Archives Fever

“Popular perception looks for simplicity. Hence, the archivist is the person who looks after archives, retrieving the papers or files. The librarian is the person behind the loans desk or putting books on shelves. The sound archivist or film archivist does not yet, perhaps, present so obvious or distinctive an image.”
Audiovisual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles, Ray Edmondson, UNESCO report, 2004

“Librarians and archivists are experts at project management. They routinely process groups of materials in selection, processing, cataloging, and preservation workflows.”
– Stephen Chapman, Harvard University Library

“After much tension between media makers and media scholars, an increasing number of programs are bringing the two modes together in a rigorously theorized praxis, recognizing that the boundaries between the critical and the creative are arbitrary.”
– Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Debates in Digital Humanities

“Maybe my passion is nothing special, but at least it’s mine.”
– Tove Jansson, Travelling Light

The Heart of It

My personal approach to making sense of history and the world around us is interdisciplinary.  American Studies enriched my understanding of our visual cultural which, and, in turn, helped me immensely as a professional. Equally my professional training as an audiovisual archivist combined film and television history, plus information science and archival practice related specifically to audiovisual materials and their related documentation.  Imagine how nearly impossible it’s been to keep the amazing content it’s been my privilege to work with to myself. Consequently, I’ve spent some time promoting the evidentiary value of archival audiovisual documents to laymen, fellow practitioners, and media scholars through exhibition, research, presentations, and other such creative endeavors. My goal now is to reach out to disciplines beyond film and media studies — students and scholars in other disciplines, as well as exhibit curators, filmmakers, collectors artists, and the general public. I employ methodologies that fall loosely (for now) under the umbrella of digital humanities, and so, I circle back to an interdisciplinary approach that comes so natural to me.

Currently I’m thrilled to be both a Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative Graduate Recruitment Fellow embedded in the Davis Library at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a member on the Community Histories Workshop team at UNC which aims to “develop and test innovative models for community engaged digital public history and humanities that benefit local communities (broadly defined) and advance UNC’s institutional mission and priorities.” I’m grateful also for the cheerful support and fellowship of the Initiative for Minority Excellence.

Scholarly projects include “Show Your Work” where I employ video annotation tools to facilitate documentation of archival labor and citation of audiovisual primary materials in documentary works; and I am doing my dissertation topic explores distant and close analysis of a mid-20th century semi-fictional women’s travel director for Shell Oil.

Experience & Education

I am a first-year Ph.D. student in American Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Concentration: audiovisual archives/film + digital humanities

I earned my M.A. in Moving Image Archive Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and my B.A. in American Studies (Visual Studies/Art Practice) from the University of California, Berkeley.

I was trained to be an audiovisual archivist and cataloguer; and most recently have been finding much pleasure in my roles as a freelance archival footage and image researcher for documentary filmmakers, and a content services consultant. I co-developed and implemented this exhibit and related film screening about on Raleigh-based nontheatrical filmmaker O.B. Garris at North Carolina State University (NCSU); and co-taught a graduate seminar “Film and the Archive” at NCSU that covered a history of media archives and research skills. For over five years I was an audiovisual archivist/cataloguer at The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library for the History of Women in America at Harvard University, where I processed audiovisual collections; chaired and co-programmed a yearly film series; curated audiovisual kiosks for exhibits; and contributed audio and video (edited clips and wrote text) social media posts to the library’s blog, Facebook page, and relevant Wikipedia articles.

95% of the audiovisual materials I have processed or researched have been unpublished, non-fiction or non-theatrical (home movies, oral histories, event coverage, interviews, and advertising.)

Reaching back fourteen years in the field, I worked for Discovery Communications as a Library Information Specialist (mostly involving technical metadata and traffic coordination), the Women In Film Foundation in Los Angeles as a fellow, and have interned or volunteered as a descriptive cataloguer, collections processor, curator, and researcher for a number of archives including the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Academy Film Archive, the Pacific Film Archive, and the State Archives of North Carolina.

I have also presented at numerous conferences and symposia on issues encompassing improving access to moving image materials, public/cable access television history, a local Raleigh filmmaking couple, women in advertising, and women’s history in America generally. I have published short pieces in the journal, The Moving Image, and a chapter on privacy and home movies in the forthcoming  Amateur Movie Making: Aesthetics of the Everyday in New England, 1915-1960 (2017).

For more specifics see Professional Experience and more via the menu above.

CONTACT: msdollman [at] 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.