Preservation Practitioners Within & Without the Video Archive: Oral Histories with Video Engineers

Lauren Sorensen


In “Rethinking Repair,” Steven Jackson writes that, “articulation lives first and foremost in practice, not representation; as its proper etymology suggests, it’s a creature of bones, not words.1” Moving image archival practice and pedagogy persists and innovates to a great degree due to recovery and maintenance of articulations of expertise in knowledge bases (recorded or not) from practitioners in the film and video production fields. Of particular importance to the field is maintaining an understanding of areas that support the continued operation, mechanization and repair of obsolete and proprietary analog videotape equipment and playback machines. Despite this, gathering knowledge from production practitioners has been a discontinuous process based in apprenticeships, documentation, and often commercial institutions with resources to hire out labor. Because many such practitioners, often engineers, are retiring, this moment in the field’s historical time is ideal to gather information and study the working life of these experts in order to glean knowledge for future recovery and maintenance of these discourses and machines.

Using two methods, critical discourse analysis and oral history, this research will aim to review literature in the video preservation and engineering fields, as well as conduct interviews with video engineers of a multitude of backgrounds and areas of knowledge. Preliminary gathering of potential subjects has led to a breakdown of categories into areas of expertise, background and practice, including practitioners from the Experimental Television Center, Videofreex, repair specialists and so on. This poster will look at preliminary efforts to parse the different areas of knowledge pertaining to video preservation practice and attempt to relate these questions back to conversations in the field of sociology of expertise and organizational studies.

Jackson, Steven. “Re-thinking Repair.” Eds. Gillespie, Tarleton, Pablo J. Boczkowski, and Kirsten A. Foot, eds. Media Technologies: Essays on C ommunication, Materiality, and Society. Inside Technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2014.



Lauren Sorensen is an audiovisual archivist, media conservator and researcher. A first year doctoral student in UCLA’s Information Studies program, she is interested professionally and academically in digital preservation, community practice, video archives, independent media, copyright and fair use. She has held positions at the Library of Congress, Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), and independent film distributor Canyon Cinema, among others. She received her Masters in Moving Image Archiving & Preservation from New York University, and is currently Secretary & Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and Program Chair for the Electronic Media Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC).