Sunday, 4 December 2011

Made to be destroyed

I've had the BFI Screen Epiphanies book by Geoffrey Macnab for a few years now and although I've read most of it I still dip in and out of it and discover new things.  Most recently I was reading the chapter with Atom Egoyan and came across some interesting information relating to Lindsay Anderson's In Celebration.  

Still from the filming of In Celebration ©Stirling University Archives

Atom Egoyan is a Canadian film maker.  In the chapter in this book he talks about his early love of the theatre and this leads him on to talking about The American Film Theatre.  This was a series devised by Ely Landau, a film producer with a strong interest in adapting plays for the cinema.  He invited different film directors to do just that and the result was fourteen very different films with varying degrees of success and popularity. The first of the series Egoyan saw was Peter Hall's version of The Homecoming and he explains his excitement in realising that he could bring together his love of the theatre with his love of modern film makers.

What was interesting to me is that Egoyan says that the idea behind the American Film Theatre series was "that these films would travel to various cities that would never get the play. After the projections, the prints would be destroyed. that was the theory.  It would preserve the ephemeral nature of the experience."  He goes on to explain that this never took place, and we know that as all fourteen films are now available on DVD.  There's so much current talk all over the web, and on film archive discussion boards and mailing lists, about the 'death of film' so it was interesting to read of a series of films who, according to Egoyan, were not supposed to be preserved but were in fact made with their impending destruction in mind.  Can anyone corroborate this? I can't find anything online about Ely Landau's intending to destroy the films and I don't remember seeing anything about it in the Lindsay Anderson Archive either.  All I remember from that is Anderson's frustrations with the lack on advertising and publicity which he felt his film was getting (if you're interested you can search the Lindsay Anderson Archive here).

Friday, 18 November 2011

Power cuts and paper research

We had a power cut this morning in work - boy does it make you realise how reliant on computers we are! However luckily I had some paper based work I could get on with.  I was searching through 'The Woman Teacher' (the journal of the National Union of Women Teachers) for a report from a women teacher who moved to Italy in 1946/1947.  I found what I was looking for (a blog post on this will follow shortly on the NUWT blog) and I also found lots of other interesting information, particularly relating to film and children.  The NUWT were very concerned with the impact of increased cinema attendance on children and the types of films they were seeing.  They were also quite pioneering in their promotion of the use of film as an educational tool in the classroom.  However as you can see from the report below, some of them might have been slightly lacking in a sense of humour when it came to films and cinema!

image from 'The Woman Teacher', NUWT Collection ref: UWT/H/1/41 ©Institute of Education Archive

This is from the 27 September 1946 edition of 'The Woman Teacher' and the notice is called 'At the Academy Cinema'.  It begins by talking about a film being shown at the Academy cinema which they did think was worthwhile, a film Children on trial made by the Crown Film Unit.  This film was about three children in their teens who have drifted into crime being given the chance to become 'good citizens'. Now I can understand that from their viewpoint this would be a good educational film to show children but really you'd think they'd still have been able to take Zero de Conduite as the 'satirical phantasy' they describe it as rather than being so humourless about it.  I mean really -
'one cannot help wondering what kind of audience could find it even amusing'
- well I can imagine that most children watching would find it highly amusing as would a great many adults, thinking back to their school days.

I wonder what they'd have made of Lindsay Anderson's If.... then (influenced by Zero de Conduite) - where the children gun down their parents and teachers in an epic attack from the school roof.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wednesday wonders - webinar on website editing training

So the wonder is.. it worked! Call me pessimistic but an online training session which required 3 different types of software and which would be 'attended' by people of varying levels of techy knowledge, well let's just say I wasn't convinced it would work.  However, I am happy to admit I was wrong.  The session went really well, we could all hear each other and see the screen of the trainer, Fiona Beckett.

I recently took up the voluntary post of Web Officer for the London Region of the Archives and Records Association (previously the Society of Archivists) and the training session was to help all the web and communication officers use the new ARA website.

This is how the London region homepage looks at the moment - nothing really wrong with it but it could do with a few images maybe? I've edited webpages before and obviously use blogger, as well as Wordpress for work, so uploading images and attachments isn't a problem.  However what I didn't know was that when adding images and attachments to this website we also add them to the content management system so now I know how to do that properly so the information is stored sensibly and is easily located in the future. 

There was lots of useful information that will hopefully help with encouraging more members to use the community section and I'm looking forward to getting on with updating and changing the web pages. I guess the issue is trying to make logging in and using the London region pages worthwhile - that means starting debates and discussions, posting interesting information on events, photographs of previous events and, well anything else that would be useful to archivists in London.  Anyone got any suggestions?

So, now I can go and experiment with the London region webpages - I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Flickr and the future of photography - new exhibition

I'm just back from a great trip to Berlin (more of that in later posts!) and took lots of photos whilst I was there.  I was uploading them all to Flickr and it made me think about the nature of photographs and how much it has changed in the digital age.  So when I read about a new exhibition in Amsterdam 'What's next?' exploring the future of photography it caught my interest.

There's such a proliferation of photographs - from people we know and people we don't know.  I quite happily share my photos via Twitter and Flickr, and now on Instagram.  I guess most people are nosy anyway and digital photos have just made it a lot easier to indulge in the habit of peeking into people's lives.  I'm certainly not complaining as I love seeing where my friend's have been, catching up on what friend's who don't live nearby are doing, and also seeing new places through the photos I see from people I don't know on Twitter and blogs.

It made me think about the value of photographs.  Does the huge number of photographs mean that we value them less? does the fact that we only develop a small percentage of what we take, if any at all, automatically mean we value them less? or is that just me being retro and old-fashioned?

The exhibition features four 'guest curators' and the one that jumped out at me was Erik Kessels with his investigation in to 'Photography in abundance'

installation by Erik Kessells at Foam, Amsterdam image courtesy of Creative Review

"We're exposed to an overload of images nowadays," says Kessels. "This glut is in large part the result of image-sharing sites like Flickr, networking sites like Facebook, and picture-based search engines. Their content mingles public and private, with the very personal being openly and un-selfconsciously displayed. By printing all the images uploaded in a 24-hour period, I visualise the feeling of drowning in representations of other peoples' experiences." taken from the Creative Review website, 15/11/2011
There's no way I'd ever develop all the photos I've stuck up on Flickr, because to be honest I don't think a lot of them are good enough.  However when I used to use a film camera I'd take loads of poor quality photographs and they'd be developed without me knowing how they'd turned out until I went to pick the film up.  Although my lack of skill as a photographer did mean I never hold out any great expectations of what my photographs will be like - digital or film!  Just looking at these images of the vast quantity of photos taken and uploaded in one day has made me think that I should maybe try and exercise a bit more control, or 'curation' as the buzzword is, over which images I put up.  I already do this when I get digital photos developed, select my favourites or the ones that are most representative of the holiday.

Foam is the acronym for 'The Future of Photography Museum' and going by this exhibition it sounds like an interesting place to visit.

