Student Spotlight: Jen O’Leary

The following is a guest post by Jen O’Leary for our new Student Spotlight series. The series was created to highlight the fascinating and dedicated work being carried out by students in moving image archival studies. If you’re a student who would like to be highlighted or you know someone who should be, contact us at


Jen inspecting films for Home Movie Day at the Academy Film Archive. Photo by Snowden Becker

Hi! I’m Jen O’Leary. Originally from Massachusetts, I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past 6 ½ years. I’m finishing up my 2nd year in the UCLA Moving Image Archive Studies program where I’m the President of the UCLA AMIA Student Chapter. My media archival interests include the restoration, preservation and collections management of moving images. I have a background in cinematography, so I’ve also been studying how the technology used to create moving images influences the preservation and restoration of the work. I also enjoy working with early camera and projector technology.

Throughout my time in the MIAS program I’ve worked as an intern at the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, the Wende Museum’s AV Collection and NBCUniversal Archive Operations; and worked on projects with the Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum and the Nickelodeon Animation Archive. I will also be heading to Rochester this summer for the AMIA IPI Internship. I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to work with some amazing people in the moving image archiving community who have taken time away from their own work to mentor and teach me about this field.


Waterfall in Yosemite National Park from an unidentified family home movie circa 1967.

I’m currently interning at the Academy Film Archive processing and cataloging home movie acquisitions, specifically a subset of the collection in which the filmmakers are unknown. I inspect the films, make minor repairs, prepare them for eventual digitization, and create extensive notes on the content of each home movie. I conduct research to identify locations, time periods, and when possible, the identities of the creators. The majority of films I’ve processed so far are from the 1940s-1960s, and many were shot on Kodachrome. They’ve ranged in content from amateur films, to documentations of birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, and family trips to Yosemite National Park and Disneyland.


Donuts fresh out of the oven. From the original Kodachrome A & B rolls of “America Dunks” (1947). A black and white print can be seen here.

My interests from an early age have been the intersection of media and history, so being able to work with the Academy’s home movie collection has been extremely rewarding for me. It has been an exciting process to view vibrant images of California (and some surrounding states), especially since the areas have changed so drastically in the following decades. It’s been incredibly eye opening to see how much history is contained in these home movies, and how useful they are as a document of our past. I’m excited to continue to work on this collection over the next few weeks and see what else I can discover.