Andy Uhrich stands before a collection of VHS tapes, classified as archival objects within the past year
- A Day in the Life is a series that will feature individuals working in the library and information field presented by the Indiana University Department of Information and Library Science. If you are an alumni and would like to be featured in A Day in the Life, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or Katie Martin at email@example.com.
Andy Uhrich, Film Archivist, IU Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) --
“This is a fantastic time to be a librarian, in my opinion. What libraries are as spaces and what they do in terms of services offered is going through a major transformation and we - librarians, users, students, faculty, etc. - get to help reshape it! It’s an honor to play my small part in this.”
College major: Ethnographic Film
Master’s degree: Moving Image Archiving and Preservation
PhD: Film and Media Studies, minor in Library Science
Previous experience before coming to IU: Projectionist at the Music Box in Chicago, worked at the Chicago Film Archives (a regional film archive that preserves documentary and home movies from the midwest), interned and worked at the Anthology Film Archives (a film museum devoted to preserving and screening film as an art form), and joined the board of the Center for Home Movies (which facilitates the yearly Home Movie Day event held worldwide)
Responsibilities of a Film Archivist: In collaboration with and under the charge of Rachael Stoeltje, IULMIA’s director, Andy works to:
- Provide access to the collection (responding to reference requests; assisting researchers in watching films from the collection; programming and projecting public screenings of the collection; collaborating with other institutions in film screenings; placing digitized films online when copyright allows, etc.)
- Preserve, grow, and maintain the collection (helping to acquire new collections; inventorying and processing new collections; inspecting and repairing film prints; prioritizing films and collections for reformatting; monitoring film digitization projects; writing grants for film-to-film preservation; assisting with the larger Media Preservation and Digitization Initiative)
- Promote the collection (public screenings that we hold a few times a semester; presentations at conferences; answering questions and inquiries)
- Serve on local and national committees (committees in the library and elsewhere in the university; serving on boards for outside organizations such as the Center for Home Movies and the Northwest Chicago Film Society; serving on committees for national organizations like the Association of Moving Image Archivists and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies)
- Supervise students workers
- Assist other librarians, students and faculty with any media preservation related questions they might have.
Workspace within the Auxiliary Library Facility (soon to be the basement of Wells)
Andy, a self-described “AV geek,” became interested in film at a young age and his appreciation for film only grew as he continued his education. In college, he recognized how films and videos “document cultural values and can be records of everyday life in addition to being entertainment or art.” His work experiences after graduation opened his eyes to archives’ active preservation of old film and put him on the path toward becoming a film archivist. Andy’s training at NYU’s MIAP master’s program, real world internship experiences, and encouragement from IU professors and other mentors led him to his current position within the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.
Working with the IULMIA’s collection of 16mm films is “a dream come true” for Andy. The IULMIA is highly devoted to sharing information, books, films, videotapes, PDFs, etc. for the purposes of scholarship and the greater good. One of the most rewarding aspects of Andy’s work is watching patrons discover films and videos in the collection that were once unknown items on a shelf. Film archivists enable scholars, students, and new audiences to appreciate these materials anew. According to Andy, when users engage with the film, they can “reevaluate current pieties based on encountering the worldviews of decades past.” For him, one particularly gratifying moment on the job was observing a scholar exclaim with joy while watching a film that he had found dull originally “but which for her represented a revelatory bit of audiovisual information for her research.”
One of Andy’s favorite recently acquired collection comes from Frink Film Studios, a company that made TV commercials and corporate sponsored films in Elkhart, Indiana from the 1950s through the 1990s. Within this collection are fascinating advertisements made for Zephyr Gasoline, a regional gas company in the 1950s. When discussing the importance of these ads, he explains, “One, they’re an example of local TV commercials which is very, very rare when talking about television from that decade. They raise a lot of questions about who would have seen these commercials, what TV shows might they have been broadcast in, were they effective sales tools, etc.? Two, they’re a reminder of a corporate landscape that no longer exists when, before the massive conglomerization in the 1970s, there was a different relationship between consumers and how goods made their way from around the globe to local businesses. Three, they have catchy jingles! Check out the jingle in this ad from 1959: https://media.dlib.indiana.edu/media_objects/avalon:17772. For the rest of the day you’ll be singing ‘One of the three best gasolines in the middle west!’”
Films housed on shelves within the ALF kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Advice for aspiring film archivists: “I try to warn people who express an interest in going into film archiving. There are very few jobs and it’s not a growing field. That being said, and this advice should apply to all forms of librarianship, I’d recommend finding one aspect of the field that entirely inspires you and becoming its advocate. Let people know what you care about and what drives you to be a librarian. And if you’re still in graduate school, make the absolute most of being a student. Learn like crazy, work on cool projects, make colleagues that you’ll know for decades.”
IULMIA: The Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) is one of the world’s largest educational film and video collections and was established in 2010 under the direction of Rachael Stoeltje. The archive is well-integrated into the IU Library system, where special collections are highly valued. The IULMIA is also highly involved in the campus-wide Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI). The initiative aims to protect the large collections of audiovisual materials at IU from degradation and format obsolescence. The archive started out with 50,000 films but the collection has since doubled. The IULMIA collections are housed within the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF), a world-class facility which maintains a consistent, chilly temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The collections include the Educational Film Collection, educational films produced and distributed by IU, and the David S. Bradley Collection, consisting of 3,964 16mm films spanning the history of world cinema with a focus on silent film. A collection of World War II propaganda films have been digitized and can be viewed online http://collections.libraries.indiana.edu/IULMIA/exhibits/show/world-war-ii-propaganda-films
Films can also be viewed onsite in the IULMIA workspaces at the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility. IULMIA has 16mm and 35mm flatbed viewers available for use by researchers. They are available by appointment only during normal business hours. There will also be screening space in the basement of Wells once construction is completed.
To find out more about the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive:
- Facebook: Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive
- Twitter @iulmia
- Blog: https://blogs.libraries.indiana.edu/filmarch/
- IU’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI): https://mdpi.iu.edu/