Monday 6 December 2010

'Revitalising the Regions' - reflections on my first month working in a film archive

I should change the title to first six weeks as I started writing this post ages ago - as visitors to my blog will know my posts have been far from regular recently!  With the move to London and the new job I seem to have got rather behind with my postings.   My new job is just what I was looking for as it is a post as a film cataloguer.  I knew when I did my Masters in Archives that I was interested in working in a film and sound archive but I think what I hadn’t was expected was just how much I have loved all my jobs since I qualified! I would consider myself a pretty positive person most of the time anyway but I can’t imagine how anyone could get bored with the variety of material you get to work with in an archive. 

The Wessex Film and Sound Archive where I now work has its home in the Hampshire Records Office in Winchester.  So, I now have a commute from London to Winchester every day – the opposite direction to most people.  I really enjoy the commute though, I started writing this on the train one day last week but I often use the journey for an extra wee half hour snooze, or to read my book, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery passing by outside the window.

So, my new job: I am working on a project again, as a film cataloguer, this time on a six month post.  I enjoy project work and for me it’s been a great way to start out in the profession, going from projects at Glasgow Caledonian University, to Stirling University and now on to Wessex Film and Sound Archive.   Although with the way the cuts in the arts and cultural heritage sector are going I'm starting to get slightly worried about finding another job come next April!  

The project I am working on ‘Revitalising the Regions’ is one strand of the larger Screen Heritage UK project, itself based on the Strategy for UK Screen Heritage which states that -
“The public are entitled to access, learn about and enjoy their rich screen heritage wherever they live and wherever the materials are held.”

I am working, along with fellow cataloguer Zoe Viney on cataloguing over 600 films which will then be put on the Screen Heritage UK Union catalogue.  Some of the films we’re cataloguing already have some cataloguing information on them, others have very little, and many have nothing except one line of description.  We have set fields we have to complete in order for the records to be exported to the Union Search catalogue, which covers information about the format and physical description of the film in addition to date, title, any information about the filmmakers, and of course description of the film itself.  In addition to the set fields we are also adding in any additional contextual information to the films which we think could be useful to users.  

My only experience of cataloguing films prior to this job was one afternoon, a very interesting afternoon, at the Huntley Film Archive (which I wrote about in an earlier post here).  I was slightly apprehensive about beginning then but have found that the cataloguing process works in much the same way as with paper records, in fact, I'm not even sure why I would have thought differently as the main purpose of any cataloguing is to make the records more accessibly, understandable, provide context etc. whatever the format.  What I have found difficult is the films which have sound as it's difficult not to write down everything in the commentary, and difficult to concentrate on the visual.  Is this just me, that the aural takes over the visual when they are both together?  It's made me think more about sound in movies, and about silent films.  In a silent film, or one with limited sound, or even with only diagetic sound, the image is central, but maybe I'm not alone that once there is a soundtrack or commentary, it becomes hard to pull back and only concentrate on the visual?  I'm really enjoying cataloguing the films as I'm learning so much about Hampshire, its history, landscape, industries, culture and people. I'm hoping to become a bit more regular with my posts again so I'll write more about specific films as I catalogue them. 

My new workspace - with TV and VHS player to the right.
I also have a mouse mat map of Scotland for when I get homesick

Before I started work Zoe had already set up a Twitter account for us to chart our progress, document our finds, and ask for help if, for example, we can’t identify a particular building in a town, so we’ve both been posting to this on a regular basis.  In addition to the Twitter account I’ll continue to write about my work on this blog. 

Thursday 2 December 2010

This Sporting Life - sports book of the half century

There was an interesting article about the novel 'This Sporting Life', by David Storey, on this morning's Guardian sportblog.  The point is made that the depiction of Rugby, both the on and off pitch side, is as realistic a portrait as you will get.  I knew when watching the film that it was pretty brutal, both on and off the pitch, but as a non-sports person with no knowledge of rugby I had no idea how true a depiction it was until it was pointed out to me in reviews of both the book and the film.

Here's an exert from the article by Frank Keating.  The original article can be read here

"By nice coincidence, this modest commemorative hurrah to mark the half-century since the publication of the finest British novel about professional sport to be written by an actual professional sportsman coincides with yesterday's naming of Brian Moore as 2010's winner of the William Hill prize for sports book of the year.
In the 50 years since its first appearance in 60s' pre-Christmas bookshops, David Storey's This Sporting Life remains not only the best literary novel by a sportsman, but the only one...
This Sporting Life has stood the test of "classic" category; at the time the Guardian staffer and rugby league buff Geoffrey Moorhouse hailed the novel as "unique", adding that "an interest in rugby league is by no means necessary to appreciate this story, any more than a fascination with whaling has ever been vital to an enjoyment of Moby Dick"...
Indeed, only this very year, the novelist Caryl Phillips was acclaiming Storey in our books' pages as "the only author who knew what it was like to be raked and stamped on by opponents, and then patronised by the chairman over drinks in the boardroom, so only he could have written such a fiercely authentic account of the hypocrisies of British sporting life"...
The novel's uneasy love story of insecure anti-hero tough, Machin, and his world-weary landlady, Mrs Howard, earthily provides harrowing off-field narrative, but it is in the raw sporting passages where the reader can wince at the resonance of uncomfortable truths as in, to take a single example, this touchline gallop by the malcontent, joyless Machin...
In Robert Sellers's unputdownable new book Hellraisers, on the careers of various larger-than-life actors, the author quotes Storey on the first day's shooting of the film at Huddersfield's ground where the cynical local team, hired as extras, waited in a bored, heel-kicking cluster for Harris's entrance.
"They were at the other end of the pitch going, 'Oh, Jesus, look at this flower coming out.' Harris just took one look at them and ran down the whole pitch towards them. And as he ran, he got faster and faster until they suddenly realised with horror that he was going to run right into them, which he eventually did. It was that initial gesture of total physical commitment, indifference and carelessness, that caught the players' admiration and they really took to him in a major way."
For once a film was so faithful to its origins that it even enhanced the original novel's unfading and stimulating quality. Sports book of the half-century, you might even say."

