By Published: Oct. 4, 2021

The $188k grant will help develop curricula to give undergraduates hands-on experiences in film archiving and preservation.

The University Libraries Rare and Distinctive Collections and the Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder have won a $187,585 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create five advanced, “experiential” classes focused on media archiving and preservation for cinema-studies undergraduates.  

It will be one of the only programs of its kind in the country for undergraduates, according to Sabrina Negri, assistant professor in cinema studies and moving image arts, and Jamie Wagner, faculty fellow and moving image archivist for University Libraries, the grant’s principal investigators.

They say programs that teach media archiving and preservation skills are limited to graduate students at private universities in major coastal U.S. cities and that CU Boulder would be the only public university to offer this type of program in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

Sabrina Negri

Sabrina Negri, assistant professor in cinema studies and moving image arts, is one of the grant’s principal investigators.

“It’s important to have a preservation program located at a public university that’s not on one of the two coasts,” Negri said. “It gives access to the profession to a broader and more diverse group of students, and it would provide trained media archivists for smaller archives that aren’t located in big cities.”

Negri and Wagner say advances in technology, especially the transition from tape to digital media formats, have introduced a need for more media to be archived and for more archivists and conservators. “So that means there’s a growing need to teach individuals how to care for and preserve historical materials,” Negri said.

Students will learn the theory and practice of film archiving, restoration, preservation and how to preserve analog tapes—which are actually more endangered than film, Negri said. In addition, students will learn how to archive and preserve digital files and how to manage a media collection.

The program will also include paid fellowships in media preservation for undergraduate students working with the libraries’ moving-image archival collections and digital-media lab. 

Wagner adds that the program will also feature a community-oriented internship program that pairs undergrads with under-resourced institutions and organizations that have media preservation needs for their own historical materials.

“Students will use the skills they learn to directly benefit at-risk cultural heritage material throughout the Front Range area,” said Wagner.

Wagner said what CU Boulder is doing with the curricula, fellowship and internship could serve as a model for other universities around the country.

The director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Crosby Kemper, said the 2021 grant awardees are “responding to the gaps in our society, under-resourced communities, professional development for underrepresented members of our communities, and the programs and services with impact on the daily lives of … people.”

Students will use the skills they learn to directly benefit at-risk cultural heritage material throughout the Front Range area."

Wagner will teach the first class, which is on collection management, in spring 2022. All the other classes are scheduled to be taught in academic years 2022-23 and 2023-24.

The idea to create the curricula came to Negri when cinema studies and moving image arts received a gift of preservation equipment from GW Hannaway and Associates, a Boulder-based imaging and video company.

“Given that a lot of media are in need of preservation, it made sense to think to use that equipment to train new media archivists,” Negri said.

Negri taught seminars in film archiving and preservation in 2018 and 2020 and said they were well received.

“Now with the collaboration of the University Libraries and the grant, cinema studies and moving image arts can expand the project to include the five different classes,” Negri said.

Wagner adds, “We hope we can build a model for a curriculum or a certificate that has demonstrated success and data to inform next steps for the program.”