Archive Researchers

Featuring: Montserrat Bailac, Barcelona

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How did you become an archive researcher?

Before I started working for the Archives of the Catalan TV in Barcelona, I worked in libraries. In fact, I didn’t even know this job existed. By working in TV I started learning about cataloging images, researching in databases and other subjects related to videotapes. After some years I started collaborating with different program teams who were trying to locate footage they needed for their productions. This has been my job ever since. 

The Catalan TV was created in 1983, so we had to search in other archives most of the time.

What do you particularly like about being an archive researcher?

The exciting satisfaction of finding that exact footage you were looking for each production; the people I meet in the different archives who have become more than colleagues; and the stories behind private film collections.

The archive research industry seems to be pretty unique in Spain. Could you tell us more about the specificity of being an archive researcher in Spain?

Archive researchers in Spain are freelancers who have learnt the job by working, as I did myself. Spanish history has had an effect on the situation of audiovisual archives in Spain. During Franco’s dictatorship there was a unique company that was allowed to film events: its name was NODO and it was a monopoly. The same happened with TV as the government had a monopoly over television broadcasting.  Indeed, when researching a certain period in our history you may only find a few sources in Spain. Most of the time when you are searching for a footage even if it’s something that happened in Spain, you may only find it abroad especially if you are looking for the non “official” version. 

Do you have a specific methodology when you are doing research on a subject?

Depending on the subject, first I try the archives online as I’m very familiar with them, but in case I don’t succeed I start contacting other archives. Experience, a good visual memory and being organised are great qualities when you are an archival researcher. The more topics you’ve worked on, the more archives you will have dealt with.

What have been the most intriguing projects you have worked on?

I enjoyed working on :
Cuba, Always Faithful : This documentary explains, through a mosaic of eight characters, the colonial experience of Catalan men who crossed the Atlantic to Cuba with the aim of “Making the Americas”, as we say in Spanish, which means to succeed and make a fortune. Through the history of these protagonists, which also enables us to review the relationship between the colony and the metropolis, we see the achievement of Cuba’s independence after three wars.

Chronicle of a Look : This doc shows how amateurs filmmakers from the 60’s and 70’s dealt with different issues such as immigration, war, exile…These underground filmmakers  were people that anonymously formed a network to record and distribute recordings of acts of resistance to the regime and guarding material that was hidden in the warehouses around.

Internats of Fear : This is a documentary based on the experiences of witnesses who spent their childhood in boarding schools under Franco’s regime. These places were either schools, religious prevention centers or the Social Aid. Children suffered physical, psychological, and sexual abuses; labor exploitation, and even questionable medical practices.

Are you currently working on a project? Would you like to say a few words about it?

We are working on a news report about the difficult relationship between bicycles and cars in the streets of Barcelona. We will try to compare the situation in Barcelona with other European cities such as Copenhagen,  and we will also try to explain urban designs since the beginning of the XXth century.

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