Studying film exhibition and curation at the University of Edinburgh has been a valuable experience which I was eager to apply to my local native area, that is to say Alsace, France.
I used time allocated for research within the programme to go back home to explore Alsatian film archives. I was based in local folk museum Ecomusée d’Alsace but managed to meet a range of moving image professionals during my 2-month visit. Discussing resources and current initiatives with them made me realise that, despite ‘film archive’ emerging as a buzz word in academia, most of the practical work is still to be done. The field of film archives is full of opportunities, especially when working on an international level and trying to create Pan-European projects (and further).
I met many lovely and truly passionate professionals and non-professionals, both in France and in Scotland who are designing innovative and creative strategies to generate interest around existing moving images. They are trying to raise awareness of those images as a support for memory, artistic creation and overall powerful social and political significance.
Whether a personal film reel or official TV or film images, moving images have the capacity to generate a deeply personal connection with audiences. To me, moving images are currently the most powerful and most used medium to shape history and memory. They are extremely familiar to us, which strengthen their impact when rehashed, reworked and reflected upon.
There is still a lot to be done for funding organisations and the general public to be made aware of the power of the archive. I will put to you a few exciting questions which stemmed out of my field research;
Which images are valuable?
What is to be exhibited and what can be exhibited?
How can we achieve fairness and a true representation when taking into account audience interest, legal and practical matters?
How do we exhibit film archives?
I leave those questions with future FECers who will, I am sure, develop further as the field of film archives grows.
I will conclude with a small advice to those interested in film archives; look up film archive festivals and who is behind them. You’d be surprised to find single individuals, who could probably use a hand, putting all their efforts into amazing events and safeguarding odysseys. Opportunities are numerous and much closer than you might think. Most large businesses, art and governmental organisations have film collections waiting for cataloguing, research and exhibition.
I, myself, have caught the ‘archive fever’ and will shortly start volunteering at the Centre for Collections at the University of Edinburgh thanks to Rachel Hosker who guided me through my master’s research.