Notes - Weeks 1 and 2

ACMI Collection Content Analysis

I have just completed the task 'Research of the Collection Catalogue for the 90 assigned countries,' being the countries listed from Lebanon to Zimbabwe.

Although we decided at first to collect data through the advanced search feature on the ACMI Collection website (http://collections.acmi.net.au), Hugh pointed out that many items were excluded from the results when using this methodology. Hence, in order to not compromise the breadth of our research and analysis, we decided to collect data using two different columns in the spreadsheet. We have also decided to include a third column, as explained below:

1) Title Search
As previously agreed, the research for assigned countries used the advanced search, and the field 'Title and other titles.'

2) General Search
To maximise the breadth of our research, we also collected data from the assigned countries using the general search feature.

3) Country of Production
Finally, we have also imported into our spreadsheet the results of 'country of production,' provided by Natalia. In this regards, Hugh found some cases in which the imported data were incongruous with the information available on the website. Consequently, I will revise this column with regards to my assigned countries during the course of this next week.

After finalising the collection of data, I am a bit uncertain about reaching conclusions in regards to the representativeness of a particular country in ACMI's collection using numeric data. On one hand, I'm aware that a more in-depth analysis of the films' thematics is not in agreement with the scope of this research. On the other, I'm under the impression that keyword searches might be too broad and possibly not representative of ACMI's collection content. I would like to share some issues I have encountered during my research:

1) For my first country, Lebanon, I found out that three items on ACMI'l collection have the name of the country on its title. For the 'general search,' my results were much larger: 41 items. Among the latter is an item entitled 'Hyper-Ballad' which appears to be catalogued by ACMI's team as part of a collection group entitled 'Anthropology, Ethnology, Exploration & Travel/Lebanese - Australia.' The short film is about a man whose father was from Siria and lived in many places before moving to Australia. Lebanon is cited in the film as one of the places the protagonist's father lived. Hence, I would argue that Lebanon or Lebanese culture is not represented in this film. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD9zz614R9k

2) For the country Madagascar, four of the eight titles included on the results of the general search are from a series of masterclass sessions held by ACMI, in which the creative team behind the studio that produced 'Kung Fu Panda', 'Shrek' and 'Madagascar', talks about the professional animation industry. As the talks are about the industry, it may be argued that they are not representative of the country Magadascar.

3) For the country Niger, when using the general search feature, results also include the Niger River which crosses the following countries: Guinea, Mali, Niger, Benin, Nigeria. Therefore, it may be argued that some of the titles included in the search refers to the river and not specifically to the country. In fact, the majority of titles in the search results depicts either Mali or Nigeria. In this particular search, I am unsure of how to filter the results. Also, as I did not research all countries with the same depth, I question myself if issues as the ones I found for Niger, Lebanon and Madagascar might also happen in the results for other countries.

4) For the United Kingdom, the title search only resulted in one item. When searching for England there are 59 items, Scotland has 22, Wales 12, and Northern Ireland 2. How should we compose those results? Is it possible that other countries might have similar issues that we did not notice so far?

5) For the United States of America, I decided to include in the spreadsheet the results for the keyword "United States," since the general search with the keyword "United States of America" resulted only in 25 titles. When applying the same rationale for the title search, it brought only seven items when using the keyword "United States." A search with the keyword "America,' however, brings 1127 items. Although the latter may seem more significative, it is not accurate. It includes simultaneously films about the United States of America (e.g., "Once upon a time in America") but also about the Americas, Central America, South America etc. Therefore, I think that the results for this country should be revised and maybe another methodology/approach should be adopted.

Finally, I have drafted a few stories but will continue working on that during this week. I will go back to some of my previous searches and also try to extract some analysis from the collection spreadsheet. I would also like to include in my stories an understanding of how ACMI acquired items about some specific countries. What interests me is discussing how ACMI's choices and other factors (as donations, government policies etc.) might influence the representativeness of such countries in the collection. In order to do that I'm planning to:

1 - revise ACMI's annual reports
2 - get a better understanding of the history of ACMI's collection
3 - revise ACMI's collection policies (past and present), including acquisition policies.
4 - understand how ACMI understands the title of the items in its collection. This seems to me as particularly relevant for this research if we consider that the lack of legal rights of specific items in the collection would affect ACMI's ability to exhibit, screen or loan them.

Natalia, do you think this might be interesting for the research? If so, it would be awesome if I could talk with someone from the collection or get access to policies and documents that could help me understand the history ACMI's acquisitions.

Comments

Fantastic research Maria! I really appreciate your thorough analysis and in-depth research! I agree that the methodology that we use at the moment leads to very superficial findings. These are significant limitations that we face, but as you rightly mentioned considering the scope of the collection it would be hard to come up with a better method that will allow us to get quickly at least a rough idea of the content diversity. Furthermore, our main goal is to use this analysis to measure a potential of the collection 'discoverability' and appeal. In this case, the general search by country title gives us a rough estimates of how "catchy" the collection could be to somebody who want to find out if there are any films about his/her country. There is a huge difference between two case scenarios:
1. Somebody searches for movies about Lebanon and finds 0 movies in the collection
2. Somebody searches for Madagascar and finds 6-7 items that are worth of further exploration. Even though this exploration eventually can bring to a negative result it still expands the user's engagement time with the collection and increases the chances of developing a further interest and appeal...

I love the idea of exploring the collection acquisition stories! why don't you start with annual reports of ACMI 2002 and Victoria State Film Center (before 2002) some of them are available at the State Library of Victoria and the UniMelb Library. and we will see if we could get access to the ACMI archives...

Great job, Maria!

In reply to by Grincheva

Thank you for your feedback, Natalia.

I agree with you. After reading your explanation, and discussing with Hugh, I have a better understanding of our main goal with the creation of the stories. I will follow the example he has submitted for Iraq for the creation of mine. I'm also reviewing ACMI annual reports (I have downloaded all from 2002 here: https://www.acmi.net.au/about/annual-reports) to see if I can have a better idea of the collection and if that information can help me with the stories. Thank you also for pointing me to Victoria State Film Center's annual reports, I will research on them as well.

Finally, it would be great if we could have access to ACMI's collection policies and more information on how items were acquired, as it will also be interesting for my personal research.