Tour of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)

This article was originally published by Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia (RIMPA) in their newsletter 22 August 2017

What can a recordkeeper learn from talking with a film Collections and Access Manager? A lot, as I discovered during a tour of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), organised by RIMPA Victorian Branch.

A portable television from the mid-1970s

A portable television from the mid-1970s, which might have been taken out on a day at the beach. It may not function, but does it still have value and interest as a historical object? / Photographer: Lydia Loriente

I attended a guided tour of ACMI on Tuesday 15 August as part of a RIMPA Victorian Branch networking event. Around 15 budding GLAMR (galleries, libraries, archives, museums and recordkeeping) professionals were there, including RIMPA Councillors and members, recordkeeping consultants and practitioners, archives and museum professionals, and even a library and information studies student. Nick Richardson, Collections and Access Manager, took us behind the scenes to learn about his role and the services ACMI offers.

 

I had visited ACMI many times before to watch movies and visit various exhibitions. But during the tour I learnt that ACMI is far more diverse in its services to the community and in cultural preservation. It collects and stores moving images, sometimes having the only copy in the world of particular items. People are able to request to view anything in the collection, for research or simply for entertainment. We visited the Australian Mediatheque, which allows people to use free booths to browse for and watch selected videos in the collection, through categories such as advertisements, home videos, documentaries, movies and more.

Old meets newer (but still old!) Reels of film sit below old VCRs / Photographer: Lydia Loriente

I learnt that ACMI has its origins in a media lending library going back over seventy years. Due to ACMI’s history, and the various changes in media storage, ACMI holds moving images on a range of media, from film, to DVD, to VHS. Actually, it has a very large VHS collection! The range of the collection poses challenges for how best to preserve it while also making it accessible. There are over 200,000 items in the collection, which also includes artworks and around 200 videogames!

Compactuses

Recordkeepers working with legacy (or sometimes newly created!) paper-based records would be familiar with a compactus. Here, they’re used to store videotapes. ACMI has approximately 45,000 VHS tapes! / Photographer: Lydia Loriente

As a professional working in mostly electronic, but sometimes legacy hardcopy corporate recordkeeping, it was fascinating to see into the world of another related, but very different GLAMR profession. I found that Nick was facing some similar challenges to recordkeepers. In the same way that Nick has items on a range of mediums, both analogue and digital, recordkeepers often have to manage a range of ‘analogue’ (paper-based) and ‘digital’ (electronic documents, databases) items. While Nick’s team is facing digital obsolescence and accessibility issues from older computer games and pieces of art, recordkeepers can have trouble accessing older file types, especially files that are stored on older hardware, and require the use of older proprietary software or operating systems to access it in a readable/meaningful format.

As someone who was drawn to recordkeeping for the information (as evidence) it contains, regardless of the format or medium, I sometimes get frustrated when recordkeepers or archivists focus more on the object as a historical artefact. So I was pleased to hear Nick talk about considerations around what are they collecting and preserving and why. Is the item valuable as an artefact, therefore it must be maintained in its original condition? Or is the content, the message or the story behind the item just as (or more) important?

Scopitone film projector jukebox

This is the Scopitone film projector jukebox, from the early 1960s. It was made in France but ended up in Australia / Photographer: Lydia Loriente

We pondered this while looking at a rare film projector jukebox in the collection. While it was not functioning, they did have the original reels of film that were used in it. Is it best to try to restore the jukebox to working order, or is it acceptable to modify it by say placing a modern TV screen where the projected image may have once been, and digitising the films? Is the story about the history of the item of interest, including say which café or public space it had spent time in?

I learnt through Nick’s tour that ACMI is facing the same challenges that any GLAMR professional encounters: with limited resources and limited storage space (whether that’s physical or digital storage), what should be prioritised to be collected, preserved, digitised and made accessible?

Posters promoting film preservation

Preservation, including digital preservation, is an issue being faced by all GLAMR professions right now / Photographer: Lydia Loriente

After the tour, there was informal networking drinks, where some of us pondered and debated the issues raised in Nick’s talk, and made new professional friends. Thank you ACMI and RIMPA Vic Branch for a wonderful learning and networking opportunity. I can’t wait for the next one!

 

 

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What I learned in 2016

This is my first blog post, inspired by newCardigan’s Glam Blog Club. I’ve been enjoying reading all the contributions to January’s blog topic throughout the month, so decided to get on board.

2016 was a big year for me, personally and professionally. I’m sure a lot of people say that, but 2016 really was a big year for me, personally and professionally. The way I started the year was vastly different to the way I ended the year, though there were also some lovely consistencies that I am grateful for.

So, how did I start 2016? With a lot of (proved to be false) certainty about my personal life, and a lot of (turned out to be unnecessary to worry about) uncertainty about my professional life.

I saw in the near year in almost complete darkness. I had organised a gathering at my beach-near (not quite beach-side!) home, and we all wandered down to the beach to see the midnight fireworks. It was dark, though at my insistence, we all wore glow-stick necklaces and bracelets which I had acquired from a $2 shop. Because let’s face it, glow-sticks are cool. I had a lovely evening surrounded by close friends and a now ex-partner.

new-years-glowsticks

Image 1: It really was dark! Here’s a photo of what I believe is myself and a friend on the beach 31/12/15

Early in 2016, I experienced a major change in my personal life, and got some very disappointing news soon after. It was devastating at the time, but turned out to be one of those clichéd ‘best things that ever happened to me’ experiences. Without going into too much detail, what I will say, is what I learnt from the experience.

