Mary and the Archives
Mary and the Archives
Boozhoo, my name is Mary Deleary and I am the Archive Assistant for Vision Maker Media. In 2010, I graduated from the Museum Studies program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to joining the Vision Maker Media team, I was the Coordinator for the IAIA Primitive Edge Gallery, and instructor of the Art and Exhibit Preparation and Introduction to Repatriation courses. In 2012, I was one of four Native American Fellow recipients at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Over the course of my studies and professional career, I have developed a passion for the preservation and proper care of cultural resources that pertain to Native American cultures, and the movement towards wellness.
Whenever I walk into a collection storage area I get butterflies in my stomach. I get anxious about the intricate details of working with a collection and the information that can be uncovered. The Vision Maker Media Archive is unique and made up of educational and documentary film that focuses on the experiences, life, art, culture, and language of North American Indigenous peoples--this is a pretty big deal. Vision Maker Media has been creating, funding, and distributing film since the late 1970s, and began delivering radio programs in the 1990s. There is a lot of Native content sitting on those archive shelves down in the vault.
Before I began, I needed to know what kind of direction the organization wanted to go in and we had to determine what we wanted to do with the assets: keep them, donate them, or give them back. Either way, it was going to be a commitment and an investment of time and resources. In order to answer our questions, we needed to know what we had and this meant that an inventory was a good place to start.
This is the first time I have had to conduct a complete inventory and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although, after a month of researching, organizing, recording data and tediously applying numbers, it felt like I was sitting on my own island inside the archive vault. At times it felt like I hadn’t seen daylight in weeks, which tempted me to slap a face on a VHS case and name it Wilson so I could have some company. Okay, so maybe my imagination was a little extreme. The vault is located on the lower level of our building and under constant lockdown. The temperature is closely monitored in an effort to minimize the deterioration of the assets held within. To get in, I have to check in with the vault warden (aka Ben from Shipping and Receiving).
Once I started going through the archive I couldn’t wait to see what kinds of materials lived down there. A few titles are 1,000 Years of Muscogee Creek Art (1982) and American Indian Artists Series-I (1976) and -II (1984). Coming from an art college, these two films caught my attention because I thought they would be excellent resources for students, artists, and art enthusiasts. From the descriptions, 1,000 years of Muscogee Creek Art examines over 175 examples of Creek art such as pottery, baskets, stonework, jewelry and clothing and the American Indian Artists Series traces the experiences and art of nine prominent artists, such as: R.C Gorman (Navajo), Helen Hardin (Santa Clara), Charles Loloma (Hopi), Larry Golsh (Pala Mission) and Dan Namingha (Hopi/Tewa).
The bulk of the moving image collection is made up of mostly broadcast masters. Other copies of these programs may exist, but NAPT (now Vision Maker Media) acquired the broadcast masters as the national distributor and liaison with PBS. There is also raw footage from three productions with NAPT as the Producer and Co-Producer--the American Indian Artist Series-II (1984), Storytellers of the Pacific (1996), and Indian Country Diaries (2006). Altogether, there are about 4,000 audio and visual media assets, and we have the usual suspects: 1” videotape, VHS, Betacam, Digital Betacam, Betacam SP, HDCAM, U-matic, DVCPro, 16mm film, DAT, and audio reels, to name a few.
Over the years, Vision Maker Media has been a prominent force in developing unique resources for public viewing. We are at it again and we are looking forward to the developments of the archive project, and what kinds of materials we can bring to the public.
Be sure to check back to see the latest updates and findings from the archive.