Monday, 14 November 2011

From the X-Men to Charade - designing title sequences

I was just looking at my Twitter feed and clicked on a link from @thenfb - the Twitter feed for the National Film Board of Canada and it led me back to Charade, the Stanley Dolan film starring Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant which I saw for the first time on Saturday night.  I find all these types of  coincidences quite entertaining so I thought I'd share this one.  The twitter caption read
"I'm in a design mood today. Check out the Maurice Binder-esque credits to one of my fav films of this year:"

So I duly clicked on the link and watched the title sequence as I still haven't seen the new X-Men film (I wish I'd got to see it when it was still at the cinema but it'll need to be on DVD now unfortunately).  The title sequence is great, very sixties, and my first thought was 'that's really similar to the title sequence to Charade'.  Then I wondered if I was only thinking that because that was the last film I watched (if you haven't seen Charade I can highly recommend it - a Hitchcock-esque thriller, with lots of humour, and amazing outfits from Audrey Hepburn of course!).  As I read down I saw that the designer, Simon Clowes, was influenced by Maurice Binder so I looked him up and sure enough, he designed the title sequence to Charade - spooky!

Ok, maybe I 'm a geek for getting so excited about little connections like that but I just love when connections appear where you don't expect it.  I also just looked up Charade as I was sure there must be a new print of it out as the reason I watched it was because I'd read about it recently somewhere.  There is a new restored high definition print just released by Park Circus films but you can also watch it online.  I watched it for free with our Lovefilm subscription and I noticed it's also available in the UK through Mubi

Saturday, 12 November 2011

'Looking up - the big screen'

'Looking Up - Arguments in favor of bigness' by Michael Koresky and Jess Reichert

I've never been to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York but it is definitely on my list of top places to go on my next visit to New York (some time in a mythical future where I can afford such trips).  To celebrate the opening of their new film theatre they invited the editors of Reverse Shot to contribute a video essay and text on the wonders of film in the cinema, that is on the big screen.

They talk about a lot of the issues that have been on my mind recently when going to the cinema - why do I prefer the cinema to watching a film at home? what do I go to the cinema for? what do I want out the film - entertainment, escapism, thought-provoking? When I went to see Wanda recently I certainly wouldn't call it a comfortable cinema-going experience in the sense that I didn't go in, relax and disappear into the film for a few hours.  It wasn't that kind of film, it made me think, made me uncomfortable at many points, but ultimately it was still me leaving my world and entering another. I loved it but equally I love the complete escapism of going to see something silly like the latest X-men film where you can completely surrender to the fantasy world of the film, not have to think, and emerge a few hours later back into the real world.

Whatever type of film I'm in the mood for seeing though I'd pretty much always prefer going to the cinema to see it.  There's something so magical to me about 'the big screen' and the experience of going to the cinema so i really enjoyed listening to Michael Koresky and Jess Reichert ruminating on why this is. Some of the things they said that jumped out at me - 'if we see it big we also want to be small' 'we want to be in thrall to something larger, something greater'.

However, I'd certainly never want to give up the variety of ways that we have of viewing films - right now I'm so happy to have turned the TV on to find Singing in the Rain - only half an hour in, perfect Saturday afternoon viewing and I don't even need to leave the couch!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Treasures from the Archives - Wanda

On looking through the London Film Festival brochure all the films that immediately appealed to me were from, yes, you've guessed it the 'Treasures from the Archives' strand.  Then, when the reality of my bank balance hit I had to whittle down what I was going to see to a select few, well a select one actually - Wanda.

Barbara Loden, director, writer and star of Wanda. Image courtesy of BFI website

I hadn't heard of the female director Barbara Loden before but the description in the brochure really appealed to me - a 'neo-realist gem... a rural Pennsylvanian housewife embarked on a flight to nowhere.. Wanda floats through her own life as if witness to it'.  After recently rewatching Lindsay Anderson's The White Bus with Patricia Healey's depiction of another girl passively watching her own life drift past, I was intrigued by Wanda and am pleased to say my curiosity was well rewarded!

I obviously hadn't read the brochure properly as I didn't notice that Ross Lipman, who restored the film at UCLA, would be introducing the film.  This was such a nice surprise as he gave a brilliant description of the problems facing him with the restoration of a film which was originally meant to look lo-fi and gritty.  The story with Wanda is one that I've heard so many times before sadly, a film lab was closing down and called UCLA to ask if they wanted a look before the stock all went in a skip.  Lipman found the reels for Wanda a day before they were due to be chucked and lost forever.  In an article about the film from the Guardian (17/10/201) Lipman told the story of his discovery of the reels, marked 'Wanda', "Unspooling them on my workbench I quickly realised they were the original camera rolls, and that was only the beginning. The film was shot on a beautiful, unfaded Ektachrome reversal stock: any potential restoration would perhaps look better than even the original release. One day more and the original would have gone to landfill."

I realised when Ross Lipman got up on the stage that I recognised him and when he started talking about other American neo-realist films 'Killer of Sheep' and 'The Exiles' I remembered - I'd heard him talking about the preservation of The Exiles when I went to see it at UCLA (which I never actually got round to writing about, except here, before I went).  He explained how until relatively recently there wasn't much talk of American neo-realism as so many of these films had disappeared into obscurity - citing The Exiles and The Killer of Sheep as two other examples (I was lucky enough to have seen Killer of Sheep at the GFT, turns out I'm a bit of a UCLA film preservation unit groupie!).  These films were pretty obscure upon release, Wanda for example was actually made, according to Lipman, as a tax write-off and although it achieved critical success this didn't translate into commercial success for Loden.  It made me wonder what Lindsay Anderson would have made of them, I wonder if he ever saw any of them?It's weird that even a year after moving from Stirling and leaving the Lindsay Anderson Collection behind I still wonder what he would have made of certain films, or film makers. I guess to me, that's one of the wonderful things about being an archivist - getting all bound up with the work you're cataloguing and making connections with the people and events you're cataloguing.

On to Wanda  itself - what an incredible film! It has stuck with me for days and I imagine it will do long into the future.  When I first read the description I thought of The White Bus, I also thought of more recent female-directed and female-focused films such as Wendy and Lucy and Winter's Bone and in many ways there are similarities.  The lack of any soundtrack - all the noises, music and silences are part of the real life of the film, there is no artificial soundtrack.  I love this in films, it can be quite disconcerting at first, it makes it a lot harder to watch in a way as you can't escape into it in the same way, instead you're forced to confront the reality of the situation the characters live in.  The opening scenes of Wanda are completely silent from what I can remember, maybe a few noises of feet walking on gravel but no music, no talking, and it's all the more powerful for it. 

Very early on in the film there's a scene where Wanda is walking across coal fields and the camera follows her in real time, painfully slow as she walks across this barren landscape, walking to meet someone but really going nowhere.  As Wanda gets caught up in the crimes of a man she meets on the road she drifts from one situation to another, alienate, alone and hopeless.  It really made me think about what it would be like to be born into that kind of poverty with no hope of any alternative, any way out, as did Wendy and Lucy and even more so Winter's Bone.  Wanda was expected to be a housewife, raise a family and bring more children into the same cycle of poverty she grew up in - it's no wonder she wanted something different, she just didn't know what.  I liked that there's no great realisation, she's not a heroine in the sense that she changes her life round and moves onwards and upwards, she just changes her life because the alternative was to grim for her to bear.  I would love the chance to see this film again, and thanks to the work of Ross Lipman

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Return to the Pleasure Garden

I haven't been writing so much on this blog recently as I've been doing most of my blog posts on my work blog about the project I'm working on cataloguing the records of the National Union of Women Teachers. I was recently cataloguing more boxes of 'cinema' material in my job cataloguing the records of the National Union of Women Teachers.  I've been really astonished by just how many different subjects and causes the women of the NUWT were involved in, cinema being just one of many. These boxes in question included material on the use of films in education as well as discussion of the type of films suitable for children's viewing. At the back of one of the files is a collection of invitations to film screenings and to my surprise it included one to a film which I'd catalogued lots of material about before, in my job at Stirling University cataloguing the Lindsay Anderson Archive. The film was not directed by Lindsay Anderson, rather he starred in it, and it was directed by his friend, James Broughton. The Pleasure Garden is set in Crystal Palace in London and was described by Broughton as a 'midsummer afternoon's day-dream' (taken from the notes provided for the screening). It's a really joyful film, about the triumph of love and freedom over rules and restrictions.