The novel was first published in 1960 and the film, made by Lindsay Anderson, and starring Richard Harris, was made in 1963.

Lindsay Anderson and Richard Harris on set of This Sporting Life
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Happy St Andrew's Day!

Today is St. Andrew's Day and although I am no longer living in Scotland, indeed perhaps because of it, St. Andrew's Day has made me remember all the things I love about my home country.  The mountains, the forests, Glasgow, Fife fishing villages, Skye, the history, the arts and culture, and of course family and friends.

I liked this wee animation on which gives a brief history of the story of St Andrew.

I just posted a photo on my work Twitter as well - via our Twitpic.  Zoe, the other film cataloguer I work with, set up the Twitter and we both use it to post stills from the films we're cataloguing.  It's useful if we're stuck on identifying a place or building as we can post an image and get help from other people!
The photo I've posted, of the Forth Rail Bridge, is somewhere I'll be seeing soon as we're off back up to Fife at Christmas time.

I'm in the process of writing a longer post about my new job - which I'm really enjoying! - but the dark nights are holding me back as I struggle to get the laptop out and do any work when I get home!  I'll get it finished and posted soon though.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Giving thanks

This post is a slight departure from usual in that it has nothing to do with archives and not much to do with film.

I've been reading a lot of interviews with Apichatpong Weerasethakul recently about his recently released film Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives.  The interviews have really struck me as, as well as coming across like a really nice guy, Weerasethakul makes some really simple but incredibly profound and meaningful statements.  I just like his simple way of wording things and some of his words came to my mind yesterday when I got the terribly sad news that a friend of a friend had recently passed away.  I knew Jose too and having seen him only a few months ago found the news very hard to take in.  He loved Thailand and was planning to return there to live and work so it seems fitting that the words of Weerasethakul gave me some comfort. 

This is the section that came to my mind when I got the sad news:

‘So, we are going to die right, you and I?’ opens Apichatpong Weerasethakul conversationally. ‘One day we are all going to turn to dust. But we will not disappear,’ he adds reassuringly.
‘We just integrate and transform into other things. In classical reincarnation you are reborn into another animal but I believe it’s more like an energy, what Buddhists call a transmigration of souls. The idea we connect with everything: with the sunlight, the Earth, the animals – we are all recycled. That’s what I’m interested in.’

It's not like I hadn't heard these ideas before, in fact it fits in with my beliefs, but I think to read it in the Metro newspaper on a crowded tube on the way to work just really hit home how powerful and how complex these simple sentiments really are.

To finish this post I though I would use a beautiful image which my mum drew, with some inspirational words from Thich Nhat Hanh which she used as the centerpiece.  She used to have it hanging on her bedroom wall so she would read the words every morning when she woke.  I don't have this up on our wall yet but I do try and remember to smile first thing when I wake up and give thanks in that way, through a quick thought and a smile.  

So I just thought that on this day of Thanksgiving in America I would take the opportunity to write a few words to give thanks for love, for friendship and for this beautiful world we live in.  Jose's energy will live on through his friends and family and all the people he has met along the way.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Rethinking Lindsay Anderson

I am really looking forward to this evening 'Rethinking Lindsay Anderson' at the BFI Southbank on Tuesday 23 November.  It will be a screening of a number of his early documentaries, including Idlers That Work (1949) (New Print), Henry (1955) (New Print) and Foot and Mouth (1955).  I'm sure it will be really interesting to see these films, some of which I haven't seen before. I'm also really looking forward to the panel discussion with Walter Lassally (cinematographer who worked with Anderson on Wakefield Express, Three Installations, Thursday's Children, A Hundred Thousand Children, Henry, Green and Pleasant Land, Foot and Mouth, The Children Upstairs and Every Day Except Christmas), Erik Hedling (film scholar who wrote 'Lindsay Anderson, Maverick Filmmaker) and Lois Smith (a lifelong friend of Lindsay Anderson's who provided his entry into filmmaking by inviting him to make a film at the factory her husband ran (this film was Meet the Pioneers 1948).  

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Lindsay Anderson's 'O Dreamland' screening in London

There will be a screening of Lindsay Anderson's O Dreamland next Thursday in London as part of a night of poetry, performance and film screenings under the banner of 'Plectrum Live Edition'.   The event 'Plectrum Live Edition: Postcards from the Promenade' is organised by 'Plectrum - the cultural pick' - an arts magazine published on-line and bi-monthly in print.  I heard of this event via The Horse Hospital - this is an arts venue in London. In their own words "The Horse Hospital is a three tiered progressive arts venue in London providing an encompassing umbrella for the related media of film fashion, music and art." Oh, so many things to explore when I move to London!  Although unfortunately I'll miss this event as I'm travelling back up from London on the 23rd after a few days flat hunting and starting a film course at Lux - Opening up the Archive - a Guided tour of Artists Moving Image.

