MIAS Students Awarded Scholarships by Association of Moving Image Archivists

Crosby Buhl and AJ Lawrence look forward to advanced studies, careers in film preservation.

Two second-year students in UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) program, were recently recognized by the Association of Moving Image Archivists. AJ Lawrence, who is currently an intern at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda (GAR) is the recipient of the Rick Chace Foundation Scholarship, which carries a cash award for tuition. Crosby Buhl, whose research is centered on the preservation of color film, was selected for the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) Internship in Preservation Research, which provides a generous stipend for a three-month research residency at one of the leading institutions in preservation science.

Since 1997, the Association of Moving Image Archivists scholarship program remains the only funding source devoted to supporting students who specialize in audiovisual preservation and archiving. The selection process is highly competitive, with a hundred candidates or more competing each year for a handful of awards. AMIA scholarships and internships include funding for awardees to attend the organization’s annual conference, to be held this November in Richmond, Va., where Lawrence and Buhl will be recognized along with the year’s honorees for volunteer service and lifetime achievement.

Crosby Buhl’s interest in color fading started after an internship at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Courtesy of Crosby Buhl

“AMIA invests in the future of the field through its scholarship program,” says MIAS Program Director Jonathan Furner. “We’re absolutely thrilled to see two of our students recognized in this way by the professional community. It’s an honor for them, and something everyone associated with the program can be proud of, too.”

Lawrence sought the internship at GAR on his own and since June has worked on observing the archive’s projects and visiting local partner institutions to assess their current archiving and preservation practices and find ways for GAR to help them make necessary improvements. He described in a recent e-mail his visit to the archives of the Gacaca Court, a system of community justice that was established in 2001 in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

“To handle literally hundreds of thousands of people accused as perpetrators, the government combined traditional village notions of justice with Western judicial proceedings called Gacaca,” Lawrence wrote. “Over the course of the trials, which only just recently ended, the Ministry of Justice collected approximately 27,000 boxes of papers related to the trials and several thousand hours of video documenting the trials themselves. Getting physical and intellectual control of that much material at once is a huge challenge.”

Lawrence’s academic interests are focused on seeking out underrepresented voices in the global archiving community that are not typically heard at professional conferences or in major journals, and working with under-resourced archives, but also in learning about the practices and techniques that have been developed to handle problems, such as a lack of access to regular electricity.

“I’m also very interested in the power that archives hold in seeking social justice and speaking truth to power,” says Lawrence. “It is much more difficult to deny an injustice if an archivist can present documentation that demonstrates both the planning and perpetration of human rights violations.”

Buhl, who majored as an undergraduate in filmmaking at Loyola Marymount University, worked in film and video production as a camera assistant before deciding she was more interested in preservation. She decided to go back to school and was pleased to find the UCLA MIAS program, which is the only such program west of the Mississippi.

“At first, I didn’t know this program existed so I was looking at library programs and looking at how to tailor one to work with film,” Buhl recalls. “But UCLA has the perfect program, so that was quite fortunate.”

Buhl did an internship last spring with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, working with Kodachrome travel films from the 1950s to 1980s, which piqued her research interest in color fading. She looks forward to serving the IPI internship, in particular due to the organization’s expertise in rapid aging tests that reveal how long film will last, and the ideal temperatures and conditions to store it in.

“What I’m looking forward to most with IPI is getting to [work with] more of the science aspect of archives,” Buhl says. “My natural inclination is toward experiments and data, so I’m looking forward to being able to do research on physical objects.”

Buhl looks forward to a career as a preservationist in a film archive or a museum that has film holdings, and is interested in possibly working for the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which will soon be opened by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how a place like that starts out and grows,” she says.

The MIAS program is a two-year interdepartmental degree program offered by UCLA’s Department of Information Studies and UCLA’s Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media in collaboration with the UCLA Film and Television Archive. MIAS was established in 2002 as the first systematic program for preparing a new generation of leading moving image archivists by linking theory with practice and embracing hands-on training in order to meet the technical and cultural challenges to preserving film heritage.

For more about the UCLA MIAS program, click here.


Above: AJ Lawrence is spending this summer studying archival and preservation practices at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda. Courtesy of AJ Lawrence