Film Preservation - An Interview with Kodak Fellowship Winner Bob Dirig

Published on website: September 03, 2009
Categories: Archiving , Richard Utley , The StoryBoard Blog

headshot_Bob_Dirig.jpg In 1999, Kodak, in cooperation with the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), established the Kodak Fellowship in Film Preservation — a unique program to help foster the education and training of the next generation of moving image archivists. The first recipient was Bob Dirig, now College Archivist for the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Here he reflects on in his experiences in the program – and since.

When I got the fellowship, I had just enrolled in the UCLA Informational Studies program and knew I wanted to go into archiving, but I really didn’t know what direction I wanted to go. So, the Kodak program was great because it gave me six weeks of summer working experience where I saw how things really worked in the world of Hollywood.

On my first day, Rick Utley (vice-president of PRO-TEK) sat me down and we talked about film and how it’s not the studios’ ‘cultural heritage’ that is driving preservation, but really it’s ‘market dollars’ that are driving this. Studios can make money from these old materials. That helped me get my mind around why things were happening.

The archivist job at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena came up in 2005, and was an opportunity to manage an archive from the ground up.

We have a photographic collection which consists of slides, prints, negatives. We have film and videotape. We have audiotape and lots of paper, including brochures, programs, posters, catalogs, all kinds of printed materials.

One thing I learned quickly was the cost involved in preservation. One of the big challenges is knowing what needs to be done and not having the money to do it. We’ve got thousands of documents. It just wouldn’t be practical or useful to scan everything; we can’t save everything, we need to prioritize things.

More and more content is created digitally, so we want to start archiving it digitally and that’s a huge obstacle because there are no common processes, standards or procedures in place to do that. We want to make sure we can open files in a year, or five or ten years. And we want to make sure we store everything properly so if we have to migrate it to a different format, we can do that.

But technology is also creating a whole new set of opportunities. As we scan images, we can share them more, we can open up our collections more; we can do more outreach, put more moving images and photography on line, build our presence. Access will be a lot easier, including for people who may not be able to visit our center.

In smaller archives like this – and there are a lot of archives like this – an archivist is not just a person who preserves material, the archivist is also a manager and a collector and a processor and an educator and a fundraiser and an entrepreneur.

And I have to become a bit of a technologist, also. The archivists’ world and the information technologists’ world really haven’t been together; we speak different languages and have different ideas on preservation, but we need to start working together more closely because we both have a role in preserving digital images digitally and making them available digitally.

A job like mine is changing and broadening. I’m working with an intern this summer and I’m encouraging her to do internships at different types of places; I tell her it’s really important to keep an open mind, to get different perspectives. That was important for me. What’s great about the places you get to work in the Kodak program is that you see aspects of the industry that you might not see in a traditional internship, so you get an inside look on how things go.

For me, the Kodak Fellowship was part of the big scope of things and without that experience I wouldn’t be confident about tackling the things we need to tackle. It opened my eyes and I can always draw upon that experience.

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