Reports from MIRC: Final Thoughts

This post is the final in a series of reports about my Spring 2016 internship at Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries.

Popped cores are a time to consider (and curse) the material properties of film. The tangled mass they create can drive one to despair. What mass, you ask? The one that eventually filled a third of that big container on the left.
Popped cores are a time to consider (and curse) the material properties of film. The tangled mass they create can drive one to despair. What mass, you ask? The one that eventually filled a third of that big container on the left.

As my spring internship comes to an end, I’ll offer some final thoughts on the experience. First, as I had hoped, working with film gave me a better understanding of the materiality of moving image sources. As a historian, I consult primary sources in a variety of media, and I believe it is imperative to understand the material culture of those sources. Understanding how materials were produced, edited, distributed, and used can be as significant as whatever data they contain. My archival and curatorial training gives me valuable perspective as a researcher, and vice versa. Working with 16mm film gave me firsthand experience with only one of many moving image formats, but it’s a start.

Second, my time at MIRC provided a wonderful opportunity for collaboration. The broadcasting collections at USC are split between MIRC and McKissick Museum. While that arrangement may seem inefficient, related collections are often found in different repositories. The special collections landscape at USC has changed significantly over the years, with various units being created, merging, or splitting. All the while, people have been donating materials to whatever the appropriate place was at the time. Rather than constantly shifting materials around (a nightmare in terms of physical and intellectual control), we cultivate interdepartmental connections.

A WNOK-TV studio camera from the 1950s. One of the many fascinating items on display in "On Air in South Carolina."
A WNOK-TV studio camera from the 1950s. One of the many fascinating items on display as part of “On Air in South Carolina,” an exhibition at McKissick Museum (April 11 – August 27, 2016).

In this case, Amy and I found several ways to work together. Most immediately, she became part of the curatorial team for On Air in South Carolina, a broadcasting exhibition we were developing at McKissick. In addition, we are now working jointly to acquire materials from a couple of donors. This gives us the ability to direct donations to the proper place at the time of acquisition. For example, McKissick is not equipped to handle news footage, but we are equipped to take photographs and scrapbooks (many of which fill gaps in our existing holdings). Lastly, the informal discussions we’ve had each week have given a boost to the existing relationship between MIRC and McKissick. Sustaining such working relationships take conscious effort. It is all too easy to get caught in day-to-day demands at each institution.

Although I have completed the 3 credit hour SLIS internship, I plan to continue volunteering at MIRC until I move to Philadelphia in August. Beyond all of the valuable benefits listed above, the work is enjoyable and fulfilling. My little work area is peaceful, and it is very satisfying to conserve, catalog, and make available these rich historical sources.

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