There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with May Haduong, Public Access Manager, Academy Film Archive

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

Courtesy of Nate Christenson / ©A.M.P.A.S.

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.


Courtesy of Nate Christenson / ©A.M.P.A.S.

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.


Courtesy of Nate Christenson / ©A.M.P.A.S.

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.


Courtesy of Nate Christenson / ©A.M.P.A.S.

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.


Courtesy of Nate Christenson / ©A.M.P.A.S.

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 to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

I’m Not an Archivist but I Play One at the Office: Interview with Cindy Slater of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports

COPA member Lindsay Anderberg, Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Librarian and Poly Archivist at New York University, interviews Cindy Slater, Assistant Director for Library Services at The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports.  Slater explains how the Stark Center came to be and why sports and physical culture collections are relevant to just about everyone.

ArchivesAWARE: We’ll get this out of the way first: you are not an archivist.  But, here you are on an archives blog!  Could you tell us your title and the way in which your work supports archival collections, patrons, and/or donors at the Stark Center?

Cindy Slater

Slater: To paraphrase the old television commercial, I’m not an archivist but I play one at the office.  My title is Assistant Director for Library Services but we are a small shop so we all wear several hats.  While I am primarily focused on patron reference services and library collection maintenance, I also spend a lot of time doing basic registrar duties, what I call triage preservation, collection assessment and some arrangement/description work. I’m joined on staff by two digital archivists and one processing archivist.  In addition, our directors, Jan and Terry Todd, have offices here, as do two other faculty members, Kim Beckwith and Tommy Hunt.

ArchivesAWARE: Tell us about the Stark Center.  What does it collect and how did it come to be?

Slater: The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport is a research center within the Department of Kinesiology & Health Education at the University of Texas, Austin.  As the name implies, our collection is focused on materials that document the world of physical fitness and sports, with an emphasis on weight training and strength development.  You’ll note, though, that we use the term “physical culture,” an old term, common at the end of the 19th Century, that denotes the  “various activities people have employed over the centuries to strengthen their bodies, enhance their physiques, increase their endurance, enhance their health, fight against aging, and become better athletes.”  For a number of reasons, the term fell out of favor but we’d like to see it revived since it best describes the wide-ranging focus of early pioneers of physical fitness, men and women who believed a well-rounded person was one who exercised their body, their mind, and their emotions.

The Stark Center Reading Room

The Stark Center Reading Room

The Stark Center exists through the perseverance of Terry and Jan Todd.  Both were world-class, record-setting athletes in the sport of powerlifting and both are world-class academics in the realm of sports history.  When Terry started working on his dissertation, back in the mid-1960s, he quickly discovered that weightlifting and strength training materials were rarely found in academic libraries.  Instead, those materials had been collected and preserved by individuals whose passion for the field was on display in their homes, attics, garages – any place they could set up one more bookcase or file cabinet.  Terry believed these materials showcased and explained an important part of human history – the idea that “building the body” was as important as, and  integral to, enriching the mind or the soul.  So, the Todds began collecting material themselves, sometimes adding the collections of those private individuals who had befriended Terry as he researched his dissertation.  When they settled at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in the mid-1980s, they brought the collection with them and began to petition the University to help with space and support.  In 2008, the University gave them about 22,000 square feet of space in a new building situated in the UT football stadium but money to build out the space had to be raised outside the University.

Knowing the connection of Lutcher Stark to UT (Board of Regent President), to the University’s football program (manager of the 1910 team), and to physical fitness in general (studied weight training with Alan Calver), the Todds approached The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation requesting funds to build out a library/archive/exhibit space that would house their extensive and growing historical collection, as well as illustrate the history of physical culture.  We are eternally grateful to the Stark Foundation for seeing the value of the Todds’ vision and, consequently, providing the majority of funds necessary to build out the space and to continue operations.  We are also grateful to the Betty and Joe Weider Foundation for providing further funds to create and maintain our exhibit space.  

ArchivesAWARE: Who is your typical researcher?