The Lindsay Anderson Collection at Stirling contains correspondence with James Broughton, information about the development and filming of The Pleasure Garden and a great photo album which Lindsay Anderson made of the filming of The Pleasure Garden.  You can see one of the pages from it below (I originally blogged about this last year here).  You can search the Anderson Archive for James Broughton and find more information on the film here.

Page from photograph album LA/6/2/1/5
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Finding Norman

Staying on the subject of Norman McLaren. I just remembered about a Student Radio Broadcast project which my colleagues and friends Karl Magee and Sarah Neely had been part of whilst I was at Stirling, called 'Finding Norman'.  You can listen to the broadcast on the Stirling Film, Media and Journalism YouTube page. The narrator, a student at Stirling Uni is talking about 'Norman' a show I was lucky enough to see at the MacRobert Arts Centre in Stirling - I wrote a wee preview of the show here

Karl Magee gives some background about Norman McLaren and does a bit of promotion for the archive!  There is an excerpt of Norman McLaren talking in the radio broadcast and he says that 'if all his films had to be destroyed except one I would choose Neighbours'.  Of course, I wouldn't want any of his films to be destroyed but I think it's interesting he chose Neighbours.  It's a superb film and the anti-war message is put across so brilliantly - maybe they should show this film to world leaders who are all too eager to start fights and wars with each other!

Watch Me Move

This is me playing a bit of catch up again but I was thinking about it this morning when I woke up so thought it was time to post about 'Watch me Move: the Animation Show' - an exhibition currently showing at the Barbican in London. It's on until the 11th September and I'm really hoping I'll have time to go back and see it again as I found out after that there were things I missed, and lots I'd like to see again.

Although the first section downstairs was maybe a bit too busy in terms of the number and proximity of the screens at the same time I think it was necessary to give an overview of the development of animation over time.  As a few of the reviews mentioned, I too liked that equal space was given to many of the early pioneers as to the biggies like Pixar, Studio Ghibli, Steven Spielberg etc.  Then upstairs, oh wow, upstairs is just a complete treat for the senses! So many amazing artists are represented - one's that stick out in my memory were: -
  • Chuck Jones Duck Amuck, 1953 - this was so funny! Everyone in the room watching it when I was there were laughing the whole way through, it left you with a nice warm fuzzy feeling.  It also reminded me of the anticipation as a small child of watching the Disney show at the weekends, or knowing that when we went to stay over at our Gran's house she would have compilations tapes of cartoons for us to watch, which we would watch and laugh at, over and over again.
  • Len Lye (I can't remember which one it was sorry)
  • Tim Burton - a fantastic short called 'Vincent' which I watched through twice, it was so good
  • Stan Brakhage The Dante Quartet, 1987 - shown on 16mm - always a treat in itself to see!
  • And last, but by no means least, Neighbours by Normal McLaren.  I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to look through his archive when I was working at Stirling University Archive.  To see his paintings and print work and his beautiful handwritten and sometimes hand illustrated letters home to his parents was a real treat.  I know I could watch Neighbours on YouTube whenever I want but it doesn't compare to seeing it for real, even when it is shown on a scereen in the corridor, as it was here.
There was a Harry Smith film too but I managed to miss that somehow - definetly need to try and squeeze in another visit to this before it finishes!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sunday morning reading

Sunday morning and I'm not reading the Sunday papers yet, no siree, I'm reading my newly arrived (yesterday) copy of ARC. ARC is the monthly magazine published by the Archives and Records Association in the UK. Although I love archives I wouldn't usually be reading this on a Sunday morning, honest!

The July issue is a Film, Sound and Photography Special, edited by my last boss, David Lee, Archivist and Manager of the Wessex Film and Sound Archive. I'd have been really interested in reading it anyway but even more so because yours truly has an article in it - woop! The article is a joint one written by me and Zoe about our experience of cataloguing the films for the Revitalising the Regions project. We concentrated on two of the film-makers, well three really - Frank and Nancy Bealing and Eda Moore. Nancy Bealing and Eda Moore just really captured both our imaginations and we were very privileged to get the chance to go and speak to Nancy Bealing about the films which her husband made, the one which we made, and the ways she helped with his filmmaking.  I wrote a bit about a visit we paid to Salisbury to do some research about Eda Moore here.

Nancy Bealing in the nursery owned by her & her husband, Frank ©Wessex Film & Sound Archive

The current issue of ARC is not available digitally on the website yet, and even when it is it's only available to members so at the moment I can only give you these images off my camera.

Right, now I'm off to read all the other interesting articles in the magazine!

I had to call up the ARA Office to request another copy be sent out, and an extra for Zoe, as mine hadn't arrived (first time I've had anything published in it and first time it's never arrived!)

Eda Moore with her bolex camera in Salisbury ©Wessex Film & Sound Archive

You can watch some clips from Frank Bealing's and Eda Moore's films on the WFSA Flickr.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Exciting new blog from Stirling University Archives

Well hello there! Sorry this blog's been a bit quiet since last month. it's not that I haven't been thinking about archives and film - I've just been working, and playing hard, and not had much time to write things up!

On Monday night last I was at my first Archives & Records Management London region meeting (I still can't get used to not calling it the Society of Archivists). It was lovely to meet more archivists in London and I have now signed up to be the web officer for the London region website - so now I need to figure out how to do that!

I've been on two sewing courses - both so much fun and I learned a lot from both. I've also been away in Castle Douglas last weekend where I had so much fun catching up with Zoe from McGill Duncan Gallery. Amazingly I managed to come away without buying anything from the gallery - which is a real feat as there are so many beautiful works of art!

Well, last night I had a lazy night home along, enjoying watching a silly romcom, drinking some tasty Fleurie, and also checking out the new blog from Stirling University Archives.

