of Asian American Representation

This episode is the official Home Movie Day episode and it is extremely exciting! As you may recall, other guests have discussed the critical value of home movies. The exceptional Snowden Becker  was a guest and she is one of the actual founders of Home Movie Day, Erica Lopez came on and spoke on her vital and unique work on Mexican home movies, and Lynne Kirste  was a guest and we examined the way classic Hollywood depicted themselves in the home movie genre and why those films are such incredible gems in their own right.

I couldn’t be more excited to have Patricia Ledesma Villon be representing and speaking about home movies for Home Movie Day, 2018. In my eyes, she is exactly what the archiving and library world should be embracing and looking for in their new hires and future generations. If you are an employer reading this, take my advice: the qualities Patricia has are those you want. Passion, honesty, conviction and dedication.

As she and I discuss on the show, home movies are not simple nor are they just about fun nostalgia. Many times they are incredibly challenging and they can produce great discomfort in the viewer. This is one of the very important aspects of this moving image genre.

When home movies are shown, class, culture and representation are key elements and should always be part of the presentation. Yet this is rarely done. Home movie texts can always be enjoyed on the basis of narrative or nostalgic pleasure- they are so much fun and so pleasurable to watch– but it does them a disservice to deny their complex historicism and social meaning. Patricia’s work as an intern with CAAM and her own archival scholarship stand out in this manner as she introduces powerful ways of examining these critical moving image works, especially vis-a-vis Asian American communities.

Finally, although we touched on the importance of hiring people of color during our discussion, Patricia emailed me afterwards to emphasize that we should highlight black, indigenous, queer and disabled archivists in our community, especially as we remember the cultural significance of Home Movie Day.

Her bio & some REALLY TERRIFIC links are below, as usual. Hope your Home Movie Day rocks!!

PATRICIA LEDESMA VILLON is an archivist based in Oakland, California. A Bay Area native, she has worked for several Asian media nonprofits in the area. Patricia most recently interned at the Philippine Film Archive (formerly known as the National Film Archive of the Philippines) where she digitally restored a short film submitted to the 2017 Short Film Festival of Switzerland. She is currently interning at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) where she works on Memories to Light, a project preserving the home movies of Asian American families on Super 8, 8mm and 16mm formats. She received her B.A. in media from the University of California, Berkeley and is a member of Low Light Darkroom and Black Hole Collective Film Lab, a DIY member-run analog still image and motion film collective.

 
Here are some links:
 
About Low Light Darkroom and Black Hole Collective Film Lab: https://lowlightblackholelab.org/
 
About Memories to Light: https://caamedia.org/memoriestolight/
 
Kip Fulbeck’s home movie collection featuring Santa’s Village on Memories to Light: https://caamedia.org/memoriestolight/2015/12/30/throwback-thursday-kip-fulbecks-santas-village-visit-in-1972/
 
Dawn Bohulano Mabalon’s home movie collection featuring Stockton’s Little Manila on Memories to Light: https://caamedia.org/memoriestolight/project/bohulano-family-collection/
 
African American Museum & Library’s “Representing Ourselves: Black Home Movies for All Audiences” on Home Movie Day Saturday, October 20 from – 2:00-4:00pm: http://oaklandlibrary.org/events/african-american-museum-library-oakland/home-movie-day