ABSTRACT

In the past several decades, the archive as both a concept and an object has been undergoing a transformation. Although official film and television archives still promote their holdings as the most valuable and authentic basis for documentary films on historical topics, other kinds of audiovisual archives have begun to compete with them. Online databases and private collections, in particular, threaten to unseat official archives as the primary purveyors of evidentiary audiovisual documents. Indeed, while amateur photography, film, and video have always existed in an uneasy relationship with official archives, the increased availability of video cameras, analog and then digital, has led to a proliferation of indexical documents outside of official archives. It has also prompted questions about the nature of “archival documents” and their historical value as well as about their preservation.2 Since the 1990s official archives have been archiving amateur films, including home movies, but the rise of amateur video in particular has made the preservation of such documents increasingly partial.3 There are simply too many of them, and it is difficult to decide which documents should be preserved by technologies rarely available outside of official film archives. At the same time, however, amateur documents, as well as almost any other kind of document, are becoming increasingly available for appropriation, this in part due to internet sites on which an official archive or anyone else may upload or download digital (or digitized) photographs or videos with the click of a mouse.