I learnt that life is nothing without good, supportive friends, family and colleagues, and that if you just ask for what you need, you’ll most probably get it. From getting a much needed extension on a University assignment, to borrowing 20 folding chairs for a BBQ, all the way to having my best friend drive 61 kilometres just to cook me dinner and say hi one night.

I learnt to ‘trust my instinct’, and to always ‘back myself’. I learnt that integrity is super-important, and if something doesn’t ‘feel’ right, it probably isn’t right.

Many years ago, my career began in sales, marketing and data management for the fitness industry (with a bit of HR thrown in too). Later, I gained experience in corporate governance, specialising in policy development and privacy compliance, with a bit of records management thrown in too.

During 2016, when an opportunity arose to apply for a permanent recordkeeping role, I realised that I had found my ‘forever’ career. Or maybe it found me. I don’t know why I’m so surprised to have ended up working in archives/recordkeeping/information management. After all, I completed an undergraduate Arts degree majoring in history and philosophy, with a minor in Latin. I also got First Class Honours for a thesis on reformation Italian history. Additionally, I have studied music, Italian, sociology, religion, and even chose an elective subject about death (after all, I was a ‘goth’ back then). Doesn’t everyone working in the #GLAMR industry have a background studying at least one of these disciplines?

fun-at-work

Image 2: you know you’ve found your ‘forever’ job when you consistently have fun at work

In 2016, I undertook what can only be described as a self-imposed intensive crash course in upskilling and learning about my new-ish profession. I made a point of signing up for every cheap or free professional development opportunity I could find, including sessions on agile project methodology, change management, Manager Tools Podcasts (which are amazing, check them out), and free events for Privacy Awareness Week. With my supervisor’s generous encouragement, I sought out mentoring opportunities to learn from more experienced staff. This is in addition to continuing part-time with formal studies: a Graduate Diploma in Information and Knowledge Management.

During 2016, I researched electronic signatures (digital approvals) so thoroughly that I was invited to give an industry presentation on it last November, which was an excellent learning opportunity.

Probably the most unexpected thing I learnt in 2016 was the Korean language, including the alphabet! I decided to self-fund to attend the International Council on Archives (ICA) Congress 2016 in Seoul, Korea (and later was very grateful to receive part-funding for being a workshop co-presenter). I have a habit of over-planning and over-researching things. And if I was going to visit a country I knew nothing about for 9 nights, I was going to learn a bit about the language and culture in advance.

Learning Korean has changed my life and opened up many personal and professional opportunities. By being open to new learning opportunities, I have met, and incorporated into my life, some amazing people I would otherwise never have come across, as we simply moved in different circles. It also added value to my time at the conference, as I was able to have a more ‘local’ (non-touristy) experience.

I asked many questions at ICA Congress 2016, confident that if I lead with ‘Hi, I’m a New Professional’, the audience would be kind to me. The question and answer that I believe will most stay with me, occurred during a very esteemed Q and A panel Chaired by Eric Ketelaar. I asked, very nervously, ‘as a new professional, what is the main message you would want a newbie such as myself to take away from this conference?’ They urged me to read widely and to look outside the profession as well as within it, to ensure I am well rounded both personally and professionally. They also said to consider all potential records users, and to ensure I am exposed to new ideas and solutions.

I learnt that ‘soft skills’ are sometimes as valuable as technical skills, and that diversity is important on teams. In October 2016, partly inspired by the answer to my ICA Congress question, I signed up for a ‘Hackathon’ at Monash University. This is despite not really knowing how to code, and also being one of a very small number of female participants. Using my background in direct sales, I formed a team solely through approaching people I didn’t know, via email and calls, and we all only first met during the first hour of the event. My team went on to win one of three judged prizes at the event, for a big data analytics proposal.

team-awesome

Image 3: ‘Team Awesome’ participating in a Monash University hackathon.

I learnt more in 2016 than I think I can keep track of, but some further highlights include:

If I had to sum up what I learnt in 2016, it was a real understanding that I am, or should be, always learning. It’s to follow the motto of my University: ancora imparo (I am still learning). And be open to learning things both within and outside my profession.

2016 was a big year for me. Both personally and professionally.

I saw in 2017 vastly differently to 2016. Instead of the beachside fireworks, I was on the other side of town in the suburbs, indoors with plenty of lights on. Unfortunately there was no vantage point to see live fireworks, so we watched them on TV instead. I had a lovely evening surrounded by close friends, and with my phone always by my side to chat to my new partner, who’s currently overseas. I saw 2017 in with some (promising and exciting) uncertainty about my personal life, and a lot of (fingers crossed of course) certainty about my professional life.

It’s January and I’ve already hit the ground running, putting things in motion to make 2017 even bigger. I can’t wait! 🙂

my-at-end-2016-ny

Image 4: me at a New Year’s Eve party to welcome in 2017

Be sure to read all the other #GLAMblogposts on this topic, they are all very interesting!

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