A Celebration of Herman Lew at The City College of New York, 10/16, 6 PM

October 14, 2014 Uncategorized Comments Off

ActArcs learned a few weeks ago of Herman Lew’s passing. Some of us spent a lovely day with him building shelves in TWN’s storage unit for the benefit of 16mm film. He seemed perfectly lovely, and had the same infectious spirit we’ve come to expect from all the great folks we’ve met at TWN. Herman will be celebrated on Oct 16, please feel free to attend.

“A gathering to celebrate, honor and remember Herman Lew – friend, mentor, filmmaker, cinematographer, professor, activist, loving father of Kian, Cole and Galen, husband of Janice. A CCNY and TWN event.

The City College of New York
Faculty Dining Room – 6 PM
NAC Building,3rd Floor
160 Convent Avenue at 138th Street
New York, NY

RSVP to memorialOct16@gmail.com”



#owswalk: Sunday September 15th | Occupy Anniversary Participatory Walking Tour

September 12, 2013 Events Comments Off

From occupywallstreet.org:

The official history of the United States is a history of purposely, systematically erasing social justice movements from our collective memory, or editing them beyond recognition. Forgotten are the labor struggles that won us Social Security and the weekend; the breadth of the civil rights movement — from bus windows smashed on Freedom Rides to Black Panthers murdered by police in their sleep — is reduced to a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., in a corner of the nation’s capital. The intended consequence is that ordinary people won’t remember that, by organizing, they can build power for themselves and change the world. This erasure often works.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” said Milan Kundera.



WITNESS Archivist Explains ‘Why Archiving Your Video Is More Important Than You Think’

August 8, 2013 Blog Comments Off

WITNESS archivist and Activist Archivists member Yvonne Ng introduces WITNESS’ Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video  on Huffingtonpost.com.


A Time for Burning: Cinema of the Civil Rights Movement @ BAM Aug 13—Aug 28, 2013

August 6, 2013 Events Comments Off

BAM has announced a series of screenings to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Screening information here.


WITNESS has launched its epic Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video

July 31, 2013 Blog Comments Off

This month, the good folks at WITNESS have launched their much-anticipated Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video. ActArcs member and WITNESS archivist Yvonne Ng played a major role in creating content and bringing this project to fruition. We are very proud of her efforts, as well as all of the hard work put in by her fellow creators at WITNESS. This guide does much to demystify and simplify archiving. While it focuses on video and activists, we feel the principles illuminated can be applied to a wide range of individuals. We look forward to adapting it to our purposes, and encourage others to do so as well. WITNESS very much wants feedback on this guide, which will continue to evolve in the future.


Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice @ Maysles Cinema TONIGHT!

July 11, 2013 Events Comments Off

From the Maysles Cinema calendar page:

Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice
Pat Saunders and Rea Tajiri, 1994, 57 min

Yuri Kochiyama is a Japanese American woman who has lived in Harlem for more than 40 years with a long history of activism on a wide range of issues. Through extensive interviews with family and friends, archival footage, music and photographs, Yuri Kochiyama chronicles this remarkable woman’s contribution to social change through some of the most significant events of the 20th century, including the Black Liberation movement, the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, and the Japanese American Redress movement. In an era of divided communities and racial conflict, Kochiyama offers an outstanding example of an equitable and compassionate multiculturalist vision.

Following the film will be a panel discussion on the legacy of Kochiyama for API activism and organizing today.

Suggested donation: $10. All proceeds will go towards supporting CAAAV programs.
Please make sure to write “Yuri Kochiyama screening” in the “designate the program for your donation” field


Reading: “Riot Grrrl Collection” at Bluestockings bookstore!

June 18, 2013 Events Comments Off



from: http://bluestockings.com/events/

Tuesday, June 18th @ 7PM – Free

Reading: Lisa Darms “Riot Grrrl Collection”

With Johanna Fateman, Ramdasha Bikceem, & Molly Neuman  and Kathleen Hannah


Join Riot Grrrl Collection archivist and editor Lisa Darms, and contributors Johanna Fateman and Kathleen Hanna to discuss zine making, collecting, and the riot grrrl legacy.Before Tumblr and Twitter, before desktop publishing, punk girls fueled the revolution with scissors and glue and photocopiers. Girls gathered in rooms across the country to bond over music, to refuse to be labeled, to be angry and lustful and smart. Self-published zines, posters, and handmade flyers articulated the aesthetic and politics of the exciting movement of the 90s. They are art objects, manifestos, love letters—stunning pre-digital and handmade delcarations grounded in feminism, and inspired by music. Lisa Darms, an archivist at the Fales Library at New York University and former riot grrrl, decided to build a collection to preserve this moment in history. With donations from Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, Tammy Rae Carland, Darms began the collection which now includes a wealth of material donated from riot grrrls all over the country.


Cataloging Begins on Third World Newsreel’s ‘Storage Unit Archive’!

May 17, 2013 Blog Comments Off

Saturday, April 27 Activist Archivists members returned to Third World Newsreel’s Jersey City storage space with JT Takagi to continue the cataloging process begun by MIAP intern Dan Finn. Takagi and Finn had been able to identify about 51 boxes with priority items from the NEWSREEL collection, which made our task less daunting.

A single 6 hour work day was scheduled. A team of 3 (Team 1) worked from Noon – 4:00 pm. With Takagi being the only cataloger with institutional knowledge, we found it easier to work as one, which may have slowed down data entry, but avoided confusion in our opinion. One person entered data, one inspected and read information off of the can or case, the other handled items (removed from shelf, unpacked, handed off, re-shelved) and everyone contributed opinions where needed (i.e. hard to read handwriting transcriptions, should we keep the crumbling box, etc).

JT and Rufus entrenched in metadata

We learned that, full of adrenaline, very heavy boxes can be lifted to an unreasonable height. This is a safety hazard we overlooked in our excited state, but were able to swiftly remedy with no injuries. This scenario also demonstrated further how oversized and overstuffed many of the boxes were. It is a natural inclination to want to box items for storage, archive or no. In media archiving, it is not frowned upon to put audio and video elements in archival boxes, but when it comes to film already on cores and in archival cans, shelf stacking simply makes the most sense. Those of us in the group who have gone through archival schooling are trained to accept this, but our experience last weekend clearly illustrated the benefits of doing so.

TWN films on shelf!

Entire levels of shelf space were cleared up by removing two boxes worth of heavy film cans that no single soul should have to hoist at once. Ever. Even with all the cute “lift 40 lbs” requirements in ALL archiving jobs.

 We also witnessed examples of what excess weight can do to film while in storage:

Broken archival core, causing film to warp

The great microenvironment foe made an appearance as well: vinegar syndrome. This decay can be exacerbated by storage in enclosed spaces like cardboard boxes. The basic structure of film consists of a transparent plastic base and an emulsion layer that contains photosensitive image forming materials. Fluctuating temperatures, heat, high humidity and water have a tendency to destroy the base of acetate film. In the early stages of decay, the film base releases gaseous acetic acid, the chemical equivalent of vinegar.

The visual effects of 'vinegar syndrome'

Once the vinegar scent becomes apparent, the process of decay is underway and irreversible. Soon the base begins to shrink which causes the film to curl and warp and become stiff and brittle. The vapor released can infect other films nearby (and make you feel like you’re suffocating), especially in a poorly ventilated area. At best, the decay can be slowed with cold storage though not reversed or halted. Once these effects become evident it is advised that you seek options for digitization (and if you come into some really generous funding, look into striking a new print) as soon as possible. More on film preservation and vinegar syndrome can be found here.

The few vinegar items we identified were moved to the second storage unit which contains paper documents only.

Our second major foe encountered was accidental inconsistency. Consistency is a major key to successful cataloging, and it  is implemented through clear communication. Cataloging is key for good information management, but has the potential of being mismanaged mainly because it can be overwhelming and/or mind-numbingly tedious. Team 1 ended up cataloging in an old database spreadsheet, where as the new members which came in after 4pm (Team 2!) used the updated spreadsheet. It’s a minor misstep in this instance, but we will need to merge all of the data before embarking on the next catalog session. Team 2 ended up cataloging separately for an extra hour or two. During this time, it also became clear that additional fields were needed, such as those which indicated which items needed new cans, or which had vinegar syndrome. This level of specificity would help with generating statistics that aid in budgeting and grant writing.

Sometimes, it's just not that clear

Our hiccup can be attributed to not effectively communicating the importance of using a designated spreadsheet, as well as carefully designing the structure of the spreadsheet ahead of time and ensuring that everyone knew how to use it in the same way. Despite our flaws, we carry on confidently knowing this collection will continue to get the attention it deserves.

For a brief and helpful introduction to cataloging, I suggest you take in this: Tips for Catalogers.


Workshop May 2 with Ellen Gruber Garvey ‘Writing With Scissors: Scrapbooks As Archive And Activism’

May 1, 2013 Events Comments Off

Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University, Ellen Gruber Garvey, will be leading a workshop based on her new book Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance.

The workshop Writing With Scissors: Scrapbooks as Archive & Activism is Thursday May 2, 6:00 – 8:00 PM at 19 University Place, Room 222. FREE and open to the public + refreshments!

Join us!


REMINDER: Third World Newsreel 2013 Spring Evening Workshop with Activist Archivists THURSDAY!

April 24, 2013 Events Comments Off

Tomorrow evening, Thursday April 25, please join us at Keeping your Films and Original tapes/Files – How are you going to Save them?, the second in what we hope will be an ongoing series of workshops for Third World Newsreel.

ActArcs member Rufus de Rham will be leading a workshop on considerations for filmmakers and videomakers of all levels in regard to media storage practices. The workshop will be held at 6:30 PM at El Barrio Firehouse Community Center and is FREE.


The Storage Unit Archive: Organizing Third World Newsreel’s 40-year-old Collection

April 23, 2013 Blog, Projects Comments Off

Saturday, April 6, Activist Archivists members and friend (thanks Joe!) came together with Third World Newsreel’s J.T. Takagi, Herman Lew, and MIAP intern Dan Finn for the first phase of our assessment project: shelf building!

Our task was simple enough: remove all boxes from storage unit, build two shelves, put all boxes back in storage unit. We anticipated an all day event. With seven of us, we managed to knock it out in five hours with some afternoon to spare.

From Left to Right: Herman, Marie, Kelly, JT, Dan, Joe

From Left to Right: Lindy, Marie, Kelly, Dan, Joe

A majority of our pre-planning for this day’s work involved searching for shelves. When considering shelving for our purposes, we all had to let go of the notion of “archival shelving.” Here are examples of what generally qualifies. Ideal points to consider:

  • 16-gauge steel open shelving

  • 18” deep (standard archive boxes won’t hang over)

  • 36” wide

  • lowest shelf 6” off the ground

  • Wood (particle board, plywood), paint and shellacs give off acidic gases

  • Wood sealed with inert polymer finish can be passable with magnetic media

Aside from shelves made from a material that will not rapidly deteriorate and infect the items you are storing, you want to be able to fully maximize shelf space, meaning they should allow for a significant amount of weight. Be it books, manuscripts, film or video; in bulk you’re looking at hundreds of pounds.

Based on the measurements we took in the storage space, archival shelving would have cost nearly $1000. Considering that the shelves we need are for a temporary storage unit, it was easier to acquiesce the ideal. We chose Shelflinks Custom Storage System shelves. The price fell under $500, and included the shelving links, lumber and delivery. These shelves satisfied our most important need for sturdy storage of heavy boxes, and can be sealed in the near future. They would not and should not be implemented in an archive, but they are fantastic in allowing for easy size customization, simple transport, and assembly not requiring top notch carpentry skills.

Ideally, film would be stored in separate cans, and video in proper cases directly on to shelves:

Film in archival cans on archival shelves.

Video in cases on archival shelves

This allows for air circulation to keep microenvironments (i.e. mold!) from developing, and allows easy access to material. Ideals are pretty, but in the real world archiving situation we are dealing with, our main concern was the safety of people going in to the storage space (heavy boxes can fall) and the need to keep excessive weight off of material whenever possible (heavy boxes crush or warp fragile formats). Currently material is stored in medium to large cardboard moving boxes, also not ideal due to degradation issues, but not apocalyptic.

Other important work materials to consider: work gloves (for wood handling and dusty boxes), optional face masks (no one bothered), a broom, power drills, a table saw (used on the floor), flat bed carts (available at storage facility), a wet/dry vacuum, and doughnuts.

Herman and Joe take no prisoners

We managed to get the oldest, most fragile boxes onto the shelves, but were a little disappointed at how many boxes remained off of the shelves. This overestimation can be avoided if you know in advance the size of all of the boxes you are dealing with. Regardless, working in the unit is safer, and our next phase in which we will perform an inventory and replace worn out boxes will be easier. Just by moving boxes in and out of the space, we got a clearer sense of the type of content we are likely to be dealing with, and even how to group the content by subject, which makes grant writing easier.