All those who read this blog will know already but for anyone new here I used to work at Stirling University Archives. I worked there for 3 years on a project to catalogue the Lindsay Anderson Collection. Of course I absolutely loved it and it's an amazing collection but it's really nice for me to see on this new blog the other collections in the Archive, particularly the new ones which arrived after, or as, I was leaving. So far there's talk of the Musicians Union Archive - oh how I'd have loved the chance to work on that! - and also the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games Collection. The latest post talks about another film collection held at Stirling, the Archive of John Grierson.  It's so exciting to see them in blogland - welcome Stirling University Archives!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Wednesday wonders - BFI Southbank

I have always loved visiting the Southbank when I was visiting London and that hasn't changed any since I moved here.  I remember the first time I got the bus back over Waterloo Bridge at night time after work, I saw all the lights along the river and got such a thrill, and I still feel that, sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I'm living in London!  So I thought as my Wednesday wonder this week I would pay tribute to one of my favourite places on the Southbank, the British Film Institute! Now technically of course one of my favourites parts of the BFI, the Library and Archive, isn't on Southbank at all but on Stephen Street.  However the last time I went down to the Southbank there was a great display on the upstairs corridor of 'Recent acquisitions at the BFI National Archive'

The exhibition showed archive material (they call it Special Collections to differentiate it from the Film Archive) from a number of people including Karel Reisz (film director) and Ralph Cooper (a publicist).
The first photo includes a scrapbook on Merle Oberon compiled by Deborah Kerr and telegrams from Sophia Loren!  In the second photo are letters from Rachel Roberts and an annotated script for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.  I was very excited by the Karel Reisz material as I'd heard they got his archive whilst I was working in the Lindsay Anderson Archive.  Anderson and Reisz were friends and were both part of the Free Cinema movement so there was a good deal of material by and about Reisz and I always find it exciting to see material from other archives about individuals or organisations I've worked on!

Both the bars in the BFI are great, though I have noticed the Benugo Bar staff can be pretty rude - this is balanced out though by the friendly waiting staff, the good drinks and bar snacks, and the lovely surroundings!

And then, there's the exhibition room.. I've been to so many great exhibitions in the exhibition room - most memorable perhaps was the Jane and Louise Wilson 'Unfolding the Aryan Papers' which I blogged about here. There's been rumours that this is where the Library and Archive will be moving too but I really hope that's not true, for a number of reasons.  Firstly it's great having an exhibition space at the Southbank site and I'd miss it if it went but FAR more importantly, it's a tiny site compared to the current library which would mean staffing cuts (though from the sounds of it these are unfortunately inevitable) and I just can't imagine there's enough space there for all the wonderful resources in Stephen Street.

The BFI Southbank is also home to the fabulous Mediatheque - where you can go to watch a huge selection of films and television shows, for free! I still have to go in to watch Blue Black Permanent - Margaret Tait's only feature film, hmm maybe something to do this weekend if the rain keeps up!

So if anyone is in London this weekend and wondering what to do? You couldn't go wrong with a visit to the BFI.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Wednesday Wonders - Together in Electric Dreams - Emancipation from Drudgery'

"As long ago as November, 1924, a small group of clear-sighted women foresaw rapid development of the use of electricity in domestic spheres, and from their belief that it was destined to become the most valuable factor in modern home life, developed the Electrical Association for Women". 

Image from EAW pamphlet, NUWT Collection, ref no UWT/D/55/17 © Institute of Education

I don't quite know why but when I first read this on the cover of one of their pamphlets I read it as if I was reading the Star Wars credits and imagined the words rolling down the screen - a long, long time ago, etc.  It's not quite that dramatic but it was still very striking to me that something which we now take so much for granted was then such a novelty.  I have to confess to having little, i.e. no, idea how electricity works, I just accept that I walk into a room and turn the light on, that my washing machine works, that I can plug in a hoover and clean our tiny flat in under 10 minutes etc.  In 1924 though, electricity in the home was only beginning.  The aim of the EAW was 'to eliminate from housekeeping the drudgery which the dirt and grime of mechanical process has brought into it' - sounds good eh?! Their slogan was 'Emancipation from Drudgery' and their purpose was twofold - 1. ensure that all women knew about electricity, how they could get it , and how best to make use of it 2. to put forward women's views on electrical matters. 

Now I am not getting all rose-tinted glasses sentimental about the past here - the more equal sharing of household work now - cleaning and cooking - is something which I am all for of course! What this file of correspondence and pamphlets made me remember was how much harder it must have been before electricity.  It also reminded me that the assumption of these kinds of comforts is of course sadly still limited and in no way equal throughout the world. 

Something else which comes up a lot in the correspondence is the use of questionnaires and experiments with women to test the safety and ease of use of electrical appliances.  Then, and probably still now given the ratio of men to women engineers, electrical appliances for the home would be designed by men, but in the 1920s at least, used almost exclusively by women.  The tests they would carry out would measure things like what height of oven is the most convenient to use, how to make electric hobs safer around children, right through to how to change a fuse and how to wire a plug.

I've included a few more images from one of the EAW publications - the Electrical Housecraft School is where a lot of the testing and training was carried out.  The bottom illustrations I just included because the pamphlet was full of them and I thought they were lovely!
Image from EAW pamphlet, NUWT Collection, ref no UWT/D/55/17 © Institute of Education

Image from EAW pamphlet, NUWT Collection, ref no UWT/D/55/17 © Institute of Education

Image from EAW pamphlet, NUWT Collection, ref no UWT/D/55/17 © Institute of Education

N.B. The Institute of Engineering and Technology holds extensive archives on the EAW -

EAW logo, from NUWT Collection, ref no UWT/D/55/17 © Institute of Education

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

New archive blog discovery

I recently discovered a new blog, well new to me that is, the blog has been going since May 2010.  I've been enjoying having a sift through their old posts and would thoroughly recommend it as a 'follow'! It's called Reclamation and Representation - the boundaries of the literary archiveMuch like this blog was started as part of a project Reclamation and Representation was started to continue discussion and links that were part of the conference of the same name at the University of Exeter.

They help a really interesting sounding day at the University Archive yesterday 'In the Archive with Daphne Du Maurier' - an opportunity to see manuscripts of her most famous works including Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, led by Acting Head of Special Collections and Reclamation panelist Christine Faunch.

They've just posted a nice summary of some of the questions asked on #AskArchivists day.  I wish I could have taken part but we were moving office that day so I didn't think I could really give it the time it deserved.  I've really enjoyed catching up on the questions asked though.  One that is mentioned in Reclamation and Representation's summary is below:

Q: Is there a book or blog to explain how to use archives? E.g. when I don't know what box to order bec. I only know the topic.
A: Best way: look @ catalogue if available or email for advice - see our Special Collections catalogues & Special Collections 'Planning a Visit' for more info (Answer from the Bodlein)

It reminded me of problems I've had as a user of catalogues, only a few years ago it took me ages to work out the right reference numbers for items I wanted to reserve at the National Library of Scotland.  Now I'm sure a large part of my problem was purely impatience, yes, even me an archivist used to using archive catalogues, still expects everything set out for me, google style.  So in turn this reminded me now that we have to do everything we can to make our catalogues as easy to use as possible as - worst case scenario - people will just stop using if they can't find what they're looking for.  Although I think what a lot of people do, and what I did when faced with the same problems, was e-mail the archivist or special collections librarian and ask their help.  I think that #AskArchivists day is a fantastic way of showing that we're not intimidating, that we're 'here to help'!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Wednesday wonders - the mysteries of the lonesome letter

I can't quite believe my last post was a week ago - the time has just flown past! We're moving office this week, to a larger archive office with more room for us and more room for researchers (yay!), so it's been a busy time at work. This week's wonder is a letter from a very thin folder called 'Women's International News'.  This folder did indeed contain correspondence about said paper but in addition to this is one letter, and a response, from the 'Womans Newspaper' to the Secretary of the NUWT.  The letter content is pretty basic, just informing the NUWT of the aims and objectives of the newspaper and asking for news for the NUWT for content for the paper.  The reply is even more brief, thanking them for the information and asking if they have a printed circular with information o 'Womans Newspaper' which could be distributed to the NUWT Council. 

