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Dissertation Information for Karen Gracy

- Karen Gracy

- Ph.D.

- Library and Information Science

- University of California, Los Angeles (USA) (2001)

- Michele Valerie Cloonan

- Anne Gilliland-Swetland
- Howard Besser
- Laura Lei Miller

MPACT Status: Fully Complete

Title: The imperative to preserve: Competing definitions of value in the world of film preservation

Abstract: Film archives, like libraries and traditional archives, work as part of an economy which tends to value symbolic goods over economic goods. Pierre Bourdieu calls this milieu the field of cultural production, or, "the economic field reversed." This dissertation explores how the shifting balance of power among stakeholders in the field of cultural production is transforming the world of film preservation into a field where its work is controlled more by the market for economic goods than by the market for symbolic goods; moving images will be preserved and made available only as the mass market will bear the costs of such activities.

This study aims to document and analyze institutional and social practices of film archives. Thus the investigator employs an ethnographic methodology, examining a number of institutions and organizations that perform film preservation--both commercial and noncommercial. The author (1) collected ethnographic fieldwork and interview data at noncommercial film archives in order to record day-to-day incidents and interactions which may shed light on institutional processes and practices; (2) conducted in-depth interviews with studio archivists, laboratory technicians, and storage facility managers to collect information about preservation practices in the commercial environment; and (3) conducted focus groups with curators and heads of studio preservation programs to generate concentrated insight on issues facing the field as a whole.

This study reveals an evolving field where archivists disagree over the boundaries of their work. Many archivists, especially those in the noncommercial sector, argue for an expanded definition of the word preservation beyond merely the physical preservation work to encompass not just activities or process, but also values and policies. Archivists' lack of consensus on the definition of preservation stems from a pivotal conflict over whether economic or cultural imperatives should take precedence. The author also found that archivists struggle to maintain autonomy over preservation work. Archivists are likely to have the most freedom in the domain of physical preservation. In selecting films for preservation, however, archivists respond largely to either the demands of the market or availability of funding.

MPACT Scores for Karen Gracy

A = 0
C = 3
A+C = 3
T = 0
G = 0
W = 0
TD = 0
TA = 0
calculated 2009-05-24 20:31:39

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Students under Karen Gracy

- None

- Daniel N. Joudrey - University of Pittsburgh (2005)
- Donghee Sinn - University of Pittsburgh (2007)
- James David Currier - University of Pittsburgh (2007)