Ryan Lakin, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Spring 2020, NEH
In Spring 2020, I interned at the Archive of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. The Archive contains more than 200 16mm, 35mm, and Super 8 films, dated from 1969-1992, though the majority were created before 1980. These films contain performance and rehearsal footage of La MaMa productions, as well as multimedia elements of La MaMa productions. Many of the films in this collection exhibit signs of mild to severe acetate deterioration, or "vinegar syndrome." While La MaMa ultimately hopes to reformat these films in order to make them accessible to researchers, their priority right now is to move the films to cold storage to prevent further deterioration. As an intern, my responsibilities primarily involved preparing the films to be transferred to cold storage. The first step in this process was to create an inventory of the films in the collection using A/V Compass. As part of the inventory process, I inspected the films using the Archive’s rewind station, built by former MIAP intern Caroline Roll. I also rehoused the films from their original metal cans to vented, plastic cans better suited to long-term preservation, and transferred films on reels to plastic cores. Before La MaMa was forced to close in March 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19, I managed to inspect, rehouse, and inventory the majority of the films in the collection. However, I did not have a chance to help move the films to cold storage and develop monitoring protocols for the equipment. Instead, I prepared a collection assessment, in which I assess the current condition of the collection, summarize work that that been done thus far, and offer recommendations for continued care once La MaMa reopens.