The Multi-Media Archive: Stewardship and Use of Audiovisual Media Documenting Contemporary Art History

Symposium, March 27, 2015, Washington, D.C.

The Archives of American Art hosted the 2015 symposium, “The Multi-Media Archive: Stewardship and Use of Audiovisual Media Documenting Contemporary Art History,” held at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, in Washington D.C., on Friday, March 27.

This symposium was a culminating event for the Archives of American Art’s 3-year project “Uncovering Hidden Audiovisual Media Documenting Postmodern Art.” The project collections document a period of contemporary art when ephemeral and dynamic new art forms and means for documenting art were just emerging. The recordings in these collections are rare archival resources that uniquely document this recent art history, but gaps in archival standards and best practices have often left this material hidden and unavailable to Archives users.

To wrap up the project, the Archives of American Art invited practitioners from the two sides of the archival repository’s community—archivists and people who use archives—to explore the complexities and possibilities of audiovisual recordings that form part of the archival record of contemporary art history.

The  included two roundtable discussions, followed by a reception and a screening of film and video from participating archivists.

Event Time Event detail

1:00 pm

Welcome: AAA Director, Kate Haw

1:15–2:45 pm

Archivists’ Roundtable, moderated by Joanne Archer of the University of Maryland, College Park:

  • Marisa Bourgoin, Head of Reference, Archives of American Art

On approaches to managing researcher requests for access to audiovisual media.

  • Tara Hart, Project Archivist, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives

On the Guggenheim’s project to process the Museum’s audiovisual collections, and “XFR STN,” an audiovisual digitization project enacted by the New Museum in 2013.

  • Megan McShea, Audiovisual Archivist, Archives of American Art

On the Archives of American Art’s “Hidden Collections” project, “Uncovering Hidden Audiovisual Media Documenting Postmodern Art.”

  • Amy Sloper, Film Archivist, Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research and Lecturer, School of Library and Information Studies

On The WCFTR’s Shirley Clarke Collection as an example of the gap between discoverability and access to media in mixed collections.

  • Pam Wintle, Senior Film Archivist, Human Studies Film Archives, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

On challenges for film collections: providing access to non-AV material, creating finding aids for filmmakers’ collections, including the John Marshall and Jorge Preloran papers, and managing split collections

2:45–3:15 pm

Coffee break

3:15–4:45 pm

Researchers’ Roundtable, moderated by Kelly Quinn of the Archives of American Art:

  • Katie Anania, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Art History, University of Texas at Austin

“On (Not) Watching a Drawing Being Made: Richard Tuttle as a Case Study for Lost Performances”

  • Josh Shepperd, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Catholic University, Washington D.C. and National Research Director, Radio Preservation Task Force, Library of Congress

“Primary Documents, Primary Sounds: Public Radio History and Public Preservation Initiatives”

  • Jason Simon, media artist and professor, Department of Media Culture, College of Staten Island, CUNY

On his solo exhibition sampling a history of artist’s film and video distribution

  • Rachel Stella, Filmmaker and producer of documentary works on contemporary art history

On developing a protocol for "the fully informed user" to navigate the artifacts of film and video production for research, and on improving relations between custodial institutions and producers of archival material

  • Marissa Vigneault, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Practice, Modern and Contemporary Art History, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Department of Art and Art History

On her research on the 1970s performances of Hannah Wilke and the impact of accessibility to audio-visual media on her work as both a scholar and an educator.

4:45–5:45 pm


5:45 pm

Doors open for screening

6–7:15 pm

Screening program:

  • Everyman as Anyman, or Putting On, On, On, On, On (1969) by Esta Nesbitt, from the Esta Nesbitt papers, 1941–1981, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (20 minutes)

A 5-screen film and sound performance reconstructed and performed as a video and sound performance by the artist and filmmaker Kristen Anchor.

  • Face-Off (1979) by Robert and Ingrid Wiegand, from the Robert Wiegand papers and video art, 1953–1994, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (9 minutes)

A 2-channel video performance in which the artists playfully explain to viewers the mechanical nature of video while simultaneously exploring the nature of relationships.

  • Claudia (1972) by Jorge Preloran, from the Jorge Preloran Collection, Human Studies Film Archive, National Museum of Natural History (6.5 minutes x 2)

Experimental film described by Preloran as "a free improvisation with a child of 5 who plays, has fun, gets mad, and ends up in frenetic activity, all enhanced with superimposed animation". The film has four versions, each with a different musical score. Preloran's intention was that all four versions would be viewed together in order to compare how the character of the child changes according to the music. Tonight’s program will screen version 1, with music by Jose Luis Castaneira, and version 2, with a song by Poldy Bird and music by Rodrigo Montero.

  • Video Selections from the Shirley Clarke Collection, by Shirley Clarke, from the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

  • Q&A with Kristen Anchor and other program contributors


Organized by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Held in the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, D.W. Reynolds Center, 8th and G Streets, Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources

Questions? Email