Slater: We have two broad groups of researchers.  One is currently enrolled students at UT, most of whom are working on papers within their major.  Even though we are part of the Department of Kinesiology, we’ve supported the research needs of students in American Studies, Art History, Health Promotion, Economics, among others.  The second group of researchers include both dissertation and book writers.  While some of these researchers come from within UT, a large number have come from other institutions or are independent writers.  These individuals, who are taking a deeper look at a specific aspect of physical culture, find our collection to hold materials they’ve not seen elsewhere.

ArchivesAWARE: What is your favorite item or collection in the Stark Center?

Slater: Oh boy, this is like asking a parent which child is their favorite!  But I have to admit that there are two collections that I frequently refer to when talking about the value of preserving our legacies.  One is the collection of Abbye and Les Stockton, a couple who were at the center of Muscle Beach during its prime.  “Pudgy” (Abbye’s childhood nickname stuck, even though she was anything but!) was a strong proponent of getting women in the weight room.  She believed a strong woman was a beautiful woman.  Her collection is full of fantastic photographs of strong men and women doing incredible gymnastic feats before a beach-happy crowd of admirers.

The other amazing collection is a set of 20 scrapbooks compiled by Mauryene Kite, mother of the professional golfer (and UT grad), Tom Kite.  Mrs. Kite must have had a strong intuition that her son would become one of the best golfers on the PGA Tour because she started an incredibly detailed scrapbook when Tom was still in junior high school.  And she continued compiling scrapbooks, almost one for each year of his long career.  These scrapbooks include photographs, letters, scorecards, programs, course layouts, newspaper clippings – they are a perfect microcosm of an athlete’s life.  The three scrapbooks she made of Tom’s years at UT tell us more about the UT golf program than we’d ever be able to find on our own.

Photograph of "Pudgy," from the Abbye and Les Stockton Collection

“Pudgy,” from the Abbye and Les Stockton Collection

 ArchivesAWARE: What is the most interesting experience you’ve had with a Stark Center researcher or donor?

Slater: We were recently visited by a professor from South Africa who has been researching the history of physical culture/fitness in his native country.  He came to the Stark Center to specifically review early issues of Health & Strength, a British publication that included news of physical culture activities held throughout the British Commonwealth.  Growing up, his mother had told him that a photograph of her had been published in Health & Strength but neither she nor anyone in the family had a copy.  So it was with some emotion that, late one afternoon, he announced that he had found her photograph.  It made his long and expensive trip very worthwhile and it just made our day. 

ArchivesAWARE: Why do you think it is important to collect, preserve, and provide access to sports collections?

Slater: There are a number of sociological, economic, medical, and psychological studies out there that tout the value of both sport, in the big picture sense, and sports, in the daily activity sense.  The findings of these studies help us to understand the hundreds of ways in which sports impact our lives.  As important as these findings are,  I think the reason for archiving sports collections is really very simple – sports are part of our whole.  Archivists are in the business of documenting our culture, all aspects of our culture, and sports are part of that.  I suppose there are folks for whom sports have little relevancy but the vast majority of us have some connection to the sports world.  Maybe we cheer on our local high school football team, or we have a nephew competing in junior figure skating, or a friend who raises cancer awareness by running marathons.  Maybe we spend Saturday on the golf course and Sunday watching the NFL, or we’re part of a “soccer mom” carpool.  Sports may be a little piece or a large piece but either way, it’s a piece of the whole of our lives.  And so it is worth our time to study, explore and understand – and that’s not possible without archives.

ArchivesAWARE: What are the common misconceptions (if any) archivists have about sports-related collections?

Slater: Actually, I don’t think most archivists have misconceptions about sport because, almost across the spectrum, I find archivists to be keenly aware that they are responsible for the whole picture.  So whether their collections are personal or organizational, archivists know that if the collection includes sports-related materials, then they have a value as part of the whole.

To the degree that misconceptions exist, I think they exist in the minds of the athletes, coaches, and administrators who often simply don’t think that their professional and personal legacies are that important.  But, with few exceptions, isn’t this the same problem faced by many archivists who are focused on a specific segment of our culture?  It’s so hard to convince people that the decisions they make, the activities in which they participate, the outcomes of their daily work, all have value to current and future generations.  Sometimes it’s a very personal value (like our South African professor finding his mother in Health & Strength) and sometimes it’s a culture-wide value.  The sports community is no different, so for those of us who love sports, our mission is to persuade and assist members of that community with identifying and keeping records that tell their story.

Asserting the Archivist, No. 2

This post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager at Newfields and member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).  This the second post in our “Asserting the Archivist” series on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.

Too often, archivists and archival repositories can get stuck in the loop of sharing only THE STUFF, especially as those posts get a positive response and many interactions. But those collection-centric posts that help to extend our reach to every conceivable interest group on the web provide us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work, knowledge, and skills of archivists to a nearly unlimited variety of audiences–“Asserting the Archivist” in outreach for our institutions.

In 2014, The Huntington Library created a series of 5 videos–published on Vimeo and shared on their social platforms—that took viewers behind-the-scenes to learn about the work of five staff members who filled different roles in the library. Included in these videos was the archivist, Li Wei.

In less than 3 minutes, Wei communicates multiple key points about what makes archivists unique from librarians and curators, emphasizing the complexity of archival collections and the skills needed to not just organize and catalog large archival collections, but to do so with the aim of facilitating access and discovery.

Do you have a favorite example of archival repositories or organizations/businesses that “assert the archivist” in their outreach efforts? Or would you like to share your experience incorporating archival work into your outreach? Please share in the comments below or contact to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!

Federal Funding Impact Story #8

Project: The Cybernetics Thought Collective: A History of Science and Technology Portal Project

Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Grant Program:  Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
Institutions: University of Illinois Archives, British Library, American Philosophical Society, and MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections
State: Illinois
Congressional District: 13th Illinois Congressional District
Grant Period: May 2017-2018
Award Amount: $49, 973
Institutional Match Amount: $34,976

Jobs Created:
– 1 PTE 20 hr/week position for 6 months
– 1 PTE for 20 hr/week position for 10 months.

Project Description
University of Illinois Archives, British Library, American Philosophical Society, and MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections have been awarded a grant from the NEH to develop a prototype web-portal and analysis-engine to provide access to archival material related to the development of the iconic, multi-disciplinary field of cybernetics. The grant is part of the NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations program.

“The Cybernetics Thought Collective: A History of Science and Technology Portal Project,” is a collaborative effort among four institutions that maintain archival records vital to the exploration of cybernetic history. In addition to supporting the development of a web-portal and analysis-engine, the award will enable the multi-institutional team to begin digitizing some of the archival records related to the pioneering work of U of I Electrical Engineering professors Heinz von Foerster and W. Ross Ashby, neurophysiologist Warren S. McCulloch, and mathematician Norbert Wiener.

What was the need for the grant?
The participating institutions sought federal grant funds in order to unite the personal archives of Heinz von Foerster, W. Ross Ashby, Warren S. McCulloch, and Norbert Wiener in a digital platform and thus create broader access for an international community of scholars studying the history and legacy of cybernetics.

Cybernetics, the science of communication and control systems, is generally regarded as one of the most influential scientific movements of the 20th century. At a time when postwar science had become highly compartmentalized, cybernetics epitomized the interdisciplinarity that has become emblematic of innovative research in the modern era. This project will provide greater access to the archival materials that document the rich and complex history of the “thought collective”—the scientific community of individuals exchanging thoughts and ideas about cybernetics.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
This project will draw greater visibility to the holdings of the four participating institutions. Cybernetics has influenced the development of a variety of disciplines, such as cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and computer science; being able to create broader access to archival materials that document this foundational multi-disciplinary movement will enable scholars to better study the evolution of these disciplines. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in particular, the project has spurred local interest and related initiatives to investigate the ways in which the Midwest, and central Illinois in particular, have contributed to the modern technological era.

Nationally and internationally, the project enables the four institutions to form a partnership that unites related archival material that is geographically dispersed. We hope creating online access to these digitized materials will make them more accessible to scholars who aren’t able to travel to the repositories where these materials are held.

NEH funding for this project will enable the four institutions to digitize and create access to approximately 20 cubic feet of archival material initially. The project team will use the results from the prototype analysis-engine and prototype portal development to inform future work and hopefully a second phase of the project that includes other repositories with related archival material.

Submission by: Bethany Anderson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign