ARCHIVES AT WORK – meet LSA’s Lenka Sucha
ARCHIVES AT WORK feature .
LENKA SUCHA, Digital Archive Assistant, London’s Screen Archives
What is your role at LSA?
I look after LSA’s online presence, which covers a variety of different tasks, and I also present indoor and outdoor community screenings.
How long have you been at the archive?
I started at the end of July 2016.
Career history – (what path did you take to your current job at the archive?)
Before my current position, I completed a 4-month internship at the National Film Archive in Prague in the amateur & home movie department. I inspected and catalogued various amateur collections and helped with the digitisation and restoration of an 8mm Czech avant-garde film. I also got involved in promoting the local Home Movie Day by editing a short promotional film and writing a post-event blog post. The best part was being able to sit in on various departmental meetings and getting an insight into the inner workings of a national heritage institution. It was a great experience.
Experience/qualifications? and how did you get the job?
I did a BA in Film and Media at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, and then studied for an MA in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image at the University of Amsterdam. During my studies and time at LSA, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit or undertake short placements at various archives, including the EYE Film Institute Netherlands, the FIAF office in Brussels, the Scottish Moving Image Archive, History of Advertising Trust and IWM. Everyone I’ve contacted has been incredibly helpful. As for my current job, I had signed up to the LSA newsletter a while back, and was excited to see a Digital Film Archive Intern vacancy advertised in June 2016. I sent in my application and the rest is history.
What attracted you to the industry?
It started with a broad interest in films and history from a young age, and then later the realisation that film archives represent a perfect overlap of the two. Especially amateur films often go unappreciated, even though they record very important aspects of social history and provide a more immediate connection to the past for a wide range of people. I’m just keen on passing on my passion for film heritage and the value it holds.
Describe the work involved in a typical day (if no day the same then tell us variety of work involved in)
The online-based part of my role involves updating the website, delivering our monthly newsletter, and posting on behalf of LSA on the Film London twitter channel. I also moderate, publish and respond to online comments, answer footage queries, write short blog posts and articles for the website and select our Film of the Month for Youtube.
In preparation for a community venue screening, I’ll edit a compilation programme relevant specifically to the borough or the event, and research the films I’ll be presenting. I also attend outdoor screenings with our mobile cinema KinoVan where I chat to the audience, explain LSA’s role and aims and encourage further film donations to help preserve and diversify London’s screen heritage.
What’s the best part of your work?
Speaking to people that come to the screenings, listening to their stories and the memories that the films brought back, their positive response to the films. Kids come up with the most unexpected (and sometimes unintentionally hilarious) observations! We also receive touching online comments, which occasionally result in an extended email exchange while I try to find out more about the individual’s connection to the film, its maker or location. I also love a good discovery, whether it’s a film donation brought about by pure coincidence, or when all the clues and pieces come together and suddenly there’s an exciting background story to be shared on our website.
What challenges are there?
Lack of time. In an ideal world, I’d love to be able to carry out in-depth research about our films to help enrich the catalogue, as well as spend more time on creative engagement with our material. As a small team, we’re doing what we can, and I’ve seen incredible progress during my time at LSA which is rewarding and encouraging.
How different is the work here in the UK compared to that in the other European cities you have worked in?
Even within the European Union, there are big differences in priorities, public appreciation of, and the state’s involvement/funding/interest in film archives. As for the British archive industry, on one hand it has a long history and there are established, respected institutions that have been at the forefront of the field for decades, ensuring audiovisual heritage remains relevant. On the other hand (and bearing in mind my experience is rather recent and limited) the UK industry comes across as slightly more inward-looking and self-orientated. There seems to be more collaboration and sharing between the archives on the continent, a stronger flow of information and knowledge. But again, this isn’t universally the case across Europe – I’d say it’s limited to a small number of select institutions.
We recently acquired a large collection donated by the daughter of a talented amateur filmmaker, which (amongst other exciting items) includes a short silent 16mm film of Winston Churchill in colour. It was filmed in 1945 in Wanstead during Churchill’s General Election campaign and includes incredible close-up shots for an amateur film. This discovery really stands out in recent memory.
How much has the work of film archives changed and in what way?
Being rather new to the world of film archives, my knowledge is purely theoretical. The general impression I have is that archives have steadily been becoming more open and accessible, but are also heavily affected by budget cuts and chasing funding seems to be more difficult than it has perhaps been in the past.
How do you see the future of the film archives?
It’s vital for film archives to keep improving access, especially in regards to various marginalised groups, as well as reaching out and engaging in cross-institutional projects. I’d like to see film heritage incorporated more directly into education to help ensure its value will be understood and appreciated by future generations. I also think there’s great potential for film archives to engage in research projects, especially in the digital domain.
Thank you to Lenka Sucha
ARCHIVES AT WORK is a series of interviews with people who work at FAUK member archives around the UK – meet more people here: