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SCI-Arc Media Archive

April 2, 2013

Column by Kevin McMahon, Library Manager, Sci-Arc

Barbara Opar, AASL column editor

WHAT IS IT? An online showcase of videos of public events held at SCI-Arc from 1972 to the present. The SMA is designed to be useful for students and scholars, but also to be easy to use and fun for anybody with an interest in architecture, Los Angeles and experimental design.


LAUNCHED: September 28, 2012


THE MATERIAL: In 1973 Ray Kappe invited Los Angeles Public Access Project, providers of community-produced public access programing for Theta Cable, to set up shop on the second floor of SCI-Arc’s facility at 1800 Berkeley Street. Within a year, SCI-Arc purchased their own equipment and began documenting Wednesday night lectures and other school events.

THE SITE: Planning began in earnest Fall 2009. Support from the Getty Foundation, the NEA, and a partnership with the MAK materialized Spring 2011. The digitization and video review process extended from Summer 2011 through February 2012, employing an extensive temporary staff who reviewed, described and subclipped all the videos.

SITE DESIGN: The interface was designed to focus attention on the videos. If the Explore page is not as elaborate as an academic library catalog, it’s because this site is both a catalog and a viewer.

VIDEOS AVAILABLE: 696, adding new & old material every week.

DATES COVERED: 1972 to now.

FEATURED SPEAKERS: 691, plus 121 introducers. 36 of the people mentioned in 2013 Pacific Standard Time events are represented in at least one video in SMA.

DESCRIPTIVE TEXTS: Searching the videos is facilitated by summaries ranging from 10 to 95 words each. The site contains over 200,000 words of text.

SUBJECT THEMES: 3133. The themes employ a controlled vocabulary, complimenting the natural language narrative video descriptions (see the selection on the back of this page).

EXHIBITS: Only 5, so far. Later this Spring the site will begin regularly adding provocative selections from the archive selected by guest curators.

POSTERS: 105, and counting. It’s hoped that alumni and faculty will be able to fill in the chronological gaps.

EDITING? The videos are presented as found: none have been edited or technically sweetened.  

COMPLETENESS? The Archive will never be done. New material is added every week, and previously unknown old material is discovered regularly.

OUTSIDE USE? SMA’s policy is that the videos now exist exclusively online, within the context of the Media Archive site. Anyone working on a presentation, media project or exhibit should explore ways of linking to the videos as they appear in the site. Bibliographic citations are available for all videos and posters.

FOR MORE INFO: See the ABOUT pages for more about the videos and the site.


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