Getting to Know You: The University of Amsterdam’s MA in Heritage Studies – Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image

This is the second post of our 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 Eef Masson, Programme Coordinator for the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) MA in Heritage Studies – Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image. She can be contacted at for further questions about the program.

1. When was your program established and how has it developed?

The MA in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image was established in 2003 by Thomas Elsaesser, at the time a professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). In 2014, the MA transferred from the university’s Media Studies department to its department of Heritage Studies, becoming part of a larger cluster of Heritage MAs (which also includes, among others, the MA in Heritage and Memory Studies and the MA in Museum Studies). A few years earlier, the programme had also been redesigned so as to be able to react more quickly to developments in the field (among others, technological ones).

The MA now encompasses three semesters, each with its own focus. The first, an orientation semester, introduces students to three broad areas of expertise: Collection and Collection Management, Preservation and Restoration and Access and Reuse. Here, a comparative approach is chosen above a medium-specific one, so that students can compare and contrast across the range of institutional practices considered. It is followed by two specialisation semesters: one academic, in which students take two elective courses and write their thesis; one professional, in which they spend most of their time working on a semester-long internship project. Check out this link for a full programme overview.

2. What type(s) of degree(s)/certification(s) does your program offer?

Students graduate with a dual (professional) MA in Heritage Studies: Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image. The diploma supplement lists all courses taken, as well as specifics on a graduate’s thesis topic and internship project.

3. Typical class size? Faculty size and backgrounds?

Every year, between 10 and 16 new students start the MA. They are taught by members of UvA’s academic staff (usually five or six), along with professional staff from a series of local partner institutions (over the course of a year, anywhere between 10 and 15).

Academic staff, each with their own specialisations, are based in the university’s departments of Media Studies and History. Professionals from such institutions as the EYE Filmmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Living Media Art Foundation (formerly known as Netherlands Institute for Media Art), V2_Institute for the Unstable Media, the Amsterdam City Archives, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and more, give lectures or teach workshops on location. In September 2014, Giovanna Fossati, Head Curator at the EYE Filmmuseum, officially joined the UvA staff as a part-time professor.

Nederlands Institute for Sound and Vision 2

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Nederlands Institute for Sound and Vision 1

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

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

When making a selection among the applicants for the programme, we consider a variety of factors. We are looking for graduates with a BA in Media and Culture studies, or any other discipline with a minimum of 60 ECTS credits’ worth of courses in art, culture and media subjects. In addition, we also require a minimum of work experience in the field (for example, experience of student or volunteer work in media archiving or festival programming). Applicants who lack the former but can compensate for a different educational background with relevant work experience may be considered also. Other important components of the application dossier are a solid motivation letter, a writing sample, two references, and an academic transcript (our minimum GPA requirements are B/3.0 in the American system or an upper second class degree in the British system, a C in the ECTS-system or a 7.0 on the Dutch academic grading scale). The language requirements for the programme are specified here. Admission deadlines are 1 February (for non-EU candidates who wish to be considered for one of the university’s scholarships) and 1 March (for all others) of the academic year prior to the one in which one wishes to enroll. (Please note that we don’t have the liberty to consider applications submitted after 1 March!)

In order to complete the programme, students need to obtain 90 ECTS credits: in the first semester, 30 ECTS’ worth of core courses on the history, theory and practice of the preservation and presentation of moving images (see above), as well as a course in Media Archaeology. In the second, 12 credits’ worth of electives (for instance, Curating the Moving Image and This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice, both taught by programme staff) and an 18-credit MA thesis. In the third, they take practical modules, with a 4-month (inter)national internship (24 ECTS) as the main component.

Students who wish to complete the course successfully should bear in mind that the study pace, in the first year in particular, is quite high. UvA has a semester system that makes for an intensive teaching and assessment schedule. Also, work in the first year is primarily academic/critical in nature, and assignments usually take a written form. Therefore, we act on the assumption that our students have solid research and argumentation skills when entering the programme.

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

Students enrolled on the programme get either free or discounted access to screenings, conferences and other special events at our main partner institutions. Those same institutions also offer opportunities for participation in short-term extra-curricular projects (for example, the annual ‘Nitrate Control week’, in which students join forces with archival staff to update the EYE Filmmuseum’s records on the preservation state of the materials in the nitrate vaults, prioritising them for further treatment) and part-time internships during the first year of their studies.

Nitrate Control Week 2015 pic2

Nitrate Control week 2015 at the EYE Filmmuseum

Nitrate Control Week 2015 pic1

Nitrate Control week 2015 at the EYE Filmmuseum

Moreover, Amsterdam is an excellent point of departure for exploring a range of media institutions across the Netherlands – not only its national centres for film and television (the EYE Filmmuseum and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, respectively) but also international centres for media art (the Living Media Art foundation or V2_Institute for the Unstable Media) and a series of internationally renowned film festivals (for instance, the International Film Festival Rotterdam and IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam). In addition, the Netherlands also has a range of regional and academic archives, as well as smaller-scale arts centres and festivals, none of which is more than a two-hour train ride from Amsterdam.

In early 2014, a group of students on the Amsterdam MA also set up their own AMIA Student Chapter. The Chapter webpage and Facebook page together sketch a good picture of what they have been up to in their first year of operation.

6. What does your program specialize in?

One characteristic feature of the programme is its comparative approach. Students are invited, throughout their studies, to critically reflect on the different preservation and presentation cultures and traditions that inform practices in institutions that vary in terms of the types of media they care for or present (film, television and/or media artworks) and in terms of their scale, remit and economic basis. They are encouraged also to consider how these practices converge, among others in light of technological developments.

Another defining feature of the programme is its emphasis on practices geared towards making archival AV materials accessible to a range of publics: through the programming of all manner of on-site presentations, online curation, or various forms of artistic reuse. Over the course of an academic year, the study of preservation practice takes up the same amount of course time as that devoted to practices of collecting, selection and preservation – as the programme’s name also suggests.

Finally, the curriculum is shaped by the faculty’s expertise in media history and theory (since most of the academic staff who contribute to the programme are based in a Media Studies department). Students are selected on the basis of their prior knowledge of developments in media culture and their familiarity with academic reflection on the topic, but are also expected to further expand those – among others, but not exclusively, in their contributions to a course in Media Archaeology.

7. What relationship do you maintain with alumni?

For many years, the programme’s alumni have been operating a Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image (PandPMI) listserv. The list is used to disseminate news, announce events, and share job postings that might be of interest to graduates and current students, and to keep in touch with each other. Over the past one and a half years, staff have also made efforts to complete their alumni records, with an eye to potential future events (for instance, a celebration of the programme’s 15th birthday, in a few years’ time).

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

Graduate School of Humanities webpage with details on the programme: General information on the curriculum, staff, admission and fees, and career prospects
UvA’s Course Catalogue: Further information on the curriculum.

Or Contact:
– Eef Masson, Programme Coordinator, at for queries on academic matters
– The Admissions Office of the Graduate School of Humanities at  for queries about the formalities of application, fees, funding, residence in the Netherlands, and related matters.

UvA campus 1

University of Amsterdam (Humanities) campus

UvA campus 2

University of Amsterdam (Humanities) campus

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