Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Hall or: How I Started Worrying and Learned to Love the Archive

Welcome to the Kartemquin Archive blog! Today we'll be venturing into The Hall, a magical place that some believe only exists in KTQ lore, but in reality is the home to the elements of all our completed films. We, the archive department, utilize The Hall quite frequently, as our job is to sort through everything stored there.

Before joining the archive department, I worked as an intern at KTQ. I often heard of this "hall" and its contents, and as a self-described documentary nerd, the prospect of a facility housing the elements of some of my favorite films (Hoop Dreams, Stevie, Inquiring Nuns) excited me to no end. My imagination went wild; obviously a facility of such great importance to the medium would undoubtedly be described as “sleek," “state-of-the-art," or even “sexy." I imagined the cold, grey tones of the room would pair well with the dry climate controlled air and encompassing florescent lighting, a perfect environment for browsing through reels and tapes like a child in a candy store.

The Hall, as it turns out, is nothing of the sort.

The Hall is like a playground for anyone interested in filmmaking past, present and future. A museum not yet realized, just collecting dust, waiting for its prince to swoop down and take it away. Occasionally the motion sensitive lights will go out, requiring one to run back into the hallway just to get a flicker of visibility and the lack of air conditioning coupled with Chicago’s hot summer suggests a necessary post-Hall change of clothes.

And while the HAL9000-esque garage door opener and eggshell and turquoise hallways hold a sort of charm, the net ceilings and cardboard boxes do not really provide the proper climate for items that likely belong in a museum.

Film and tape are sensitive materials, and even when housed in proper cassette casings, they are still quite susceptible to various molds and general degradation. The moisture-collecting cardboard boxes and rusting film canisters aren’t the best home for historically important film and video, but they're what we have to work with.

Our present goal is to get through these boxes and make note of the contents, and it’s condition, information that we can then use to help facilitate a move to better storage in a more competent facility.

Weekly Hall trips aren’t something I particularly look forward to; yet, the strong, lingering scent of vinegar and thick humidity just reinforces the importance of my job.


The Kartemquin Inventory Project is generously funded by:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Welcome to the Kartemquin Films Archive Project Blog!

Over the past several years we've been taking steps to stabilize and ensure the future of the vast collection of film, video and born-digital materials that make up our archive. With generous support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, we are in the midst of an extensive inventory of Kartemquin's audio-visual holdings from the past 45 years.  From 16mm film and Beta-SP to hard-drives and everything inbetween - we are numbering and recording information from every single film can, tape case and hard drive.

Our new custom-built database will help us profile the collection by format, condition and many other criteria, so we can set priorities for ongoing archival projects to keep our films accessible. The archive is rich with examples of documentary film production history, and institutional memory is strong - we are capturing and documenting as much of it as we can.

Follow our blog as the archive team shares finds, mysteries and observations throughout the inventory. Apart from stories about the films themselves you'll see and hear about what we are doing, how, why and what we learn along the way.  

See you soon,

The KTQ Archive Team:

Zak Piper
Nora Gully
Carolyn Faber
Lyra Hill
Jenna Caravello 
Ryan Gleeson 

The Kartemquin Inventory Project is generously funded by: