The following is a Q&A with NWA’s Second Resident for the Archivist-in-Residence program: Valeria Dávila Gronros. Northwest Archivists, Inc. is offering a $5,000 stipend for one graduate student (or recent graduate within two years) to receive an Archivist-in-Residence opportunity. The purpose of this residency is two-fold: 1. To offer upcoming and new professionals with paid career development opportunities to apply knowledge in archives, libraries, museums, or a related field; and 2. To provide an opportunity for archival organizations to work toward the long-term goal of eliminating unpaid work within the field. This is a unique experience for a new professional to develop a project based on their goals and skills and work directly with an organization to determine the project’s scope, goals, and outcomes.
Valeria will complete her online Masters of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, in May 2022, where she is focusing her studies on Archives with an emphasis in Audiovisual Archives. She is interested in accessibility as well as audiovisual, and community and family archives. As a 2019-2021 Fellow in the Diversity Scholars Program at Oregon State University Libraries and Press (OSULP), Valeria has completed several projects involving improved preservation and access to film, media, and oral histories at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC), as well as cross-trained in other library departments such as the Resource Acquisition and Sharing Department. Her favorite part of working in Special Collections is making stories from underrepresented communities more accessible and discoverable to users. Valeria is originally from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cinema, and going out for long walks.
As a daughter of Uruguayan immigrants in Argentina, the family archive played an important role in my identity formation early in my life, particularly through the family photo album. I would spend hours as a kid going through the albums, through which I had access to different events in my parent’s life in Uruguay. In those still images, I saw my parents grow, their paths crossing, getting married; then, leaving their country for the southernmost city in Argentina, and all the adventures that followed; all events that shaped their history and mine, even before being born. There’s something inexplicably special about the family album, and that’s where I trace back my love for archives.
In your own words, why are archives important?
Archives are sites of memory. As sites of memory, they are sites of trauma and stigma as much as they are sites of love, healing, restoration, and justice. They are, also, and fundamentally, sites of dispute of the dominant narratives, where a myriad of stories, events, and voices collide with one another; like a battleship. For all these reasons, archives are sites where the unimaginable can happen and re-signify and re-shape reality.
Where will your residency be and who are you working with?
My residency will be at the Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoPS) and I’ll be working with Libby Hopfauf, MIPoPS’ Co-Executive Director and Audiovisual Archivist. I’m extremely excited about this opportunity as I have long wanted to collaborate with MIPoPS.
Tell us about the project you’ll be working on.
My residency project will consist on researching and establishing improved captioning and transcription best practices for MIPoPS in support of their ongoing accessibility efforts. To that end, I’ll be documenting my research, workflows, and findings to draft a report that will serve as the starting point for MIPoPS to continue and streamline in the future.
In addition to this, I will be creating closed captions and transcriptions for thirty videos from MIPoPS’ Participating Institutions publicly available collections. The closed captions and transcription files will be added to the Internet Archive and transferred to the Participating Institutions for use on their internal sites, when applicable.
What skills do you bring with you that have prepared you for this residency?
I bring a combination of relevant values, knowledge, and skills that will help ensure this project’s success.
First, an understanding and appreciation of audiovisual materials as heritage, as living expressions of memory, identity, and history, that I developed through my undergrad film studies as much as my diverse filmmaking experiences, and my time digitally restoring historical Latin American films prior to moving to the US.
This understanding and appreciation is not static, but rather it is nurtured by my continuing education and field-specific training. An example of this, is the Master of Library and Information Studies degree that I’m pursuing at the University of Alabama, focused in Archival Studies with emphasis in Audiovisual Preservation & Archiving. I’m part of the first cohort in this inaugural emphasis, which includes a series of classes and practicums that are preparing me for my work at a MIPoPS and the career I envision for myself in audiovisual archives.
Besides my academic education, to the project I also bring previous experience captioning and transcribing videos. As a native Spanish-speaker, I’ve created Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) in Spanish for the recorded presentations of No Time To Wait Symposium 2019, using a similar tool and workflow currently used by MIPoPS, permitting me to join the project with a prior understanding of their practices and what they wish to improve. I also create captions and SDH for my conference video presentations that I make publicly available online, and am currently transcribing the first episode of “Archives and Communities,” a podcast project I spearheaded as the 2020-21 President of the Society of American Archivists Student Chapter at the University of Alabama (SAA-UA) this Spring, and that I am managing, with two episodes now published, and a third in the works!
Last, as someone pursuing my degree completely online, and working on archival projects remotely at OSULP for almost a year since the pandemic started, I bring my ability to work remotely, critical to this remote residence.
What are your career goals and how does this project help support you in achieving these goals?
With audiovisual archiving and accessibility being my interests, this project will advance my career goals in many fulfilling ways.
From a purely educational point of view, the project will provide me with a unique opportunity to experiment with a variety of captioning and transcribing tools, expanding my current knowledge and skills. Furthermore, and very importantly to me, from a career interest and values point of view, this project advances my career goal of working to document, safeguard, and provide wide access to the memories of historically erased, misrepresented, and neglected communities. This aspect is key to me and the kind of work I want to do as an archivist, and the reason I’ve long been wanting to work with MIPoPs: they prioritize the narratives and memories of neglected communities, so I see our values aligning in this respect that is so important to me as a Latina in this field.
In your own words, how will your work benefit the MIPoPS?
My work will benefit MIPoPS (and its partners) because it will support and help advance their mission to making audiovisual materials more equitably accessible to the public by means of including captions and transcriptions.
In particular, because this project is intentionally aimed at closed-captioning and transcribing videos with poor audio quality that are the most challenging for the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities, it advances MIPoPS’ aim to ensure access to audiences with disabilities. The same applies to providing equitable access to audiovisual materials created by marginalized communities, as this project prioritizes closed-captioning and transcribing these materials. Apart from this, and because another aim of the project is to revise and update MIPoPS’ closed-captioning and transcription best practices and workflows, this project will also contribute to making this important work more manageable and sustainable for MIPoPS in the present and future.
The NWA Paid Internship Committee would like to thank NWA membership and our Gold-level sponsors for their support of the Archivist-in-Residence program.