Re: national archives cataloguing of DVD

From: Steve Polta (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Aug 19 2008 - 12:02:47 PDT

I have not seen this film, nor do I know much about the specifics of the National Archives of Canada's way of doing things but I happen to be pursuing a degree in Library and Information Science (and recently completed a course on cataloging) so I can say a few things about this.

Basically it, when it comes to issues of assigning topicality or "aboutness" of a work, at least in general collections or catalogs, such classifications tend to be broad and general, and the number of "blanks" that can be filled is limited. As we know, a work can be "about" a large number of things, to a greater or lesser degree, but such subtleties can be lost in the face of a need to assign a single term to a work. Additionally, such issues as the form a work takes are usually not considered at all. Therefore one might find MOBY DICK to be "about" whaling, or WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING to be "about" childbirth. Clearly each of these has more going for it than that but these examples illustrate the ironies of colliding the utilitarian logic of cataloging with the less rational (artistic) motivations of poetry. While it may seem disappointing to some, when cataloging works, the needs and intentions of artists and creators are generally assumed to be of
 less importance than the (assumed) needs of "information seekers"; i.e. the ultimate purpose of a catalog is to put users (of a library, say) in touch with works relevant to their needs, with topicality the prime focus. I agree that treating works of art and literature in ways similar to works of non-fiction (that works are "about" things and that is what is important) seems to diminish them.

This is basically what the archives guy is telling you.
Sorry I don't have any advice for your campaign...

Steve Polta

--- On Tue, 8/19/08, flick harrison <email suppressed> wrote:

> From: flick harrison <email suppressed>
> Subject: national archives cataloguing of DVD
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 10:56 AM
> Hey there frameworkers;
> I've sent my short film / interactive DVD Marie Tyrell
> into the
> national archives of canada. They've categorized it as
> a prison
> film, which I think is a bad way to list it (I don't
> think that's the
> target audience, if you know what I mean) and wonder if
> anyone has
> experience / thoughts on this question? Is it worth
> worrying about,
> is it something that matters much?
> Here's the entry:
> sessionKey=999999999_142&l=0&lvl=1&v=0&itm=33566168&rt=1&bill=1
> Here's what the cataloguing officer wrote when I
> questioned the
> "prison films" category:
> > The subject heading 'Prison films' is used for
> individual films
> > that depict prison life in any way. From a quick look
> at your
> > website it seems that your film is based on the short
> story which
> > depicts the story of someone on death row? If this is
> the case,
> > the subject heading applied does seem appropriate.
> Subject
> > headings are applied to cataloguing records based on a
> controlled
> > list of vocabulary -- this controlled vocabulary is
> used by
> > libraries worldwide to group and retrieve similar
> materials.
> > Please let me know if you would like us to look again
> at the
> > subject headings applied to your work.
> And here's what I was going to write back to her:
> > I suppose prison films is a suitable category in one
> sense, but the
> > work is actually an interactive DVD whose main focus
> is on a
> > political breakdown / analysis of the filmmaking
> process itself
> > through hyper-video documentaries. The short film is
> a fictional
> > story of an activist on death row, and although she is
> a prisoner,
> > that forms only part of the narrative - she is also a
> psych
> > patient, teenage diarist, lover, organizer, and
> protester. The
> > documentary tesseracts (hyper-video clips that emerge
> when buttons
> > on the fictional video get clicked) are non-fiction.
> >
> > It is, in my opinion, a literary, documentary,
> experimental,
> > activist, political science work, with prison /
> incarceration as
> > one element, but even that is in the context of
> criminalization of
> > dissent - not crime or prison per se.
> >
> > I suppose you always have decisions to make when
> experimental /
> > crossover work comes you way.
> They sent me a request for the DVD some time ago, and I was
> feeling
> all honoured to be requested by the national archives...
> until I read
> the literature and found out it was required by law to
> submit 2
> copies of all videos published in Canada! Har har.
> Any thoughts are appreciated.
> -FLick
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> <email suppressed>.


For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.