Here is some more information about the event which the screening of O Dreamland is a part of:

"Returning from a seaside summer holiday, the first Plectrum Live Edition of the autumn mixes postcards from the promenade and the view into the fairground fortune teller’s crystal ball, with fresh perspectives on the sights and sounds of London, to present an evening of author readings, film screening, live music, poetry, and more with Travis Elborough, Lindsay Anderson’s O Dreamland, Karen McLeod, The Vatican Cellars, and Benedict Newbery, hosted by Guy Sangster Adams."

Thursday 23 September at The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD.  Doors at 7.30 performances begin 8pm.    Tickets £6 on the door.

Set in a funfair in Margate called 'Dreamland' Lindsay Anderson's 1953 film O Dreamland wasn't actually screened until the first Free Cinema programme at the National Film Theatre in 1956.  A short film of 12 minutes which tours round the funfair showing the 'attractions' which in this film appear very bleak, and at times, sinister.  The effect of the film is described brilliantly by Gavin Lambert in an article he wrote on Free Cinema:

 "Everything is ugly... It is almost too much. The nightmare is redeemed by the point of view, which, for all the unsparing candid camerawork and the harsh, inelegant photography, is emphatically humane. Pity, sadness, even poetry is infused into this drearily tawdry, aimlessly hungry world."

Lindsay Anderson on location for O Dreamland,
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

N.B. The funfair at Margate is still there today although it closed in 2005.

N.B. If you are in a Library, College or University which has an account with BFI Screenonline then you can watch O Dreamland  for free online at

Saturday 11 September 2010

A Lucky Find

I'm just back from a week's holiday in Crete where we had a lovely time enjoying the beautiful scenery and lovely hot weather, eating tasty local food (including lots of fresh fish), and basically relaxing after the recent hectic time of the end of my post at Stirling University and celebrating my husband's new job and our imminent move to London - yay!

So on our return from Crete we're spending a few days in London exploring some of the areas we're thinking we might move to.    Yesterday we were in Stoke Newington first which we both really liked but which is maybe not going to be feasible re commuting.  Anyway we had fun exploring and of course doing a wee bit of shopping.  On our wander we came across a lovely shop on Church Street which drew me in with the lovely array of vintage tea pots I could see through the window.  They also had a great selection of prints, including reproductions of Cuban film posters.  I wasn't planning to buy anything but when I came across this poster for Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! (1973) I just had to buy it!  The artist is Antonio Fernandez Reboiro and the poster is from 1977.  I didn't want to take the poster out it's plastic until I get home so apologies for the poor quality of the image but the quality of the art work shines through I think. 

I don't know much about Cuban movie posters but found a few interesting blogs that will start me off on a bit more reading when I get back to Glasgow - for now we're off to Borough Market for some tasty food!

Here are the blogs I came across:

Tales of a Cinesthete

Cuban Posters

Friday 27 August 2010

Our new Archive space in the University of Stirling Library

The newly renovated library building is getting all the finishing touches put in now - ready for the big opening on Monday 30 August.  The new archive space is looking, and smelling great!  Yes, I did say smelling - I had forgotten how much I love the small of an archive store!  Hmmn, just brought to my mind Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore's "I love the small of napalm in the morning" when I wrote that line down - I guess to some I might sound a bit mad with my love of the small of an archive store, but hopefully not in the same league as Kilgore!  The new search room is lovely and bright and spacious as you can see from the photos.  I think the archival material we've chosen for the display cases (each shelf having its own theme) work really well and hopefully the staff and students will agree when we open on Monday.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Image from the archive

Well I forgot my camera again today so no images of the lovely new archive.  So, as a quick post I thought I'd share this striking image from a 1984 aerogramme sent to Lindsay Anderson.  It is promoting the 1984 US Olympics (as you can see!) and there are quite a few of these in the collection, sent by different people.  I really like all the bright colours and the design and I think it would be so nice to receive a letter dressed up like that.  I was talking to someone last night about the lost art of letter writing - well actually not quite so lost, I don't think, as I know that me and my friends often write letters to each other, send cards, postcards and Cd's etc.  There is really something so wonderful about receiving a letter that is quite different than online communication. I know people still use the post for communicating but only as one of many forms of communication and this is what is so exciting nowadays- the myriad of ways in which people can speak to each other. 

Now I'm off back to the archives store to carry on with organising all the boxes in the Lindsay Anderson Archive - it's very satisfying to see it all in its new home! 

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Reaching the end of the project

A week today will be my final day working at Stirling University on the Lindsay Anderson Archive and the 'Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' AHRC project.  I'm excited about the new challenges the future will bring- including the immediate challenge of finding a new job!  However after three years working with the archive I'll be incredibly sad to leave Lindsay (as I now think of him) behind.  I feel like I've really come to know him over the past 3 years - though I know that this is in no way comparable to those who actually knew him during his lifetime.  I also feel rather possessive of the archive - is this a common feeling amongst archivists when you work so long with one collection? I imagine so - but I know that it is in good hands at Stirling University, particularly now it will be housed in the lovely new Archive store (more pictures of the new archive to follow tomorrow as I forgot my camera today).  London is calling though and I am super excited about the move to London with my husband to start a new stage in our life in a city which we both already love.  For today though I better stop gabbing and get back to David Vaughan (yes, I'm on 'V' of the named correspondence files - not long to go now!).  I did try and scan a rather lovely piece of sheet music which David Vaughan sent to Lindsay Anderson for the 1929 film 'The Broadway Melody' but my highly temperamental scanner seems to have finally given up the ghost. 

So instead here is a photo of my co-workers from the Lindsay Anderson project on a team away day we recently enjoyed.  The photo is taken near the Standing Stones on Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran.  We had a lovely day, we walked for three hours in total, saw lots of beautiful countryside, enjoyed each others company - and a well deserved pint at the end of the walk! 

Friday 20 August 2010

Exhibition from the Lindsay Anderson Archive will open newly refurbished Stirling University Library and Archive

It's all go here with the last few weeks before the newly refurbished library and archive opens at Stirling University.  On entering the new library one of the first things that people will see will be all the wonderful photographs from the Lindsay Anderson Archive Exhibition.  We had a run through last week of marking out where everything would be hung and you can see our work in the images below.  This week is the setting up of the exhibition so it will all be ready for the opening of the new Library and Archive on 30 August - which is spookily enough, also the anniversary of Lindsay Anderson's death. I'll post some more photos on Monday of the exhibition all up on the walls.  It was a really good idea to lay it all out like this though as it gave us an idea of the amount of space we had, the spacing to leave between photographs and the overall impact of the images - pretty striking I think (obviously looking a whole lot better on the walls than they do laid out on the carpet!). 

Monday 2 August 2010

Archives Hub feature on the Lindsay Anderson Archive

The 'This month we celebrate' feature on the Archives Hub website is a good way of finding out about collections held in other further education institutions in Britain and I've enjoyed reading about the different collections highlighted through this section.  I am very pleased to say that this month I wrote a piece about the Lindsay Anderson Archive which has been used for the 'This month we celebrate' feature for August  - so... 'This month we celebrate Lindsay Anderson'.  

Wednesday 28 July 2010

New images on Stirling University Archives Flickr

LA/6/2/2/29/4(5) Image from the march to Aldermaston, Easter 1958
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

I'm having a short enforced break from cataloguing whilst my database (notice the possessive use here!) is being converted to become an online catalogue.  Hopefully this will be ready within the next two weeks and I can share it all here.  Today I can start back on cataloguing (phew!) but I thought I'd share some of alternative work I've been doing over the past few days before I get back to my files!  Seeing as how discussing the numbering and reordering I've been doing may be slightly dull I thought I'd focus on the new sets of images I've uploaded to the University Archives Flickr site.  I've scanned in five sets of photographs, or contact strips to be more precise and although the quality isn't all that great in a few of them - some fading, bright spots, tears etc. the content of the images is great and I think the distress on some of them just adds to the character. 

The main subject of the images is the 1958 march from London to Aldermaston.  This was a march organised over the Easter weekend 1958 by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).  CND was formed a few months earlier in February 1958 and this was their first large organised protest.  Several thousand people took part in the four day march which travelled from London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire.  There was a contingent of friends and supporters from the Royal Court Theatre who took part in this march and they can be seen, with their theatre inspired banners ('To be or not to be'), in the images below.

LA/6/2/2/30/2(6) Image from the march to Aldermaston, Easter 1958
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

LA/6/2/2/32/1(6) Image from the march to Aldermaston, Easter 1958
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

LA/6/2/2/30/3(2) Image from the march to Aldermaston, Easter 1958
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

Lindsay Anderson took part in this march and was also central to the creation of a film March to Aldermaston (1959).  The film was made by a committee of volunteers entitled the 'Film and Television Committee for Nuclear Disarmament'.  Along with Lindsay Anderson was Karel Reisz and a whole team of experienced film workers.  This included lab technicians who worked for free to process the footage and Contemporary Films, who handled the distribution of the film.  Although the film is credited to the entire committee it is widely acknowledged that Lindsay Anderson took over the film at the editing stage and shaped it into the film.  The narration of the film is by Richard Burton, who also narrated Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton's Thursday's Children (1954).  The commentary which Burton read was written by Christopher Logue (a poet and playwright and a friend of Anderson's).  The film itself seems as relevant to me today as it was then and indeed this made the film even more powerful in my mind - the fact that nothing much has changed.  Personally I find the support of nuclear weapons quite incomprehensible (of course, money and power are the main reasons but quite why these should outweigh the concern for human life is beyond me).  Whatever your political views though I think this film would be very interesting to watch as a document of the 1950s.  Like the films created by Anderson and others under the banner of Free Cinema this film documents the lives and concerns of ordinary working people.

The film is available as part of the boxset DVD on Free Cinema produced by the British Film Institute.  There is more information about the film on BFI Screenonline.  For more information about CND see their website

I like that the images show the periods of rest and fun in between the marching, for example the photo below of a girl having a rest.  There was musical accompaniment to the march, inlcuding folk music and jazz and there are a number of photos like the one second below which show the musicians taking part in the march. 

LA/6/2/2/29/4(1) Image from the march to Aldermaston, Easter 1958
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

LA/6/2/2/29/3(4) Image from the march to Aldermaston, Easter 1958
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

Monday 19 July 2010

My posting has still been rather sporadic of late and I think it will continue that way for the next two months as it nears the end of our three-year project on 'The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' with the deadlines looming large! I've now catalogued over 10,200 items in the archive which I find quite staggering to think about sometimes! The best things is I'm still enjoying the cataloguing as much now as I was at the beginning, indeed perhaps even more so. The reason for that being that the more you get to know about a collection and the individuals in it the more you get out of the cataloguing - well that's what I find anyway.

