For my placement I worked as Archive Assistant for the North West Film Archive in Manchester Central Library. Established in 1977, the NWFA is a public regional collection holding material from 1897 to the present day, capturing the experiences and interests of North West people in both professional and amateur footage. I gravitated towards this organisation for my placement because, as a Film Studies MA student, viewing and working directly with such unique material with a broad scope of cultural, regional heritage and representation was a particularly exciting prospect. Furthermore, I welcomed the chance to learn about the film archive sector and the fascinating projects achieved by the NWFA thus far.
As part of my role, I worked in their office to digitise records, as well as selecting and converting video files for online and exhibition access in both the library’s NWFA viewing pods and the Archives+ interactive exhibition screens on the Library’s ground-floor. I began by adding new titles to the online catalogue and, after the appropriate training and practice with the collection database, FileMakerPro, I effectively transferred information from the paper records as well as devising synopses and the appropriate indexing terms for each piece of film. This work was crucial to the archive as, due to the other priorities within the department for access and engagement with the collection and acquisition of new archival material, this task was often deferred and entrusted to volunteers. Subsequent to this, I was required to update the ‘hero pages’ of the viewing-pod screens which serve as vital points of public-engagement with the NWFA’s material within the library space. I selected fourteen titles from the catalogue to ensure public interest as well as to present a variety of material to showcase the archive’s multitude of work.
My next task proved to be the most extensive and the most rewarding; I updated the Archives+ ‘Neighbourhood’ exhibitions which comprised images and video clips according to specific areas in the Manchester and Greater Manchester areas. After researching the existing material, I began my film selection process by searching the material according to each area, appraising its content and suitability for the exhibition and finding two-minute clips from each film which I then edited and uploaded to the archive’s CMS (Content Management System). Not only has this technical practice vastly improved my computer skills across Office, editing software and file conversion, I also gained specialist knowledge of collection databases should I work in this field again. Furthermore, I was able to gain valuable and transferable skills such as problem-solving, time-management and content appraisal.
The opportunity to contribute to the archive’s record for public access and create a lasting display to both educate and entertain library visitors has been creatively and personally fulfilling. I would highly recommend the NWFA as an organisation as not only did I feel an especially valued part of the team, but its aim to improve awareness, education and access to our regional heritage is of vital importance to our understanding of national identity, especially in the current political climate.