May 12, 2014

The Kinsey Institute Debate

Question: What should the Kinsey Institute do with its films?
Resolution: The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University should make the work in its Film Archive more accessible to researchers.
This is how our class ended. With a single question we had to answer, and a statement that we either had to defend or refute.
As a student in NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program with no previous knowledge of curating, I was very excited for this debate, and after a semester of discussing and learning about curating issues, it was intriguing to end with debate about an archive’s access policies.

Over the semester we have heard from our many guest speakers about the considerations that go into curating programs, including the technical and content considerations. But what about the access issues that come with viewing or curating archival material. For curated screening events, it seems that a lot of the content comes directly from artists, collectors, or distributors, but what about the archives?
In the case of the Kinsey Institute, they only make DVDs or digital copies of their material available for viewing to researchers and even that can only be viewed on site.  How does this choice to only show an alternate format of the work affect how viewers perceive it? If this materials were to be curated as part of a larger series, would there be a push to see the material in its original form?
For this debate, the curating of this material took a brief backseat to the issue of access vs. preservation. When it comes to the question of access or preservation first, this is a debate that can go around and around forever. It is clear from the Kinsey Institute website that these are unique films that need to be preserved, but how to get the funding to make this possible if the material is inaccessible to the wider public?  Access could spread interest and build and audience.  But with a collection unique as this, with material this sensitive, what is the best course of action? If the Kinsey Institute had enough money to appropriately preserve all of their films, perhaps access would no longer be an issue. Or at that point would the content of the films take over as the deciding factor for access?
As the class was divided between  “yays” (for more access) and “nays” (keep the policies as is), the debate began with interesting perspectives on the situation. Wouldn’t allowing access be good to promote the collection content and possibly raise funds for preservation?  How can scholarly interest and research be developed without better access? What are the privacy concerns about material being leaked on the Internet? Why does access need to be remote or off site, if on site access is granted?
Excellent points were made on both side of the argument.  More access would allow for the opportunity to promote the collection, launch discussions, further current research being done on stag films, and work towards breaking down the negative attitude towards the genre. However, the fragile state of the film collection needs to be taken into account (for screenings and research), and the sensitive nature of the content leads to concern about revealing the identities of the participants. 

The debate bounced back and forth between these ideas and more, before settling into a general discussion.  That overall came to the consensus that any questions posed could not be answered in a way that would appease both sides.  Preservation and access will continually be at odds with one another for manny institutions, often leaving little space for curating. 

In regards to curating, there would a perceivable difference between viewing these films on film vs. a digital copy.  By limiting the collection to the archive, the Kinsey Institute limits researchers in order to better manage the collection.  A curated screening of these materials would require access to and contextualization of the films that may or may not be available.  The concern over the material is for the physical condition as well the outside perception of the material and the Institute.  Curating events of this material open sensitive topics and open the door to the Kinsey Institute to support or criticism.  
It would have been interesting to carry this discussion further into the curating concerns that come with this kind of material. How much contextualization would be required or desired? What challenge would curators be faced with when it comes to marketing and promotion? I agree that there should be more available access to this material, thought I understand the hesitation to make the content physically or digitally available off site. This is where a curated event, especially if hosted by the Kinsey Institute, could make strides in continuing interest and research in the collection, and raise awareness of its preservation needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.