So, in the lack of anything more constructive to say right now whilst I continue to work my way through the named correspondence files I thought I would just share this Polish postcard I came across in a file on Friday. It's for a theatre production of Le Peche (according to Wikipedia this was written in 1908 and translates as History of Sin). The playwright, Stefan Zeromski(1864 - 1925) was a Polish writer, journalist and playwright and (once again taken from Wikipedia) he was apparently known as "the conscience of Polish literature."

LA/5/01/2/18/52, Lindsay Anderson Collection

Tuesday 13 July 2010

The wonders of modern technology!

I am steadily making my way through the Lindsay Anderson named correspondence files.  I had a very pleasant day recently cataloguing the correspondence between Lindsay Anderson and Harry Carey Jr.  The son of Harry Carey, Harry Carey Jr. was, like his father, an actor in John Ford's Stock Company.  He starred in ten John Ford's films: 3 Godfathers (1948); She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949); Wagonmaster (1950); Rio Grande (1950); The Long Gray Line (1955); Mister Roberts (1955); The Searchers (1956); Two Rode Together (1961); Flashing Spikes (1962); Cheyenne Autumn (1964).  Harry Carey Jr. (also known as Dobe due to the colour of his hair)  wrote  a memoir of his time as an actor for John Ford Company of Heroes and this occupies a lot of the discussion in the correspondence between Anderson and Carey.  The correspondence starts in 1980 but we know they met earlier than this as there is an interview Anderson conducted with Carey in About John Ford in 1978.  

Insert sent to Anderson by Harry Carey Jr. with copy of Company of Heroes
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

About John Ford
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

The reason I said that this was a very pleasant way to spend the day is that Harry Carey Jr. just comes across as such a lovely man - the correspondence between them is warm, filled with reminiscences about John Ford and discussions of his films, but also some very vivid descriptions of Monument Valley and the surrounding areas which are great to read.

The first letter in the file from Anderson to Harry Carey Jr. is dated 6 February 1980 and in it Anderson discusses his latest purchase - a video recorder!  Anderson mentions this is correspondence with a number of people so it's apparent that he was very excited by this new ability to record films from the television and create his own film library.  Here he is filling Harry Carey Jr. in on his purchase:

"We've had YELLOW RIBBON here on TV recently , followed by LIBERTY VALANCE.  I indulged myself in a video-recorder before Christmas - so now I am building up a classic-film library.  So far, besides the aforementioned, I have MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, THE MALTESE FALCON,  Renoir's LE GRAND ILLUSION, LITTLE CAESAR and PUBLIC ENEMY etc., etc.  Little did I think I would have copies of such pictures of my own, available at the press of a couple of switches.  Modern technology at last pays off!" LA/5/01/2/5/2

Ah, modern technology!  I was going to say it's easy to take this technology for granted but, not having a sky box or any similar thing for recording of the television, and being too lazy to try and tune my video recorder to the TV, I don't take this for granted anymore!  I have to hope that any programmes I miss are on BBC and will be repeated on the iPlayer, or that they are available for hire.  Of course, I could just get myself a sky box or similar technology but that would be too easy, I usually wait at last a few years before catching up with the latest technology.  I'll get an iPhone one of these days but only having got an iPod in the last few years, after years of a personal CD player when everyone else had a minidisc player, and before that years of a cassette player when everyone else had long moved on to CD's I guess I should just accept to being slightly behind the times with personal use of technology!

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Cataloguing milestones

Well, that's me finally finished cataloguing all the A-Z correspondence files - it felt like a never ending task at times but at least the material I'm cataloguing has been very interesting.  The thing about being in an office on your own though is when you do reach a milestone like this there's no one to celebrate with!  It does feel like a pretty big achievement when you complete one section, especially one as big as this one was, with over 3800 items!  It was with great satisfaction that I scored all those files off my timetable!

Today I am not on my own as my room mate Isabelle is in so I'm doing a good job of distracting her from her dissertation with my interesting finds in the named correspondence files.  Yes, once again I'm back to 'A', well 'B' now to be more precise - cataloguing the correspondence between Lindsay Anderson and the artist Don Bachardy, from the named correspondence files.  Bachardy is an artist who paints the most beautiful portraits but is perhaps better known (well he was to me anyway) as the long-term partner of Christopher Isherwood.  Indeed the recent Tom Ford film A Single Man, based on the book by Isherwood, was inspired by a break-up between Bachardy and Isherwood, although in real life the break up was short lived and they were together until Christopher Isherwood died in 1986. 

I am only half way through their correspondence together and I found an interesting description by Anderson of why he felt Bachardy is such a talented artist "they manage to be both portraits and a collective self-portrait, which makes the whole collection a single work - as well as being a wonderfully perceptive and acute assembly of individual studies" [here Anderson is referring to a book of Bachardy's portraits which has just been published].  I thought this definition of Bachardy's talent could be transferred quite easily to film and seems to sum up Anderson's attitudes to his own creative work as a film director "no film can be too personal". 

There are lots of fantastic photographs and colour images of Bachardy's paintings in the file but I would never want to use these without first seeking the permission of the artist.  Instead I thought I would show these images - an invitation to an exhibition of Bachardy's portraits of actors carried out during the shooting of Robert Altman's Short Cuts. 

Invitation to exhibition of The 'Short Cuts' portfolio by Don Bachardy, LA/5/1/2/3/14
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

Invitation to exhibition of The 'Short Cuts' portfolio by Don Bachardy, LA/5/1/2/3/14
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives

I have just checked online and the Short Cuts portraits painted by Don Bachardy have been published with the script for Short Cuts.  You can see the front cover of the published script with some of Bachardy's work (though the quality of the image is poor) on Amazon.