So I'm sure you can guess what attracted me to this letter - yes, t'was the lovely design at the top of the letter-headed notepaper.  I absolutely love line drawings and graphic design and spent ages pouring over the Aubrey Beardsley drawing at the Cult of Beauty exhibition recently so the design on this letter just really appealed to me.  I have tried google for information on the publication (yes, lazy I know but surely in reality this is everyone's first port of call?!).  When that brought up no results I tried searching feminist library catalogues and various London archive and library catalogues but so far the search has brought up nothing.  So, if anyone knows anything about this publication I'd love to know!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Wednesday Wonders

I thought that, in conjunction with my, still relatively, new job cataloguing the records of the National Union of Women Teachers I would start my first 'series' on this blog.  So, 'Wednesday Wonders' it is!  I still get so excited by some of the things I come across when cataloguing - in fact, all archivists I know do - it's one of the major perks of the job.  The best thing for me now is that I'm sharing an office so not only can I share my finds in blog land I can also share them instantly with real live people!  That's not to belittle sharing things in blogland, far from it, I love reading about the archive work going on in Archives in far off lands and I hope that archivists elsewhere get as much pleasure from reading my blog, and of course, that non-archivists enjoy it too!

This week's Wednesday Wonder was one of those moments when you really do just go 'hey you'll never guess what I've just found' and hope your colleagues share your enthusiasm.  It was the lovely colours of the headed notepaper that first caught my attention.  The green and purple is lovely, and I thought, hmmn, this looks slightly familiar.  Then I looked closer, it was letter headed notepaper from the Women's Social and Political Union!

Letter from Rose Lamartine Yates, ref UWT/D/47/1, © Institute of Education
The WSPU was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her three daughters Emmeline, Adela and Christabel Pankhurst.  It was founded in 1903, one year before the NUWT, and they were founded out of frustration with what they saw as a lack of action in terms of obtaining the vote for women.  Their motto 'Deeds, not Words' reflects their stance.  The Women's Library website has a great summary of the WSPU so I won't repeat it all here.

As you can see this letter is a bit later, from 1933.  Rose Lamartine Yates (1875 - 1954) was born in Brixton to French parents.  She studied in the UK and in France.  In 1909 she joined the Wimbledon branch of the WSPU and by 1910 she was the Treasurer and Organising Secretary of the Branch.  In the letter she thanks Ethel Froud (the General Secretary of the NUWT at that time) for inviting her to attend NUWT conference but explains that she was too busy [she was] 'needed here', and was also ill, so she could not make it.  It's really interesting that this letter is dated 1933 as the WSPU ceased to exist in 1919 - maybe Rose Lamartine Yates just had an excess of headed notepaper!  The WSPU were very much about publicising the cause wherever possible and the collection of WSPU items at the Museum of London illustrates this - they have WSPU green and purple tea pots, badges, sashes, and WSPU stockings! 

So thank you for reading, it's been nice to share! Any archivists out there have any favourite finds from their cataloguing work?  What about in other professions? Any unusual finds? 

N.B. For more information on the content of the NUWT Archive you can search the catalogue here.  I also post about the NUWT project on the Institute of Education Library and Archive blog, Newsam News.

Monday, 30 May 2011

We are what we eat? - 'The Edible Archive'

I just got an e-mail through on the Archives NRA list from the Scottish Council on Archives.  As part of the Culture and Diversity 'What's your story?' theme of Archives Awareness 2011 the SCA have decided to create an archival cookbook.  Intrigued? - 

The idea is that the general public, archives users, and archives, will contribute recipes from personal cookbooks and from the archives.  These recipes will be compiled and used to create a cookbook.  Going on the belief that the food we eat reflects who we are, where we've been and where we live, the cookbook will reveal aspects of our family and our national history and culture.  "We're hopeful that The Edible Archive will represent the diversity of the regions, communities and archival collections across Scotland."

I love the idea of compiling a cookbook based on a mixture of contributions from people's personal cookbooks and from archives!  If I looked at the type of food that me and my husband cook then I'm not sure what it says much about our national history and culture as most of the food we cook is Mexican, Pan-Asian or Italian.  Although maybe that's me having far too limited an idea of national culture and history.  Maybe what our cooking says about us is a more general reflection of the internationalism and globalisation of our way of life - the wonderful chances we have to use ingredients from all over the world, to eat out in restaurants from all around the world.  I know for other friends what they cook now often reflects what they grow, or what they can buy that's in season - another reflection of attitudes of the time.  So yes, actually, on reflection I can see that the more thought I put into it the more things I could come up with that show how our cooking represents ideas of national history and culture.  Also there are still many recipes I cook, even if only very occasionally, that remind me of my family for example mince & tatties, scotch pancakes, macaroni cheese, chickpea & tomato curry, Cullen skink - all these have so many associated memories for me that even if I only cook the occasionally they still bring the memories flooding back.

Now I'm just wondering if you have to live in Scotland to participate? Could expats be included?!

The SCA are also planning to have feasts using all the recipes chosen for the cookbook - sounds fantastic!  So if you live in Scotland please get involved!  Whether you work in an archive and have a favourite recipe in a collection, or whether you have a favourite personal recipe, from a cookbook or passed down through the generations, then you can e-mail them to (they also ask that if you have any information about the history of the recipe, or an image, then to include that).  

Submissions to be in by 1 July 2011.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Keep a one-day diary day - tomorrow!

Tomorrow the Mass Observation Archive are repeating their call for people from all parts of the UK to keep a one-day diary recording their day from waking up to going to bed.  The original Mass Observation Day was on 12 May 1937 and is part of the larger Mass Observation social research organisation.  The first diary day was the Coronation of George VI, last years was the first day in Government for the coalition, and this year, well it's just an 'ordinary' day but who's to say that's any less interesting.

The Archives of the Mass Observation project, including the diaries, are publicly available at the University of Sussex.

What they are looking for:
  • Write as much as you can about what you do, who you meet, what you talk about, what you eat and drink, what you buy or sell, what you are working on, the places you visit, the people you meet, the things you read, see and hear around you and of course what you yourself think.
What to include:
  • You should include a brief self portrait: your age, where you live, whether you are married or single, your present job or occupation if you are working and any other information that you think is important to record. We need this as background to your diary.
  • If 12th May was a typical day for you please say so. If not, please say why it wasn’t. Any reflections on the day and on how you felt while keeping the diary always welcome.
  • So that we can add your diary to the rest of the Archive for the future, please include the statement below at the end of your diary. If you don’t attach this statement, we won’t be able to keep your diary or make it part of the Archive.
“I donate my 12th May diary to the Mass Observation Archive. I consent to it being made publicly available as part of the Archive and assign my copyright in the diary to the Mass Observation Archive Trustees so that it can be reproduced in full or in part on websites, in publications and in broadcasts as approved by the Trustees”.

