Volunteering at the Archives and Special Collections Centre: Mike Davies
I have been a volunteer at the Archives and Special Collections Centre since the beginning of July, working on the Stanley Kubrick Archive. Being a Set Design for Screen graduate and a filmmaker myself, I highly enjoy being in a film related environment and have a lot of respect for Stanley Kubrick as a director and his artistic and beautiful approach to filmmaking. Since becoming a volunteer I have developed a number of skills needed to work in an environment that involves the care and documentation of such an important collection. The tasks involved include cataloguing, handling and archiving the work from the films and personal items of Stanley Kubrick, updating the archive system, noticing errors in the system and using research skills to investigate, identify and catalogue material. I have gained experience using CALM, the archive’s choice of cataloguing system – understanding reference codes, navigating items, editing and adding entries.
As an introduction to the archive I was given the chance to re-catalogue material in a more logical way – two examples being Danny’s shoes from ‘The Shining’ and a mask worn in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. I found this incredible as ‘The Shining’ is one of my favourite horror films and I felt as if I were transported back to when the characters were actually using and wearing these historic props. Another task was to differentiate actual props from mock-ups of the Newspapers shown in scenes of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. I find it quite surreal being exposed to such material – even after volunteering here for two months.
On the subject of paper collections, I have been instructed into the care needed when handling items and have taken on a number of tasks looking through the important and general letters from various studios and others on Kubrick Productions to find details about specific queries. Still having admiration for Kubrick, I have noticed that his letters show his perfectionism to the point where he comes across as moderately arrogant and angry because achieving his vision of the film is so important and personal.
An unusual discovery was finding a folder containing photographic transparencies of a snowy mountainous landscape in the 2001: A Space Odyssey collection, similar to that of the ‘Overlook Hotel’ in The Shining. There was confusion about these transparencies and why they were in the 2001 section. We eventually confirmed that they were used for projection tests but not used in filming.
An extensive project I am working on at the moment is organising the vast number of 2001: A Space Odyssey Special Effects reports. They had been stored in boxes in no specific order and, during another project I noticed important visual material inside folders in the boxes that could be useful to archivists and researchers. This has required going through a large sample of reports from a number of boxes and breaking them down into categories (e.g. Reports related to: spacecraft, the Monolith, landscapes, humans/creatures etc.) These reports contain text (Letters, memos, picture negative reports, camera techniques) and visual material (polaroids, cuts of film, diagrams).
I enjoy volunteering here and I hope to pursue a career in archiving for film in the future.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Archives and Special Collections Centre, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image credit: Georgia Clemson