Thursday 10 June 2010

International Archives Day!

Happy (Belated) International Archives Day! I only found out it was International Archives Day yesterday through a link from Archives Outside is a blog based in New South Wales and they decided to celebrate International Archives Day by showcasing examples of archive collections from NSW. I thought I would appropriate this idea and pick some of my favourite archives in my home town of Glasgow, Scotland.

But first of all, I am wondering if any archives in the UK picked up on it being International Archives Day and did anything special for it? I didn't see anything on any of the listservs about it which I thought was a bit strange. Although it wasn't very well publicised at all this year, particularly in comparison with the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage in October last year. We certainly didn't know anything about it in time to do anything to celebrate - I'll need to keep a closer eye on potential awareness raising dates like this.

So, on to a couple of my favourite archives in Glasgow. I'll start with my first place of work after qualifying - Glasgow Caledonian University Archives. They have lots of interesting archives, for example, the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) Archive and the anti-apartheid movement in Scotland Archive. I'll just give a bit more information though about one Archive they hold, the one which I worked on as a project archivist whilst I was there, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Archive. This Archive contains documentation relating to the STUC and its business from 1897 onwards. I loved my work cataloguing part of this archive in the nine months that I was there and I remember being particularly interested by the minutes of some of the sub-committees, for example the Entertainment and Arts Sub Committee, the Women's Advisory Committee and of course, the letters of the various General Secretary's of the STUC (it's great to get paid to read other people's business!). There's full details of the contents of the archive here

Certificate of affiliation for Scottish Trades Union Congress membership
© Glasgow Caledonian University Archives

Scottish Trades Union Congress Souvenir 1938, p2
© Glasgow Caledonian University Archives

Also on my list of top archives to visit in Glasgow would be the Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections. These are based in the beautiful Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed main art school building and I'd love to visit just for a browse through their archives. Going by the images they have on their Flickr site it looks like they've got some really interesting and inspiring stuff! I've attended some really interesting events at the Art School (more of that in later posts) but I've never just been in to look through their archives. Here's a few images from their Flickr pages that illustrate the variety of material in the archive.

Lucienne Day colour poster
© The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections

Glasgow School of Art degree show poster, 1988
© The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collection

I could go on and on as there are lots more archives to visit in Glasgow, including Scottish Screen Archive, the University of Glasgow Archives (who gave me my first work experience and started me off on my chosen career path), Glasgow Women's Library and many more - but if I do that then this post will be more than the one day late it already is for International Archives Day!

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Archive ephemera

This is in reply to a post on the Orkney Archives blog - "Do other countries actually have nicer stamps than ours or do they just seem exotic because they're foreign?".

Well, I would have to concur that other countries do seem to have far more interesting stamps than ours. This gives me the perfect opportunity to make use of an envelope I came across yesterday which I just had to scan an image of, without quite knowing how I would use it. It's not often that the envelopes have been kept with the letters in the Lindsay Anderson Archive so I assume that either Anderson himself or his secretary liked these stamps too and decided to keep the envelope with the letter. It's from Poland and has two very different but equally interesting images.

I love the abstract design - it looks similar to the style of a lot of Polish film poster designs and is far more interesting than this: -

Also, to my mind anyway, the eagle topped with the crown is far more regal than this. So thank you Orkney Archive for helping me justify why I scanned the envelope in the first place! The example the Orkney Archive show is an envelope from Norway with two botanical drawings on the stamps. Inside the letter is a lovely little square watercolour painting of a seascape.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Agnes Varda season at The Auteurs

I just got back from the Glasgow Film Theatre after seeing three short films by Agnes Varda and when I checked my emails there was one from the Auteurs about this season of Varda's films all available to view online, for a small cost. The three films which were screened at the GFT tonight are all available and I would highly recommend them - particularly the first one, Salut les Cubains (1963). It's interesting to see that this film was made the year before Soy Cuba (1964). I've only seen snippets from Soy Cuba but watching Varda's film immediately reminded me of it just because I've seen so little footage of Cuba from that time. Varda's film came across to me as being very positive about the Cuban revolution and Castro and I'd be interested to see Soy Cuba, a Russian/Cuban collaboration, to see what the take is in that film. I loved Varda's film, it's filled with wonderful characters and music and discusses really interesting events and developments in Cuban social and cultural history. I was particularly impressed with the way it is composed of still images linked by narration and themes, and really liked the way the film was organised which I think I'm going to find is a theme with her work as I found the structure of the other two films I saw similarly pleasing - the other films were, Ulysse and Ydessa, the Bears, and etc.

Monday 7 June 2010

Early John Ford film amongst those found at the New Zealand Film Archive

I was directed to an interesting article in the New York Times via the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) mailing list. For anyone interested in the preservation of films and film-related material I would highly recommend joining this. I know there's a huge amount of mailing lists out there but this one is really worth it. There are always interesting and lively discussions about developments in film preservation, enquiries from film researchers looking for help finding particular films or information about the films, and news of interesting developments, like the link to this article in the New York Times.

A large number of early American films held in the New Zealand Film Archive are now to be returned to America when it emerged that in some cases they were the only surviving print of the film. 75 of these films, chosen for their historical and cultural importance, are now in the process of being returned to the US. The reason so many foreign films remained in New Zealand after their use in cinemas is due to the high cost of shipping them back.

