This is the sixth post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. COPA member Anna Trammell, University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at Pacific Lutheran University, brings you an interview with May Haduong, Public Access Manager of the Academy Film Archive.
May Haduong is the Public Access Manager at the Academy Film Archive, where she oversees access to the Archive’s collection. Prior to serving at the Academy Film Archive, she was the Project Manager for the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Moving Image Preservation, a collaboration between the UCLA Film & Television Archive and Outfest, which produces the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival. She currently serves on the Legacy Project Advisory Committee and is the chair for the Elections Committee for the Association of Moving Image Archivists.
AT: How did you get your job?
MH: As a UCLA graduate student, I interned with the Academy in 2005 and 2006 to help process home movies and a collection of Asian American cinema. After receiving my master’s degree, I served as the Legacy Project Manager for the Outfest/UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Moving Image Preservation. When a job at the Academy Film Archive opened up in 2008, I jumped at the opportunity to return to the Academy and applied for the position. I firmly believe that my internship experiences at the Academy and the support that I received during that time helped me get hired.
AT: Tell us about your organization.
MH: While many people know of the Academy for the Oscars, they don’t know that the viewership of the awards show helps fund the Academy’s philanthropic work, including grants, scholarships, an internship program aimed at bringing more diversity to the field, a world-class library, and the archiving and preservation work conducted at the Academy Film Archive. As a queer woman of color, it’s important to me that my professional work aligns with my own personal beliefs. I’m proud to work for an organization that focuses on all aspects of filmmaking, from supporting underserved communities to preserving rarely seen films.
AT: Describe your collections.
MH: The Academy Film Archive is home to one of the most diverse and extensive motion picture collections in the world. With over 200,000 moving image items in our collection, the Archive’s collection includes moving images from the advent of cinema to the present day, with significant holdings related to the history of the Academy and the Oscars, experimental cinema, studio titles, independent film, documentaries, early cinema, the history of the motion picture industry, home movies and amateur documentation, theatrical advertising and short films. Since its establishment in 1991, the Archive has completed over a thousand film preservation and restoration projects.
AT: What are some challenges unique to your collections?
MH: While the Oscars help fund the great work that we do, it also becomes a focal point for some months of the year before the live broadcast. Because of the unique nature of the organization, some staff in the Archive – including myself and those in the access department – shift from traditional projects and workflow to working with show producers and the press to deliver archival content from our collections. This shift and the expectations implicit with the Academy’s work and reputation set a very high bar for service, speed, and quality. While “Oscar season” can certainly be stressful and busy, it also helps shine a light on the Academy’s work to preserve moving image history. As a film archive, we have technological considerations that are continually shifting. While we work to preserve moving images in the format in which they were originally seen, we also make choices to help provide as much access as possible through available mediums. The digital transition, while challenging both fiscally and logistically, has helped push the Archive and the Academy towards a more forward-thinking approach towards conservation and preservation.
AT: What is your favorite part of your job?
MH: I love finding unique items in our collection and providing access to them. As I’ve mentioned, we hold a wide range of material and thus we often come across films that have rarely been seen. Recently, a colleague and I located a family member of a home movie collection that was filmed by a queer interracial couple in the 1970s. We were able to show the films, with the family’s permission, at a conference, discussing concerns around privacy, cultural competency, and archival ethics. The access department also works with film programmers and scholars from around the world, providing access to the collection online, on-site in Hollywood, and through loans of 16mm and 35mm prints to repertory venues. I became fascinated with film archiving as a queer film programmer some many years ago and I see the work that archives do, including the Academy, as important in helping ensure that films are conserved, preserved, and seen.
Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!