Getting to Know You: UCLA’s MLIS – Media Archival Studies program

This is the first post of our new series titled Getting to Know You. The series was developed as a way to introduce and connect potential students with current audiovisual archiving programs from around the world. This series will culminate with a panel presentation by representatives from a sampling of programs at the upcoming AMIA conference in Portland, Oregon this November 2015.

Below is a guest post by Snowden Becker, Program Manager of the MLIS, Media Archival Studies program (MAS) at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). She can be contacted at becker@gseis.ucla.edu for further questions about the program.


1. When was your program established and how has it developed? and
2. What type(s) of degree(s)/certifications does your program offer?

The Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) MA at UCLA was established in 2002 as an interdepartmental degree program, jointly offered by the Departments of Information Studies (IS) and Film, Television and Digital Media (FTVDM). The interdepartmental MA degree suspended admissions in Fall 2014, and the MIAS program will close for good after the final cohort of students completes the program in Spring 2016. Going forward, the FTVDM Department will continue to offer their one-year MA in Critical and Media Studies with a Research Professions Track for those seeking expertise in critical analysis and research, but not currently intending to go on for the PhD in Media Studies. And as of Fall 2015, the existing Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program in the IS Department will now also include a Media Archival Studies (MAS) specialization.

UCLA MIAS 2012

Past MIAS students Kelle Anzalone, Jon Marquis, and Crosby Buhl at Boot camp in 2012

The new MLIS/MAS program offers a different credential—an ALA-accredited MLIS degree, as opposed to an MA—and differs slightly from the MIAS MA in its program requirements. (Click here to see a document outlining the similarities and differences between the two programs.) However, it retains many of the faculty, features and resources that have made UCLA a great place to study audiovisual archiving and preservation for over a decade—not least among them, our deeply-rooted connections within the professional community here in Hollywood. Unless otherwise noted, my answers to the following questions will relate specifically to the current MLIS/MAS program.

3. Typical class size? Faculty size and backgrounds?

MIAS cohorts have ranged from 8-12 students per year in recent years, with about 20 students total enrolled in the program at any given time. The MLIS program has greater capacity than the MIAS IDP, and we anticipate that the combination of broader program focus and a more flexible curriculum will yield slightly higher enrollment for the MAS specialization. For our first cohort this Fall, we have 15 students matriculating, with a range of interests that include classic Hollywood animation, photographic records in botanical and natural history collections, and the preservation and use of moving images in human rights and social justice work.

Permanent faculty in the IS Department include internationally-recognized scholars in the fields of archival studies, preservation administration, heritage conservation and museum practice, classification and description, and digital/new media and informatics. In addition, we draw our professional faculty and lecturers for the MAS specialization from a deep bench of local practitioners, including staff from the Academy Film Archive, USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, and Sony.

4. What are your expectations of students for admission and for completing the program?

Application: We accept applications once per year, with a mid-December deadline, for admission the following Fall quarter. Students applying to the MLIS program at UCLA must meet the University’s minimum requirements for graduate study, including completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution (or the equivalent, for students who completed their post-secondary education outside the U.S.); they must have official GRE scores reported from within the last five years; and accepted students must show evidence of having completed a college-level course in statistics with a grade of C or better within the last five years. Applications also include a statement of purpose, résumé, and three letters of recommendation. There is no foreign language requirement, but international applicants who did not complete their post-secondary education in the U.S. will also need to provide current and official TOEFL or IELTS score reports with their application.

Program requirements: The 4-course MLIS core curriculum is completed in the first year (IS 211 Artifacts & Cultures and IS 260 Description & Access in the Fall quarter; IS 270 Systems & Infrastructures in the Winter; and IS 212 Communities & Values in the Spring), along with the “gateway” or specialization elective (usually offered in the Fall or Winter term) and at least one research methods course. These required classes total 24 of the 72 minimum required units for the degree; the remaining 48 credits will be made up of a combination of elective seminars, internships/practica, and independent study courses, which students select with input from their academic advisors. Students may take courses from outside the department; in fact, they are encouraged to do so. In the past, MIAS students have taken courses in Communication Studies, Ethnomusicology, FTVDM, Design|Media Arts, Women & Gender Studies, Latin American Studies, World Arts & Cultures, Law, Business, and many other departments across campus.

Culminating requirements: MLIS students have the option of concluding their studies with either a Master’s thesis or preparation and presentation of a professional portfolio. Examples of past MIAS portfolios are available online here, and give a good sense of what we would expect to see in MLIS/MAS portfolio presentations going forward.

5. Are there any special events, programs, or professional groups your students are expected or encouraged to take part in for further professional development?

It’s possible to spend every minute of your free time here in Los Angeles doing professional development: On any given afternoon or evening, you could be at a repertory, sneak-peek or restoration screening; attending a meeting of the Hollywood chapter of SMPTE; on a collection tour organized by one of our professional association student chapters (AMIA, SAA, SLA, ASIST…); volunteering for Books Beyond Bars; raising a glass at a happy hour or social mixer sponsored by the Library & Information Science Alumni Association; or enjoying coffee and cake with a visiting member of the professional community at one of our weekly Tea Breaks. We’re also particularly handy to the Reel Thing Technical Symposium and Digital Asset Symposium events held frequently in LA by AMIA, not to mention some of the biggest and best-known film festivals in the US (TCM, Cinecon, OutFest, LALIFF…the list goes on). They’re all optional, of course, but doing at least some of the optional stuff is pretty much mandatory if you want to build your network and really connect theory and practice. Many of our students spend their first year figuring out how to strike the delicate balance between devoting an appropriate amount of attention to their studies and taking advantage of at least some of these terrific opportunities.

In addition to the above, we strongly encourage students on the Media Archival Studies track to attend the annual AMIA conference. We have backed that recommendation up in past years by making a modest amount of funding available to support MIAS student travel for professional development. There’s no guarantee that funding will always be available at the same level as the program’s structure changes, but we do consider the conference a really essential part of professional life for emerging members of the field. If you have to choose just one thing to do outside of the classroom every year, attending AMIA would be it!

6. What does your program specialize in (digital media, film handling, library studies, etc.)?

We take a broad-based approach to media archiving and preservation—ours is an archival studies program that considers audiovisual media as a unique form of information, and audiovisual preservation as a particular variety of archival practice (as opposed to a critical or media-studies program that is more focused on archives-based research and theoretical interpretation). While our LA location and strong relationships with major archives and production studios make it easy for students to focus solely on classical Hollywood features, if that is their wish, we see the field as encompassing far more than the mainstream cinema. Surveillance, personal record-keeping, medical and scientific data, contemporary artworks, oral histories, and many other forms of media are part of the landscape we survey in our program. In the coming academic year alone, we’ll be offering seminars on audio recording technologies and sound archives, oral history research methods, and the preservation needs of home movies, as well as digital asset management and administration of moving image collections. These courses are open not just to students in the MAS track, but to all MLIS students and graduate reserarchers from across the university as well. Our goal is to ensure that even non-specialist archivists who pass through the UCLA MLIS program are equipped to better manage the audiovisual recordings that have increasingly comprised the historical record of the last 150 years.

7. What relationship do you maintain with alumni?

We have almost daily contact with our ever-growing network of alumni, through a variety of channels. There’s the MIAS alumni email list, through which we can circulate news and position announcements of interest to our graduates. Alumni who have stayed in the Los Angeles area after graduating employ our current students as interns, teach our classes, and visit during our weekly Tea Breaks to talk about what they’re doing with their degrees. We hear from alumni all the time when they’re hiring for new positions, or have volunteer projects that require the special skill-and-interest set our students have. Last but not least, our alumni are absolutely our best advertisement; their outstanding work defines the UCLA brand for our professional community. Year in and year out, the applicant pool includes outstanding candidates who were referred to us by alumni who supervised them as interns or volunteers, or who taught them in an undergraduate class and encouraged them to pursue careers in this field.

8. What is the best way to find out more about your program?

Get in touch with us directly! We are always happy to answer questions about the program and how studying at UCLA might fit with your research interests and your long-term career goals. In fact, between the information sessions we host every few weeks throughout the Fall, and phone and email conversations our faculty and staff have with prospective students, it’s pretty rare that we receive an application from someone who’s a total stranger.

Jon Marquis (MIAS 2013) at a Tea Break with Kevin Brownlow

Our relationship with incoming students starts long before we see any score reports or letters of recommendation, and we really prize the chance to become acquainted with applicants as fully-rounded individuals. If we know who you are and what you’re interested in early on in the application process, we can start connecting you that much sooner with people, institutions, and resources that can make your time here as rich and productive as possible. Our weekly Tea Breaks are also open to the community, so we encourage prospective students to join us for those, meet current students and working professionals, and get a feel for what the intellectual life of our program is like.

9. Would you like to share any media from the program or additional links?

We welcome you to keep up with our latest news and student work by following us on Twitter: @UCLAmias and @UCLAIS

There are also Facebook pages for the UCLA IS Department and UCLA AMIA Student Chapter and a web site for the Student Chapter, which often features guest blog posts highlighting student presentations, events and projects.

Have more questions about the program?
Contact Snowden Becker at becker@gseis.ucla.edu

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