Archival Research

How to navigate the tricky terrain of archive research for documentary and fiction film


Madeline Bates
Article written by Madeline Bates

Madeline Bates currently works as a freelance consultant with arts festivals and regional screen archives in the UK.

Her background is as film curator and festival producer in the UK and Australia and she was director of outreach at FOCAL International.

She trained in visual anthropology and is passionate about bringing screen heritage to new audiences. 

About Archive Valley

The Archive Valley platform connects globally diverse archive researchers and producers with creative companies looking to harness the full power of archival film for their projects.

The team has now turned their expertise and professional networks to archive research masterclasses. A great addition to their portfolio, it will support filmmakers diving into archive waters. It will also help aspiring and practising researchers trying to master their craft.

Archive research in film

Archival research in film and media production is a specialist field that can make an extraordinary contribution to the scope and final shape of a creative project. Archive Valley’s own Archives in Motion blog is a great springboard to explore the reach of archival storytelling, with posts such as: archive producer extraordinaire Rich Remsberg on making “Bobby Kennedy for President”, or Chuck Smith’s “Barbara Rubin & The Exploding NY Underground” on how personal archives can bring to life forgotten pioneers and subcultures. The number of vocational training opportunities for learning this craft are, unfortunately, still rare despite the archive’s growing influence over the future of film and TV.

About the masterclass

The comprehensive overview and expert insights you receive on the masterclass could be a lifeline to many. Whether you’re struggling to understand the notoriously complex world of licensing and third party rights or you want to think about the ethical quagmires researchers may find themselves in when advising creators, the masterclass is delivered in a lively and engaging way and in an easy-to-digest format. It’s also a great starting point or refresher if you’re looking for a centralised resource to widen and deepen your knowledge on the key demands and practices of archive film and media research. Logically broken down into three essential parts the masterclass covers the fundamentals, which could be otherwise paraphrased as: 1) Organisation and creativity – Bringing method to your research 2) Help! I’m not a lawyer! – Best strategies for dealing with licenses and managing your archive budget 3) Evidence vs interpretation or, with great access comes great responsibility – so you don’t fall off any ethical precipices…

Why should you take the masterclass

The class brings together a series of archive producers in each of these areas. Hearing about the colour and context of their experiences and insights is informative, providing animated conversations and expert guidance rolled into one. You may be in the early project stages and trying to wrangle meaning from a creative brief or you may need advice on how to grapple with ethical questions (colourisation, anyone?). Either way, the live sessions and organised video modules are a helpful conduit to becoming more confident and competent as a researcher. Archival storytelling is an established yet evolving field. The masterclass curates industry articles, online tutorials and other suggested resources into one easy to access portal. It calls upon the extensive Archive Valley network of experts to act as tour guides en route, so you can be best prepared to navigate your way through the tricky terrain of archive research.

Everything you need to know
to work with archives.

The course starts on March 16, 2021.
Don’t delay. The number of participants is limited.

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