How to submit:

Anyone can keep a diary but it must be in electronic form. They can be sent as emails or as attachments (preferably word documents).  Send them to -

Apologies to readers not in the UK for the UK specific post.  Maybe there are similar projects elsewhere in the world, does anyone know of any? If so please share as I'd lvoe to hear about them.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

When work and hobbies collide

In my new quest to become a sewing wonder and make my own clothes, I have started off with doing repairs.  Imagine my surprise when repairing a vintage dress I bought in Los Angeles to discover that it was Union Made! Now this may not be that unusual to see on clothing labels, I don't know, but what is so unusual about this for me is how eerily it related to my new job cataloguing the Archive of the National Union of Women Teachers.  So it just seems incredibly serendipitous that the label on my dress says 'Int. Ladies Garment Workers Union - Union Made'.  Of course I couldn't leave it at that, I had to do a bit more digging and find out about the ILGWU.

On the second page of google results (or the first page if you go through wikipedia entry) is the link to the ILGWU Archive, held at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University Library.   I mention the ranking in google as I feel that the archive catalogue description should be right up there on the first page, as it's the primary source of information about the union.  The information I've included about the union here is taken from the organisation history included on the catalogue description.  The ILGWU was formed in 1900 in New York City by a variety of immigrant groups, Jewish, Italian, Scots-Irish and Irish, working in the garment industry.  Like the NUWT there was a lot of resistance to the Union but by 1917 they were more powerful and had brought about a great deal of improvements for their members including improved working conditions and unemployment benefit.  I was just cataloguing records today which listed the impressive achievements of the NUWT, including the part they played in gaining equal franchise for women, equal superannuation and pension rights, and of course, their objective - equal pay for women teachers.

There's no point in me just copying out the text from other articles, here and here, where you can read more about the achievements of the ILGWU and some of the horrific events which highlighted the terrible working conditions in place at the time. However the story of the Triangle Waist Company fire in New York.  This was a sweatshop employing 500 people on the ninth floor of a building at Washington Square East.  When a fire broke out on March 25 1911 there was nowhere for the employees, mostly women, many girls as young as 14, to go.  They were unable to open the fire escape or other exits and of the 500 workers, 146 perished that day, either in the fire or jumping from the ninth floor.  Afterwards workers claimed that the owners had locked all the doors to prevent theft, and this was apparently common practice at the time.  The ILGWU proposed a day of mourning and, along with other unions, formed a Joint Relief Committee to help those suffering because of the fire. The company Blanck and Harris were acquitted of any wrongdoing despite the testimonies of all those who survived that they were locked in the building.  Even just writing this now I'm getting shivers up my spine and tears in my eyes just thinking about it, and getting mad as well - how is it that those in power will always get away with their actions for the sake of profit. 

I got the information on the Triangle Factory Fire from an online exhibition at Cornell University to mark 100 years since the fire.  This is a fantastic exhibition with lots of examples of the primary archive material about the fire and all laid out in a very accessible way.

Who would have known I could learn so much from repairing a dress!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Diaries as film source in Meek's Cutoff

Last night I finally got to see Meek's Cutoff.  I was determined to get to see it at the cinema as the descriptions of the scenery and shots in the reviews I'd read sounded stunning and I wasn't disappointed.  Every single shot looked perfectly placed and I kept thinking of paintings as I was watching it - for example the mustard and blue of Millie's clothes really brought to mind Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'.  The lighting was wonderful as well, the colours were muted in most of the film which emphasised the barren and dry landscape they inhabited. 

Even before reading reviews I knew I wanted to see this film, firstly because it is directed by Kelly Reichardt, the director of Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, both of which I really enjoyed, although some of the scenes in Old Joy did make quite uncomfortable viewing.  On a side note there's a really good video essay on the scenery in Old Joy over at Fandor.  Also the presence of Michelle Williams is always going to interest me as she picks some very quirky and interesting films, and she is just so super stylish too! However what I wanted to focus on here was an aspect that really intrigued me - the influence of diaries written by pioneer women on the director and, Jon Raymond, the scriptwriter.  Here's an example (from SodaPictures):

"When researching MEEK'S CUTOFF we were reading a lot of diaries from the period. Of course, the women were the diary keepers and the diaries offer such a specific take on the history. It's a very different tone and point of view than what we see in the Hollywood Western... The other thing you get from the diaries is the loneliness women felt. I remember one woman writing that she was keeping a diary in case her husband should ever want to know her. On the one hand you're never really alone and have no privacy on the trail and yet you’re incredibly isolated, too. The exceptions seemed to be the friendships the women formed with each other.
You also get the sense that the diaries are the only thing besides the weather that mark the passing of time. The journey seems trance-like with each long day bleeding into the next. These are some of the things we tried to get across. The stillness, the silence and the super unforgiving and dynamic landscape."- Kelly Reichardt

From reading other reviews and interviews I realise that the diaries were inspiration rather than literal source material for the story and it just really interested me to see the amount of research that was put into the film.  I spent so long cataloguing Lindsay Anderson's diaries for whom they seemed to serve myriad purposes - discussing the progress on whatever film or play he was working on, working out ideas, venting steam at people who annoyed him, noting his always continuing battle with his waistline, what he bought at the supermarket that day, but also, sadly, they also seemed to serve as his closest confidant and friend.  In addition to sometimes feeling like an intruder reading such personal thoughts his diaries also made me quite sad at times, to think that they were the best (or only) place he felt he could confide.  Kelly's memory from one of the diaries she read, that 'one woman was keeping a diary in case her husband should ever want to know her' echoes this use of the diary as a remedy or tonic for loneliness.  It also brings up the issue of whether or not people write their diaries with the hope that others might read them.  

Which leads me on to a few really interesting diary related projects I've been reading about recently.  I heard about Her Five Year Diary thanks to Casey's Elegant Musings
and I've been enjoying reading it since.  Sara, the creator of the blog, found the diary at an estate sale and was intrigued.   The diary is from 1961 - 1965 and from reading the entries she knows the diary writer was a female teacher in a deaf school in the Seattle area.  She wrote an entry every day for 5 years so Sara is now posting each day's diary online.  I love the idea of this and I think all the mundane everyday things are as interesting as special events.  

The other diary related project is a current project running at West Yorkshire Archives Service's where they are using Local History Month to highlight all the diaries in their Archive.  On their blog they discuss the huge variety of types of diaries they hold, from the everyday lives of people in the area, for example a farming diary from Bottom Boat Farm, to the diaries of soldiers posted abroad, to diaries from peoples holiday travels.  You'll be able to see the exhibition at all the Archive centres in West Yorkshire but for those who can't make it then you can read about it on their blog, Catablogue.

I don't keep a diary myself, though I do enjoy reading other peoples, when I'm cataloguing them, or reading about other people's projects with diaries, and also in published form.  Does this mean I'm nosy - I prefer to think it just means I've picked the right profession where I can get paid to indulge my interests on other people's news!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Archives selling on eBay

I saw this posted on Ephemera - an original 1937 Dr. Seuss lithograph.  I checked and it sold for just over $100.  The seller on eBay states that this was one of a year's worth of images which Dr. Seuss a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Geisel, created for the Thomas D. Murphy Calender Company and that this particular image was never distributed or publicly used.  So it has come directly out of the archives of the Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company.  Part of me thinks what a shame, that these original illustrations are being sold off individually, rather than preserved as an archive, of the Calendar Company's work, or even as a smaller collection just of Geisel's work for the company.  However at the same time I'd love to own an original Dr. Seuss illustration and I hope the individual who bought it will get lots of enjoyment out of it!

The reason this post on Ephemera stuck out for me is that I'm currently reading 'Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel - a Biography' which I'm really enjoying.  The acknowledgements in the book begin with thanking Librarians and Archivists throughout American and British Institutions.  The authors also acknowledge the invaluable insights gleaned from other personal archives - the letters of friends and relatives, and interviews they conducted with his friends and relatives.  All this use of archival sources really shines through in the book, even at this early stage of reading.  The research is meticulous and highly detailed, luckily without being dry!  At the moment we're in 1930s New York, the Wall Street crash has just happened and times are changing from the optimism of the 20s, though at the moment the fortunes of Dr. Seuss are still on the up and up.  I love biographies as not only do you get an insight into the life of someone you admire (well in my case it's usually someone I admire, a musician/artist/writer), but you also get an insight into a way of life, a particular society, particular time.  In this case his experience growing up in an immigrant German community during WWI, and now New York in the 1920s and 1930s and who knows what's still to come!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Researcher's Tales at the BFI

Monday was the first time I went to a 'Researcher's Tales' evening at the British Film Institute Library and Archive on Stephen Street.  I've been wanting to go for ages but would never have been home from work in time before - it's so great now that I'm both living and working in the same city!  Researcher's Tales is billed as "An occasional series of informal discussions for BFI National Library members in which leading writers, historians and practitioners in film, television, artists' film and the moving image reflect on their past, current and future work."

It was such a great evening - the talk by Laura Mulvey and Mark Lewis was fascinating, and the clips they used to illustrate their points were great.  They talked over each other at times, contradicted and corrected each other but that was all part of the dialogue and you really got a feel for the regard and affection they have for each other. The talk was about Rear Projection - a film technique which I recognised but hadn't heard the term for before.  Basically for anyone else like me who hasn't heard the term used, it means that the stars are shot doing their scene in a studio with the scene itself e.g. the landscape, city scape, ocean etc projected behind them on a flat screen.  I'm sure everyone can think of at least a few examples from films they know but what I hadn't realised was just how widely used it was, particularly from the early 1930s through to the late 1950s.  Laura and Mark recalled how they first began talking about, and discovering their mutual interest in this under theorised and under discussed area of cinematic history.  Laura was showing Mark one of her favourite films - the 1930 film Her Man and although Mark was uninterested in the initial aspect Laura wanted to show him he was intrigued by the use of rear projection. This started the dialogue and research which they discussed on Monday night as they "realised that rear projection had an intrinsic aesthetic interest of its own and that its very artificiality, its lack of transparency, brought with it a certain 'modernist' self-consciousness".  You can read more of their views on rear projection here.

We were also privileged to see clips and segments from a number of films by Mark Lewis.  These films were fantastic, particularly Backstory (2009) and Molly Parker (2006).  I really enjoyed the Researcher's Tales and am looking forward to making it to more of them in the future.  You have to be a member of the BFI Library in order to go but that's fine by me too - going back to the Library at Stephen Street for the first time in ages reminded me of what a special place it is.  I so hope they change their mind/the finances change and they don't move it, as proposed, to the much smaller space in the exhibition room at BFI Southbank.

N.B. The clip that they showed from Her Man was copied from Laura's VHS copy of the film.  Mark referred to the poor quality of this but said it was all they could get as the original film has been destroyed and there aren't any copies of it in archives.  I had a look online and it seems you can get it on DVD but these are poor quality copies, probably also from VHS, which I think people can sell now as the film is in the public domain - though I'm not sure if that's just in America or worldwide.  It made me think again of film archiving, obviously not all films can be preserved, or indeed merit being preserved - however, how much of what is saved and what is lost is often down to chance.

New York Downtown Scene 1970s - exhibition at the Barbican, London

I realised I tantalisingly mentioned the Barbican exhibition at the end of my post of my new job, then got so excited about the Researcher's Tales at the BFI that I forgot about the Barbican.  However, it definitely was only temporarily forgotten as it was such a breathtaking exhibition that I'm actually hoping I've got time to go back!

View of 'Floor of the Forest', Barbican

'Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown and Gordon Matta-Clark - Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York, 1970s' is on until 22 May and I would recommend it to anyone in or visiting London.  It was the last exhibition I went to see with a friend who's since moved back to Israel (if you're reading this, I hope you make it back to London soon!) and what a lovely day we had.  It was lovely and sunny, we saw this exhibition, wandered around the Barbican complex, saw part of the original wall of London, then went to meet other friends in 'The Book Club' pub in Shoreditch - a packed and fun day!

I've read so much about New York in the 1970's, in Tim Lawrence's fantastic biography of Arthur Russell Hold On To Your Dreams, in Patti Smith's Just Kids, and most recently in City Boy by Edmund White.  So I'd heard of Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown and Gordon Matta-Clark without ever having seen or experienced their work.  As the title states the exhibition is about their work in New York in the 1970s and it covers dance, performance art, photography, film - but none of them in quite such a straightforward way as that makes them sound.  For example Gordon Matta-Clark's cut outs of buildings - at first I thought, yes interesting, replica's of sections of dilapidated buildings, however... they weren't replicas, it was actual sections of buildings!  He had taken photographs of the cut-outs and it was just such a painstaking looking process and so clever, I loved it! I read a good post about him here, which is also where I got the image below from.

Interior view of conical intersect
We were lucky to arrive just in time for 'Walking on the Wall' a performance piece by Trisha Brown.  This really played with your sense of perspective and space and was spell-binding and fun to watch.  The performances are on every day - if I go back I'd love to see Floor of the Forest! Laurie Anderson's performance pieces which she had photographed were so much fun as well, for example there was one series of photographs of her lying in various places, on a bench, in a train station, on a beach.  The premise was to see if sleeping in different places altered her dreams.

There were a large number of film pieces by Gordon Matta-Clark and Trisha Brown and whilst I really enjoyed all of them they also brought out my archivist side as the quality of some of them was great, they'd obviously been preserved, there were others which were really very grainy and quite difficult to make everything out clearly.  That made me very sad as anyone who sees these works could see how deserving of preservation and care they are.  Though I guess at the time if the artist just kept a print themselves, maybe in a loft or cupboard then the chances of it being well preserved are less.  It was just so much fun to see them all though that the quality was really of minor importance to the effect and the experience!

Having read so much about the music scene in New York it was great to see another side to the New York of the 1970s - I know at the time it would have been edgy, no doubt dangerous, and pretty poor too - but I'd still have loved to have experienced it!

Tree in blossom outside the Barbican

Monday, 18 April 2011

New Twitter account for Archives project

Just a brief post to say that I have now set up an NUWT Twitter account specifically for my new job cataloguing the records of the National Union of Women Teachers.  It's a project I'm really excited about and I'm already finding lots of really interesting material in the Archive so am looking forward to sharing it through Twitter, and hopefully soon enough, through a dedicated NUWT blog. 

Equal suffrage demonstration in Lowestoft, Suffolk 
©Institute of Education Archive

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

New Cataloguing Archivist post

I've just started a new job in the Archive at the Institute of Education, London.  It's another project job - this time for fourteen months - and I'm loving it already!  My job is to catalogue the records of the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT).  The NUWT was founded in 1904 as the Equal Pay League and in 1906 it was re-named the National Federation of Women Teachers. In 1920 it broke away to form an independent union, the National Union of Women Teachers.  I wrote a post about my first impressions and first finds over at the Newsam News blog (the blog of the Institute of Education Library and Archive) so I won't repeat what I've said there except to say that the variety of subjects covered in the archive sounds very exciting, a perfect example is the poster shown below for the 'World Youth Conference' held in Prague in 1947.  The correspondence, pamphlets and posters for this conference were so filled with optimism and hope for the future, for a new peaceful future, that was wonderful to read.  Though at the same time quite sad that the optimism and hopes for peace are still just that, optimism and hope. 
World Youth Festival pamphlet,
UWT/D/28A/2 ©Institute of Education Archive
From what I've read so far the NUWT was filled with strong, independent females and finding out more about them is going to be a pleasure, and a privilege to get to do s part of my daily work!  I've got lots of plans for free publicity I can do and connections and links that can be made with other archives and other organisations, in fact I even had a dream about my plans, on a Friday night - a bit strange granted, but I wouldn't have it any other way, better to over-think and enjoy my work than the other way around.  I think I'll be keeping the majority of posts about the project confined to the Newsam News blog but I'm sure the occasional one will stray over here.  I'm still going to keep this blog up though as there's plenty of other archive related events I can talk about, like a recent exhibition I went to at the Barbican...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

more reflections on working in a film archive

I've been thinking more about what I've learned whilst working at Wessex Film and Sound Archive, and the things I listed in my last post on the subject.  One thing I didn't really touch upon but which is really the biggest revelation for me was that maybe my idea that a film archive is where I want to work in the long-term isn't necessarily as set in stone as I thought.

For years my ultimate goal in terms of where I would like to work long-term is in a film archive.  However after my, admittedly very limited, experience of working for five months in a film archive I realised that without all the paper records and research I'd be lost!  I understand that when films come into a general archive (such as John Grierson films at the Stirling University Archive) then it makes sense to pass them to a specialist film archive where they will have the skills and equipment to look after the films and make them available.  However this often means separating the films from the paper records that tell us about the creation/inspiration behind the films.  Again I understand this, specialist film archives don't have the space to look after all the paper records relating to the filmmaker.  Obviously they'll keep accession records relating to the films, and in WFSA there are also paper records created by the filmmakers or their families, such as cataloguing notes, photographs, biographical information.  However these paper records are considered secondary to the films, which in a way they are, although in my view they're also essential in understanding the context of the creation of the films.  A qualification I'll make here is that as a project worker, I know I have had the luxury of full-time devotion to cataloguing which of course means much more time to research each film, including looking at the related paper records.  If I was a permanent member of staff at WFSA, or in any Film archive, there would be so many things competing for time, such as enquiries, researchers, administration tasks, reports, funding applications etc.  Also, from the other direction, if the filmmaker is well known and their films are available on DVD then it isn't necessary for those working with the paper records of the filmmaker to have access to the original films themselves... Unless, of course, the films have been cut/altered.   Or also, as with the Lindsay Anderson Archive at Stirling University, there are so many unmade films discussed in the paper archives that of course you would never know about if you were only looking at the films themselves.  It seems like every line I write here has at least one qualification so I guess it indicates that my mind is still a bit muddled.

Ultimately working in a film archive has just convinced me even more of my love of archives, film and paper, and my ambition to continue working with both - yes, I want to have my cake and eat it!

I am enjoying my four days off now before I start my new job (which I will post about once I start) and have more nice plans for my time off.  Spending some time with a friend before she moves home (it's great to have time to spend with her, and am excited for her plans for the future, but of course it'll be bittersweet too as having only just lived in the same city again for 6 months I'm going to miss her!) One of my other plans is to continue the sewing/crafting I have started with the draft excluder I made.  Now, given that it took me months to make then it isn't a very auspicious start but I hope that my sewing skills, and my concentration/dedication will improve as time goes on.  In order to give myself a kick-start I thought I'd start another blog for my crafty goings-ons and inspirations - however I've yet to come up with a name for said blog, yet again not a very good start - and... I haven't done anything crafty! 

I've got back into cooking the past two days instead.  Yesterday was Refried Beans and Smoked Mackerel Tostadas, courtesy of Thomasina Mier's excellent book, Mexican Food Made Simple', which turned out great, as all the recipes from her book have.  Today I've just finished making Chana Daal and Saag Paneer - of course, it's important to taste as you go along so I can already confirm that dinner tonight is going to be a good one.  Maybe I'll get started on a crafty/sewing project on Thursday!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The perks of being a cataloguer/researcher.

In my last week at Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA) me and Zoe Viney had a research trip to Salisbury. We timed it perfectly, picking the sunniest day of the week to go! I hadn't been to Salisbury before and Zoe hadn't been in years so we did a bit of exploring whilst we were there.

The reason for your visit was to try and gather more information on Eda Moore, an amateur filmmaker from Salisbury whose films are held in WFSA. I love her films as they cover a wide date range, from the 1930s through to the 1970s/1980s and cover a wide range of subjects. The films which we catalogued though were all about Salisbury. This was because the project 'Revitalising the Regions' is all about films from Hampshire and the surroundings regions, including Dorset. Her films about Salisbury show local events, carnivals, parades, processions etc such as the clip shown below.

She also filmed her travels, including many visits back to South Africa.  Unfortunately due to the nature of the project I was employed on, I couldn't really justify spending time sitting watching all of these but I did have a peak at a few of them and wish I'd had time to watch them all! 

Eda Moore herself, though, was proving a good deal more elusive than her films.  We couldn't find out much biographical information about her at all.  So, a trip to Salisbury was called for - oh the hardships of being a film cataloguer/researcher!  The first stop was at Salisbury Local Reference Library where we found lots of useful information, mostly through an obituary for her we found on the microfilm for the Salisbury Journal.  We found the obituary because Zoe had found out her date of death through Ancestry - I'm ashamed to admit that it hadn't occurred to me to use something like Ancestry, some archivist eh!?

Our next port of call was Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, whom I had been in touch with via e-mail.  They had informed us they had a box of archive material about Eda Moore's father, Francis John Moore, who had been Mayor of Salisbury 1953/1954.  They suggested we might want to look through the material as it included a large book compiled of press cuttings.  Another confession - I totally forgot to get in touch and set up an appointment so we just popped in when we were there.  Terrible I know, just dropping in like that, but thankfully the staff there were super friendly and helpful!  We had a walk round the museum (which I'd highly recommend) sat outside Salisbury Cathedral for lunch and then got to look through the material.  It proved very illuminating and gave us lots of useful information - my favourite nugget was a page written by Eda Moore herself where she talks about carrying her Bolex around in her handbag with her.  I love it!  I have this image now of this very genteel lady, going to official events at the invite of her father the Mayor, all the while having her camera in her bag so she could film!

Whilst in Salisbury we also fitted in a visit to the Cathedral which was absolutely beautiful, both inside and out.  My photos, as usual, don't do it justice.  It was so satisfying to be able to fill in some gaps in the story of Eda Moore before finishing up at WFSA.  I'm going to miss my colleagues, and the films of course!, but I know I can keep checking out the WFSA Flickr to see what's new.