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MIRC welcomes new assistant directors

Feb 10, 2012 8:10 AM
The Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC), a unit of the University Libraries, welcomes two new assistant directors.

As students on two different continents, Heather Heckman, left, and Lydia Pappas, right, came to the same surprising realization: film studies and library archival work could be combined into one fun, meaningful career.

“I never thought of archiving film as a career,” said Heckman, a one-time prospective neuroscience major. “I went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison for film studies in graduate school, and I started to work at the film archive there. Once I started, I couldn’t envision doing anything else. I liked how concrete it was: I liked handling the films and getting to know them physically. I liked the environment: my dad is a neuroscientist and I like a lab environment. And I liked working with users: I like helping others solve their research challenges.”

Pappas found her calling while living in London.

“I started volunteering in lots of different libraries while I was doing my library degree, and I did an internship in the Turner Classic Movies branch in London,” said Pappas, who grew up in the United Kingdom and the United States. “I realized that I could incorporate working in a library, which was my dream job, and I could work with film, which was another love of mine. I learned that there are film archives, places where I could actually look after film and repair and take care of it. That’s been my direction ever since. It’s a really exciting job and I love it.”

Pappas comes to USC by way of Stanford University, where she was the project archivist for the Marlon Riggs Collection, and the London Metropolitan Archives, where she was the only film archivist looking after the City of London film and video collections. Heckman comes from the University of Wisconsin (UW), where she was Interim Assistant Director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. She is finishing her PhD in film studies in UW's Department of Communication Arts.

At MIRC, they have split the responsibility for the collections.

“The Chinese Film Collection is a big collection I will be working with, as well as having curatorial responsibility for the general collections held at MIRC,” Pappas said. “I’m trying to come to grips with all the MIRC collections at the moment, so that I can write grants for fundraising projects to preserve the materials. Other projects are getting underway at the moment. One is at SCETV (South Carolina Educational Television) and may involve USC students helping to inventory some of SCETV’s video collections, over the summer months, as a part of the American Archives Program. I also hope to introduce more screening programs throughout the year, in and around the USC campus and communities of Columbia, to be able to provide access to some of the films and collections that are yet unseen and unappreciated by the public.”

Heckman is in charge of MIRC’s Science and Nature Films, and Regional Film Collections. She is currently working on developing MIRC’s digital repository of archival film, fundraising for digitization projects, and processing the Roman Vishniac papers, photos and manuscripts.

Like Pappas, Heckman is eager to work with USC students, to explore the collections, and to find new and exciting candidates for preservation. She also is interested in continuing to cultivate partnerships with research faculty on campus.

"Before leaving Wisconsin, I had just started to collaborate with a chemistry professor on a nitrate flammability project, awarded $200,000 by the NEH,” Heckman said. “One of the things that I found so exciting about MIRC was that they have already gotten involved with faculty in math and chemistry on campus.”

MIRC welcomes use of its collections. Located at 707 Catawba Street, MIRC is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More than 3,000 hours of rare archival material are available to view on videocassette and DVD.