Cue 80s montage

We also learned that it is best to check for outlets in the area, as well as if those outlets have power before assuming you will be able to use a table saw. Acrobatics and a long extension cord may remedy this, but also keep in mind that you may not be allowed to use said discovered outlets.

Totally legal and safe improvisation...

Though if you’re lucky, storage space employees won’t discover your activities until you are almost finished. Return their lack of hostility with a nice once over with a shop-vac in the space you used. And share the leftover doughnuts.


Activism in the U.S. Exhibition

April 20, 2013 Events Comments Off

The Digital Public Library of America is exhibiting the United States’ history of activists seeking social, political, economic, and other changes. The exhibit, Activism in the U.S. is organized by themes (i.e. Civil Rights Actions, Women’s Activism). Check it out.



REMINDER: We’re All Videofreex!

April 3, 2013 Events Comments Off

Reminder that the Videofreex Symposium at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) is this Friday, April 5 from 4-9 pm. Free and open to the public!


Third World Newsreel 2013 Spring Evening Workshop with Activist Archivists

March 28, 2013 Events Comments Off

Keeping your Films and Original tapes/Files – How are you going to Save them? is the second in what we hope will be an ongoing series of workshops for Third World Newsreel. ActArcs member Rufus de Rham will be leading a workshop on considerations for filmmakers and videomakers of all levels in regard to media storage practices. The workshop will be held on Thursday, April 25th at 6:30 PM at El Barrio Firehouse Community Center and is FREE.

Come one, come all.


Last Call for The Center For Book Arts Exhibit: Brother, Can You Spare a Stack

March 28, 2013 Events Comments Off

Pardon us for not sharing this sooner, but for those not already in the know these are the last few days to check out Brother, Can You Spare a Stack which presents thirteen art projects that re-imagine the library as a force for social change! The exhibit ends Saturday, March 30.


Watching Syria’s War: Video

March 19, 2013 Blog Comments Off

Yesterday a new video piece was posted on The New York Times’ site, Watching Syria’s War,  highlighting the fact that amateur video has been central to our understanding of the ongoing Syria conflict. This week marks two years since the uprising began:

“Digital video uploaded by amateurs has never been so pivotal to the way a conflict is understood…”

Photo taken from http://arizonamun.org


Video Footage Acquits Occupy Protester

March 13, 2013 Blog No Comments

Jury Finds Occupy Wall Street Protester Innocent After Video Contradicts Police Testimony 

Video evidence presented during this trial, in which the defendant was accused of running toward police and violently resisting arrest, directly contradicted the version of events claimed by police and prosecutors alike, resulting in all charges against the defendant being dropped. This article also mentions a previous trial in May 2012 in which another Occupy protester was acquitted due to video evidence contradicting police testimony.

This is an excellent recent example of the invaluable tool that video can be in voicing truth, and clearly demonstrates the importance of saving video (both analog and born-digital) as it is not always immediately apparent what the long-term value may be. The methodology behind recording and storing material is essential in rendering the content discoverable, and not just for the creator. We don’t know who may someday benefit from the content.

In addition, we’d like to point you toward this WITNESS blog post by Yvonne Ng in which she details best practices in strengthening the trustworthiness of video documentation.


Timbuktu: “The manuscripts are safe.”

February 26, 2013 Blog No Comments

A major story last month, particularly in the realm of cultural heritage (which in my mind covers a large range of professions), has been the survival status of Timbuktu’s ancient scrolls. There have been several articles chronicling the plight of these artifacts , including a great piece on the WITNESS blog posted by our own Yvonne Ng. For another good overview, I recommend this globalpost article by Tristan McConnell.

The immediate significance of this situation is the initiative taken and the courage exhibited by these individuals to preserve their cultural heritage not only for themselves, but for their fellow citizens and the world. What has occurred in Mali isn’t the norm when one takes on the role of archivist or librarian, but it is a role many have valiantly faced, often without being assigned such a task. Beginning with the recent events affecting Timbuktu, we hope to continue highlighting such efforts by archivists, librarians, activists, historians, and citizens all around.


ActArc Meeting Minutes December 18, 2011

December 20, 2011 Meetings Comments Off

Minutes from this week’s ActArc meeting can be viewed by following the link: