John Dewey once stated: “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

So, as I have just finished my first year as the Audiovisual Archivist at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I thought now might be a good time to reflect upon what has been accomplished in these last twelve months.

Just to be clear, this was not my first year in the profession; far from it. However, managing any repository’s audiovisual holdings can be a daunting task, even for an experienced archivist. By writing down some the steps taken here this year to gain better intellectual and physical control of our film, video, and audio assets, my hope is that this “reflection” may help other archivists – be they novice or veteran – who are looking for guidance or considering new strategies for processing, accessioning, or providing access to their audiovisual collections.

Of course, any initial steps at a new institution should include the examination of current policy and procedural documentation; studying an institution’s existing forms and instructions; and reviewing current workflows to ensure efficiency. Often, the proverbial wheel doesn’t need to be entirely reinvented, but rather simply polished or oiled to allow for a smoother ride. That, thankfully, was the case at the RAC.

Beyond these steps, it is key to remember that the heart of any successful audiovisual program is the idea that user-needs (primarily, in our case, the researcher’s needs) must remain paramount.  Keeping that in mind, we should always ask: How do users locate our a/v material? What can we do to make the user experience more effective? How do we most expeditiously provide access to a/v material?

Moving Image Reels

Come back tomorrow for Part 2: Processing!

This is a post in a series: Reflection: A Year in the Life of an Audiovisual Archivist