UCLA IS to Help Preserve L.A.’s Cultural Histories with Grant From The Ahmanson Foundation

Professor Shawn VanCour to serve as project director in launching UCLA's Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage.

Shawn VanCour, assistant professor in the UCLA Department of Information Studies, will serve as project director in the creation of a Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage at UCLA, funded by a $300,000 grant from The Ahmanson Foundation. The center will be housed in the IS Lab on the UCLA campus, providing professional training for students in the IS Department’s Master of Library and Information Science program through the integration of preservation projects into course curricula.

The Ahmanson grant will go toward the purchase of playback and transfer equipment, including film scanning, video transfer, and audio transfer suites. Purchasing and installation of the new facilities are scheduled to be operational by Fall of 2021 and will be overseen by Professor VanCour and Diana Ascher, Ph.D., director of the IS Lab. 

The Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage at UCLA will digitally preserve content housed on obsolete and deteriorating sound and moving image media that has been created or collected by Los Angeles area arts and cultural community organizations. The center will ensure the longevity of these materials and their accessibility to intended users. 

“This generous funding from The Ahmanson Foundation will let us equip our IS Lab space with state-of-the art, professional-grade equipment for use in student projects and coursework, and we look forward to working with community partners to help preserve important sound and moving image materials in their collections that highlight the rich cultural histories of the greater L.A. region,” says Professor VanCour. “This curriculum-based preservation work will offer important experiential learning opportunities for students in UCLA’s MLIS program, and the preserved media will enrich our understanding and appreciation of the diverse communities served by our department and university.”

Professor VanCour teaches in the UCLA Media Archival Studies program, which is internationally recognized for its strengths in media preservation and community archiving. His research is centered on the industrial, technological, and aesthetic histories of U.S. radio and television, their relationships with neighboring sound and screen media, and their transformations in the digital era. 

VanCour’s 2018 book, “Making Radio: Early Radio Production and the Rise of Modern Sound Culture,” traces the development of dominant production practices and performance styles for early U.S. radio and their impact on adjacent fields of film and music recording. His scholarship has appeared in Media, Culture and Society, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Material Culture, Modernist Cultures, Journal of Radio and Audio Media, American Music, Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, IEEE Big Data Proceedings, ARSC Journal, Journal of Archival Organization, and various anthologies. 

Professor VanCour is the assistant director of the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force, working with archives throughout the country to improve preservation and access to historical audio materials.  He is currently working on a second book on the professionalization of below-the-line production workers during U.S. television’s initial postwar expansion period.