Last December we had the pleasure to receive Jacqueline Stewart from Northwestern University. Professor Stewart presented "The politics of film archiving" to the students enrolled in Catherine Russell seminar on film archives. Because of the length of her presentation, we split it in two parts. Between those parts we watched "Keepers of the Frame", a documentary film about film preservation directed by Mark McLaughlin that can be found on YouTube by cliking on the link.
"In our publications and teaching, film historians rarely reflect upon how archival institutions collect, arrange, describe, and provide access to the materials we study. For example, we write surprisingly little about where and how we locate films, and about the technical aspects of the film and video materials we consult, such as whether we view titles in their original formats or in duplicated, restored and/or preserved versions.
In my presentation, I will discuss the historical development of moving image archiving and preservation (particularly in the US), their guiding principles, and their impact on the development of the discipline of cinema studies. I will describe some of the approaches that archivists and preservationists have developed to conserve and make accessible the moving image materials upon which film histories are based. In addition, I will discuss how a range of political issues can determine what is available and legitimate for public viewing and study; that is, how issues such as the securing of funding for moving image preservation and the (rarely acknowledged) functions of race, gender and class in archival discourse, history and practice have shaped calls to save America's film heritage." J. Stewart