It's been 3 years (almost to the exact day) since this blog was updated, and I am happy to tell you we are still here and still archiving! The Kartemquin Films Archive, though occasionally forgotten or neglected during periods of high stress, continues to chug along at a slow, intermittent pace, encouraged by the frequently changing hands that step in and out of the office. Now it's my turn to try and gently and carefully nudge this beast along down its seemingly unending path to completion. (Although, can you really "finish" an archive for a place like KTQ?)
This year is KTQ's 50th anniversary, which is a really big deal for everyone here and for film enthusiasts around the world. In addition to several retrospective film series', lots of free film screenings, and an anniversary gala, we also had a historical exhibition at EXPO 72 in downtown Chicago. It was amazingly vast and beautiful, with a lot of early film and video equipment on display and photographs and stills on the walls.
However, once the exhibition ended... all of that crap got dumped in the storefront for someone to re-archive. And if you haven't guessed yet, I'm the one who drew that short straw.
But there are some perks-- like finding 100 mint condition Hoop Dreams VHS' still in their shrink wrap
Conceptually, I know what an archive is-- a bunch of old stuff that's been organized. (That's the dictionary definition, right?) But when people would talk about The Archive™, I didn't know how to think about it, so it was like this vague, amorphous, looming grey blob in the back of my mind. I tried to ignore it, thinking maybe I wouldn't have to deal with it if I just pretended it didn't exist. But soon enough it came crashing into my life in the form of, well, a mountain of banker boxes.
Today, I actually started going through those boxes and trying to figure out what the heck to do with all of it. There's old film reels, audio cassettes, VHS', equipment, posters, buttons, and piles and piles of documents. Some of it is from The Hall, some of it is from the basement, some of it is from the bottom drawer of someone's desk, and now I have to figure out what we're going to do with it.
Fortunately, a lot of the boxes are straight from The Hall and are still labeled with their contents intact, so my first course of action was separating those out so they can be put back. Most of my time is spent lifting heavy boxes and moving them from one side of the room to the other while I try and physically organize my workspace.
Some of these items, however, haven't even been assessed or added to our database yet, so I'll be going through these early KTQ film reels and trying to make some sense of them in the future. That doesn't scare me too badly though, since I have lots of people I can turn to for help who have much more experience with the archive than I do, like Ryan. Former KTQ Archivist and blogger who is now the Post-Production Manager, Ryan pretty much knows the answer to any question I ask him.
The bigger problem, in my mind at least, is the literal mountain of paperwork, documents, research, and release forms that no one has ever (as far as I know) really tried to catalog or sort through, that I'll have to figure out how to keep track of. My dream would be to somehow scan them and make them digitally accessible and searchable for ease of access. I'm sure in two years I'll come back and read this sentence and laugh at my foolish naive dreams, but for now, that's the plan I'm going with.
Anyway, today's cool find: a really old handheld camcorder.
Jim tells me this is the first ever handheld camcorder that didn't use film, and that the lens was specially designed to be able to fit both this camera and other film cameras. The viewfinder isn't a direct look through the lens, instead it's a tiny TV screen that shows you the image. I love all of the old equipment lying around KTQ, and even though Jim told me most of it was junk and needed to be thrown away (not this camera, of course), I just couldn't bring myself to get rid of anything.
Post by Ingrid Roettgen