Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School 2
January 17, 2017 12:22 PM   Subscribe

At almost 36 years old, I finally know what I want to do -- I want to work in historical media conservation/preservation. Preferably this would be film preservation, but I'm also very open to audio preservation and paper (and other media) archives. What is the fastest, most efficient, most direct way to get the practical skills to get my foot in the door?

So, I'm thinking that, since these are very hands-on fields, you probably can skip traditional academia and just center on receiving intensive training at a special school, something that will lead to industry-approved certification. Apparently, that's not really the case. While Eastman in Rochester does have a certification program, it doesn't really seem like a middle-aged person with no valuable education is their ideal candidate (read: I find it unlikely they'd admit me). It seems the best deal is to head back to school and attend Tisch/NYU for a fast track BA/Master's degree. Once again, I'm not sure I'm their ideal. And...

I did very poorly in college (extenuating circumstances) and didn't graduate. I did get a rather worthless Associate's degree (web design, but barely). I don't think a lot, if any, of my 15 year old credits will transfer. I just don't think I can face going back to school and jumping through all the academic hoops. I JUST want to take the practical courses that would teach me conservation, preservation, and/or archiving skills, so that I can do that for the rest of my life. I feel like I've looked at every school, every website, everywhere, but I can't really see anything that isn't aimed at young people just starting out.

Does anyone have any insights on how I can make my dream come true? I'd be willing to relocate just about anywhere, but I'd prefer to not have to take Biology 101, French 1, and the freshman seminar again.
posted by Mael Oui to Education (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
t seems the best deal is to head back to school and attend Tisch/NYU for a fast track BA/Master's degree.

I'm not terribly familiar with your field, but I am relatively familiar with NYU and I just want to say that the best deal is never, ever going to come from NYU unless money is no object (in which case, I don't think you'd be looking for a deal?) Maybe they have the single best program in your field in the world and the education there is better than any you'll get anywhere else. I have no idea! I do know for a fact you'll be paying for it out the nose and for the rest of your life.

You didn't mention expense anywhere in your question so for all I know you already did this, but please do some serious, serious number crunching before deciding to even apply to NYU.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is there an arthouse or repertory cinema in your area? If you have no educational background or technical skills, doing an apprenticeship as a projectionist might be a good first step.

Many people who do what you're thinking about doing went to library school.
posted by cakelite at 1:20 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm assuming you've seen this resource website at the LoC?

Our painting conservator has his M.A. and degree in conservation from NYU, and speaks highly of the program there, although I believe it's very competitive. He also has a separate M.S., which I believe is not uncommon among conservators. You could also look into Winterthur and the University of Delaware , as they have a well-regarded conservation training program. I know several people with an M.S/certificate in conservation from there.
posted by PussKillian at 1:31 PM on January 17, 2017

Library/archives as an industry has more graduates than jobs at the moment. So I would suggest looking for the job first and finding out from the organization specifically what they are looking for. If you are going to school, choose a school with co-op/field placements with local placements in your chosen organization. Most positions require the masters, but some may accept a two year diploma, again, it is very organization dependent. Non-profits may have lower requirements (and also lower pay) but government (and government subsided organizations) are more likely to require more formal education.
posted by saucysault at 1:50 PM on January 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Seconding saucysault in everything!. I have a degree in conservation from Cardiff University (though my concentration is archaeology and historic artifacts), but finding work in that field directly is virtually impossible. (Finding work in a related field, as I'm trying to do right now, is very difficult. But jobs actually come up more than once a year, so it feels like a cornucopia!)

I would start looking at jobs first, and work back from there, based on their requirements. Maybe contact people who have the position you want at other organizations -- most of them won't reply, but you might get some good advice! Plan to work internships and field placements as much as you possibly can, and volunteer with potential employers constantly. You will have to give your skills away for free before getting hired; it's simply how the sector works.

Feel free to MeMail me with any questions, though as you can tell, I'm...not bitter, exactly. But, hopefully, realistic. This is an immensely rewarding field, but one that's very difficult to get a job in.
posted by kalimac at 2:37 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Like saucysault, I was just about to say that my graduate research in history put me in contact with many many archivists. The ones I know do text, audio, and media preservation, and I was able to become friends with them due to my fairly extensive camping out at the different archives I was using. My understanding from them is that the job market is pretty brutal for archivists. It sounded a lot like academia where if - IF! - you get a job offer, regardless of where it is or what it pays or whether you are interested in that particular niche, you take it. And I don't know how representative this is, but I can tell you that I know that one of the archivists (the one I talked to most extensively) has a doctorate in a related field, makes under $40k, has almost 15 years of experience in the job, is afraid of internal politics in her area creating funding cuts for her archive, and doubts that she can get another job (especially in her geographic region, where she wants to stay). I'd do some serious research about the job market and your particular job prospects. I'd also think about whether you're willing to give up everything to pursue this path (if you even landed a job). From where I stand, the field looks almost as bad as academia, which I would even more strongly never advise anyone to enter. What happens if you give up a decade of your life (BA, graduate degree, internships/poorly paid menial labor) and then a job doesn't pan out?
posted by ClaireBear at 2:38 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't think a lot, if any, of my 15 year old credits will transfer.
I'd be willing to relocate just about anywhere, but I'd prefer to not have to take Biology 101, French 1, and the freshman seminar again.

Because you actually completed your associate's, they should be willing to accept that. Had you not, then they might not accept anything. From what I gather, credits over 20 years old don't transfer -- unless it is part of a completed degree. However, there are programs where nothing transfers at all. When looking at built environment related degrees, I eliminated Architecture as a field because the programs typically took little or no transfer credits.

So, I would call the schools and ask about that.

Additionally, you may be able to test out of some classes. CLEP is one of the big names in testing out of something for college credit.
posted by Michele in California at 2:50 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester is probably among the most efficient, most hands-on routes to film preservation work.

You've just missed the deadline for September 2017 admission (that deadline was January 15), but that's OK because now you can work on the alternative to an undergraduate degree, which is "equivalent experience." And if you can, go visit the Selznick school to see how it strikes you.

One year in Rochester and you're credentialed with an awful lot of film handling experience behind you. The students range in age and life history.
posted by xaryts at 3:14 PM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Okay, well. Thank you all for your input!

I wasn't seriously considering going back to school for my BA and an additional MA. I would probably hit 40 before I'd be done with the undergraduate degree. Then there's the cost. That's why I was wondering if there was any option I missed to skip the unrelated subjects. The Selznick School is just about the first thing I really considered, but based on what I've read.. I find it really unlikely that they would admit me for the certification program. Really. Or I would have applied before the deadline!

But.. but.. while I don't need to make a lot of money, I'd hate to go through so many years of education to not be able to get any job. Well, I guess that's that. At least this provided some closure to that! Thanks for all the information, though!
posted by Mael Oui at 10:50 PM on January 17, 2017

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