Of particular interest is the discovery of the only print of Upstream a John Ford film from 1927. This film is being copied to modern safety stock before being transferred back to the US as it is the only copy and they do not want to rick any loss or damage to the print. In About John Ford Lindsay Anderson mentions this film, listing it in Ford's filmography, but there is no mention of it in the book or the index - presumably because there was no possible way of viewing a print of the film. It's amazing to think that all these years later we're going to be able to see it again.

The New York Times article discusses the practicalities of moving, and preserving the films, so I'll include an extract from that article here -

Getting the films, which were printed on the unstable, highly inflammable nitrate stock used until the early 1950s, to the United States hasn’t been easy. “There’s no Federal Express for nitrate out of New Zealand,” said Annette Melville, the director of the foundation. “We’re having to ship in UN-approved steel barrels, a little bit at a time. So far we’ve got about one third of the films, and preservation work has already begun on four titles.”

As the films arrive, they are placed in cold storage to slow further degeneration. “We’re triaging the films,” Ms. Melville said, “so we can get to the worst case ones first. About a quarter of the films are in advanced nitrate decay, and the rest have good image quality, though they are badly shrunken.”

As funds permit, the repatriated films will be distributed among the five major nitrate preservation facilities in the United States — the Library of Congress, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the U.C.L.A Film & Television Archive and the Museum of Modern Art — where the painstaking work of reclaiming images from material slowly turning to muck will be performed.

I like that the reason the films came to light was because Brian Meacham, who works at the Film Archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, went to visit the New Zealand Film Archive when he was on holiday! Is that something a lot of archivists do, visit archives in their holidays? I know I do and it's good to know I'm not alone in this!

Cataloguing - timetables and deadlines

All my plans of getting straight back into posting in May came to naught as I've become increasingly aware of my looming project deadlines. However I now have a very helpful Excel spreadsheet with a full breakdown of everything I want to achieve, set out week by week! Although there's still a huge amount to do before the project finishes at the end of August I now feel that it is all achievable and it makes it so much easier to just get on with the work and not panic. Part of my timetable includes posting on my blog so I thought I would start with a topical (for me) post about my cataloguing.

The thing that's so hard about doing a timetable for cataloguing archival records is that until you open each individual file you don't know how many letters there are, and until you catalogue each letter you don't know how much content there is in it. Letters with lots of interesting content take far longer than say, a greetings card sent simply to say 'Happy New Year'. Quite often the letters with lots of detail about film projects, theatre projects, actors, directors etc also require research into the people and subjects referred to as these will have to be added to the name and subject indexes on the cataloguing system. So I have to remind myself that if some weeks I don't quite meet my targets that's ok as other weeks I can have met them by the Thursday - as long as I get there by the end of August!

This first photo shows the files I am currently cataloguing - the A-Z correspondence files. I've talked about the fun of cataloguing these before as you never know quite what you're going to find - Friday's cataloguing included letters from Lindsay Anderson to Ridley Scott and this mornings started with a series of letters between Anderson and Dame Maggie Smith re a film version of The Cherry Orchard which was in development for a long time, but which finally fell through. Anderson had long wanted to direct a film of this play by Chekhov, having directed it in the theatre twice. Maggie Smith had agreed to star in it and the plan was to get Dustin Hoffman for the lead male role - if only it had happened!

The cataloguing of each file begins by sorting the letters into order alphabetically, then chronologically from earliest to most recent, helpfully all the letters with each correspondent are usually already together. Then it's a case of numbering every letter with a unique identifying code which consists of the collection name, sub-collection, series, sub-series, file and item, for example at the moment I'm doing LA/5/1/1/57/45 with 'LA' identifying the collection, 5 identifying the sub-collection 'working papers', the first 1 is the series 'correspondence files', the second 1 is the sub-series 'correspondence files A-Z', the 57 is the file number and is 'correspondence, S' and 45 is the number of the individual letter from Maggie Smith. After the numbering is done then the folder will be catalogued onto the cataloguing software CALM for Archives - you can see a screenshot in the photo above - this is going to be ingrained on my brain by the end of the project as I've already started dreaming about cataloguing on days when I have a particularly heavy workload!

Once catalogued the folder will be divided up into two or three folders if the amount of letters is too heavy for one folder and these folders are put in new acid-free paper, archival standard boxes. It may not sound too exciting but I love it! The TV in the room is strictly for work-related use by the way! Quite a few of Anderson's films are not available on DVD so it's been really handy to have this TV with a VHS and DVD player built in. Glory! Glory! and The Whales of August are the two which come to mind immediately as being only on VHS (in the UK) so it was necessary to watch them before cataloguing the material relating to them.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

New publication on Lindsay Anderson and O Lucky Man!

Another output from the 'Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' team here at Stirling University - a chapter in Don't Look Now, a new book published this month by Intellect Ltd. The book investigates film and television culture in the 1970s. Besides being very interesting anyway, and a beautiful looking book, I can highly recommend this book as it contains a chapter by our team here at Stirling ‘What is there to smile at?’ Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!, by John Izod, Karl Magee, Kathryn Mackenzie and Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard. As with all of our work it is based in research conducted in the material held in the Lindsay Anderson Archive at the University of Stirling.

I've enclosed the synopsis for the book below:

"While postwar British cinema and the British new wave have received much scholarly attention, the misunderstood period of the 1970s has been comparatively ignored. Don’t Look Now uncovers forgotten but richly rewarding films, including Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and the films of Lindsay Anderson and Barney Platts-Mills. This volume offers insight into the careers of important film-makers and sheds light on the genres of experimental film, horror, and rock and punk films, as well as representations of the black community, shifts in gender politics, and adaptations of television comedies. The contributors ask searching questions about the nature of British film culture and its relationship to popular culture, television, and the cultural underground."

Here are some reviews of the book:

'The essays in this highly stimulating collection reveal, clearly and persuasively, just how diverse, energetic and imaginative British cinematic creativity was during this rather maligned decade... In shining a bright light into one of the remaining dark corners in British cinema history Don’t Look Now is a welcome and extremely valuable contribution to the field.' – Professor Duncan Petrie, University of York

'Long overdue for a closer look, this volume provides a comprehensive, wide-ranging and stimulating range of new scholarship on British cinema and television in the 1970s. ' – Professor Sarah Street, University of Bristol

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Initial reflections on 'Archiving the future: mobilizing the past'

There was so much going on at the conference and around the conference that I've struggled to start writing about it, so I'll just start with a short post on my initial reflections on the conference. It was huge - I mean 1500 people at one conference - I've never been to anything like that before! The conference programme was so packed with interesting sounds panels that it was really difficult to choose what ones to go to. As I was there in my professional capacity as an archivist I had to put those panels discussing archives first - not that this was a hardship as I can honestly say that I found all the panels I went to to be interesting (and as regular readers will know, I do happen to love my job, just a bit!). In addition to all the archive-related panels I also managed to squeeze in a bit of personal interest in the form of a panel 'Celebrating Chick Strand through screenings and discussions'.

I stayed in the conference hotel, The Westin Bonaventure, which was a fantastic experience in itself. I'm sure there are lots of huge hotels like that in America but that was the first time I'd ever stayed in one. The map in the conference programme was pretty clear and most of the rooms were close together so I never got lost in the hotel, something that worried me on initial arrival!

Our panel on 'The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' went very well - even if I do say so myself. I'll talk more about all these things in later posts. However I just wanted to mention some of my lasting impressions. One thing that worried me a bit was the impression left from a few of the panels I attended that archivists were somehow in the way, that we wanted to block access to material. I know there is that stereotypical image of the 'dusty archive' but I really don't believe that to be applicable to the profession any more. However maybe the fact that this image still persists is something we need to think about. Are we really doing enough to encourage access? Do we worry too much about copyright, legalities etc? My answer to these would be Yes to the first (although of course that's not say it's ok to get complacenet about access) and No to the second (we do afterall, work for whichever institution is paying us and have a responsibility in this sense). However it still made me consider these issues - which can never be a bad thing.

So that's my one gripe/negative impression put to one side now. What about the positive? There were so many! The amazingly varied ways in which researchers use archival material as represented by all the hugely interesting papers I listened to. The sheer number of archives that are out there that I've never heard of - an exciting world of possibilities! The engagement between researchers/academics and archivists (as I said the image of archivists I referred to above seemed to be just that, an image, and not reflective of people's actual experiences, on the whole). The huge potential for crossover between archival work and academic research (this is me speaking in a personal capacity in terms of possibilities for PHD's, further study). The clear passion for their work that was evident in the academics, archivists and researchers at the conference.

I'll get back to more regular posting from now on, after my recent time off, and I'll write more about the various panels I attended, and other exciting things from our travels in America. Other highlights from Los Angeles include a visit to the Margaret Herrick Library and the screening of The Exiles at UCLA. One last thing I have to mention - the Nickel Diner (see business card below) is awesome for breakfast. It was really close to the hotel and did very tasty blueberry pancakes. I never did try the maple bacon donut though - maybe next time!

Friday 12 March 2010

Archiving the Future| mobilizing the past

Less than a week to go till the Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Los Angeles and I'm getting pretty excited! I've just been having a look at the conference programme and there's some really interesting sounding panels, well, they all sound interesting actually, but of course I'm particularly keen on the ones which discuss the use of, and role of, archives in film studies.

In addition to the packed conference programme there are lots of screenings and special events scheduled in as well. One I'm particularly looking forward to is a screening at UCLA of The Exiles. This is a film I mentioned briefly in a previous post about The Pleasure Garden (1953), a film by James Broughton and starring Lindsay Anderson. In the same blog post where I first heard about the release of The Pleasure Garden there was also discussion of another recently restored film The Exiles (1961). This film was the debut feature of Kent Mackenzie who had previously made a short film Bunker Hill about the eponymously named area of Los Angeles. Inspired by the experience of making this documentary he carried on to make this feature film. It follows a group of young Native American men and women living in the Bunker Hill area and is based entirely on interviews with them and their friends.

Still from The Exiles © Milestone FIlms

Still from The Exiles © Milestone FIlms

The film was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with University of Southern California Moving Image Archive, National Film Preservation Foundation and Milestone. There's detailed discussion of the preservation process in the press pack for the film. In 2003 a film by Thom Anderson Los Angeles Plays Itself began a renewal of interest in Mackenzie's film. However these plans were shelved partly becuase it was thought that only one 35mm print survived, and also due to concerns over the copyright clearance of the music used throughout the film. When Milestone found out that the music was created specifically for the film, and that there existed both the original negative and the fine grain interpositive for the film, they resurrected the plans to distribute the film. In order to preserve the film before distributing it, it was taken to UCLA where Ross Lipman, the preservationist who also restored Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (thanks for that one too!), worked on creating preservation materials and new prints.

I can't wait to see the results!

Still from The Exiles © Milestone FIlms