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Fellowship recipient: Carla Arton, film archivist

Carla Arton was our 2007 Fellowship Recipient.  She is a film archivist working at the Library of Congress.  She discusses what she learned during her Fellowship, and shares some projects she is currently involved with.

What have you been doing since your Fellowship?

I was hired by Chace Audio by Deluxe where I worked as a Processing Technician for one year preparing optical and magnetic sound formats for preservation and restoration transfers. I then worked at the Wende Museum of the Cold War (http://www.wendemuseum.org) as their first Film Archivist.  I organized their backlog of films, audio and slides from the German Democratic Republic (GDR); both government sponsored films and home movies. I created a processing workflow that included identification, conditioning, cataloging and digitizing of the audiovisual collection.

Carla ArtonFor the past five years I’ve been working at the Library of Congress as a Recorded Sound Library Technician. This position involves surveying incoming collections, organizing and cataloging, rehousing and preparing for preservation and access transfers. I also provide support to our Capitol Hill reference staff as well as retrieve and digitize content for access to over 4 million recorded sound items. The collection is comprised of copyright deposits, donations and purchased collections on mainly cylinders, 78s, lacquer discs, LPs, open reel audio tape, wire recordings, cassettes, and optical discs. The content is wide ranging, including political interviews, radio broadcasts, classical or popular music, and field recordings.

One large project I’m currently involved in is the National Jukebox, which provides access to over 10,000 recordings of rare Victor record label recordings from between 1901 to 1925, thanks to a partnership between the LOC, Sony Music Entertainment and UC Santa Barbara. It offers a wide range of popular and classical music, comedy routines, ethnic music, political speeches, blues, yodeling and even whistling. We are currently gearing up for a second launch of an additional 10,000 recordings that will expand our offerings to both the Columbia and Okeh record labels.

How do you apply what you learned during your time with us?

It has been extremely helpful to pull from my knowledge of PRO-TEK’s vault system and tracking system for items, as well as their pristine vault maintenance. I access and monitor our vaults on a daily basis. There are 18 vaults for recorded sound items kept at 50˚F and 35% relative humidity.

Why is your archive so important?

The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress is a unique archive.  It holds over 1 million moving images, 4 million recorded sound items, and 2 million related items in its vaults; commercial and non-commercial.  It is not only Congress’ library but also the nation’s library, so we have quite a few users to satisfy. At this point our main portal for access is through the reading rooms on Capitol Hill but we are working on large digitization/access partnerships, such as the National Jukebox and the recently announced American Archive (http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/13-203.html) to provide more content online for both the nation and the world to access.

We are also looked to for leadership in cataloging standardization and preservation. The LOC is currently exploring the use of linked open data and unique identifiers within its Bibliographic Framework or BibFrame initiative, which will eventually replace the MARC format.

Is there public/private access?

We provide public access to our collections but the public has to be able to travel to Capitol Hill to view or listen to most of the content.  We also have two public theaters, the Mary Pickford Theater in DC and the Packard Campus Theater at our building in Culpeper, VA. Screenings are offered 3 days a week and are free to the public.  The moving image section also loans out theatrical prints to theaters around the world.

How did you get into the archival world?

I had a love of classic films from an early age. I started a classic movie club in high school and continued it into my undergraduate degree at Chapman University where I majored in Film Studies. I found out about the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) at that time, thanks to my friend and now colleague, Rachel Parker, who encouraged me to attend their conference in Austin, Texas. After that conference, I was hooked and knew this was the right community and the right profession for me.  This discovery led me to the University of East Anglia, where I completed my Masters in Film Archiving.  Specializing further into recorded sound archiving has also been a great expansion of my skill-set.  Since I am also a moving image specialist within my section, I am frequently asked to process moving image related collections, such as our 16” shellac film synchronization discs. PRO-TEK Vaults was instrumental in starting my career and I can’t thank Rick Utley and the rest of the staff enough.

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