Rachael Stoeltje’s interest in film started when she was a child growing up in Austin, Texas, but now that passion has grown to international levels: The director of the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive has been named the 2018 Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations board chair, leading meetings in Paris, Bangkok, Prague and beyond.
“I love the collections. I love working with students; that’s been incredibly satisfying,” Stoeltje said. “I love my international work, and I think for libraries in general, it’s an exciting time.”
The Coordinating Council, a partially UNESCO-founded organization created in 1982, is the umbrella organization of the eight professional organizations supporting preservation of audio, video and film archives around the world.
Carolyn Walters, the Ruth Lilly Dean of Indiana University Libraries, has been a longtime supporter of Stoeltje’s work at the Moving Image Archive. Working together to harness the mounting interest in film preservation at IU, Walters and Stoeltje first transitioned the university film collection into a secure home at the Auxiliary Library Facility, formally created the Moving Image Archive, then imagined a community space in the ground floor of Wells Library to encourage access and use of the collection.
Along the way, the strength of IU’s commitment to preservation, and the intensity of Rachael’s passion for film — especially as a primary source for learning — caught the attention of both national and international colleagues.
“Rachael sparks enthusiasm when she speaks about nearly any film or related preservation project,” Walters said. “With her new leadership role at this international level, Indiana University’s extensive collections will be incredibly visible to a worldwide community. The talents of our experts here at IU, already well known, will be illuminated in a way that greatly strengthens our efforts to preserve and share film with scholars everywhere.”
The term “everywhere” means just that. Stoeltje became chair of the Coordinating Council through her work serving on the International Federation of Film Archives Executive Committee; she also serves as the head of the training and outreach program in the federation. Through this work, which she is extending to the Coordinating Council’s mission, she has worked with the federation’s training and outreach coordinator and secretariat to find new ways to meet requests for assistance from Mexico to Myanmar.
Some countries’ archivists deal with standard needs to find new preservation methods, while others have larger issues like natural disasters occurring at the same time. On one visit to Sri Lanka, for example, the expert volunteer in the field dealt with badly deteriorating films in a storage unit. In Tunisia, members of the federation are helping open a cinema.
“It’s been a pretty enormous range,” Stoeltje said. “Trying to meet all those needs with volunteer workforces is challenging.”
Traveling all over the world to work with an international member base helps Stoeltje stay connected. The Coordinating Council and the other federations within it also try to keep an international viewpoint. The Federation of Film Archives, for example, runs its conferences in three languages simultaneously.
Another universal task Stoeltje is working on is collection digitization among changing digital platforms. Concerns that the Coordinating Council and archivists in general had 20 years ago are completely different today, so she is seeking new platforms to best serve everyone.
Back home in Indiana, Stoeltje continues to expand IU’s Moving Image Archive, a collection that has tripled in size over the past nine years. On top of her international concerns, Stoeltje stays busy by hosting regional and national visitors interested in the archive, mentoring student interns, leading film-related areas of the Media and Digitization Preservation Initiative and contributing to IU’s international presence and prominence in film studies.
“The archive has been an invaluable partner to IU Cinema since opening,” said Jon Vickers, founding director of IU Cinema. “In a short amount of time, Rachael has led the transformation of the archive and brought international prominence to IU’s moving image collections. Now she is essentially leading the organization that serves as the umbrella for preserving the world’s motion picture heritage. This speaks well to her leadership and good work, but also for all of us at IU who work in film and media.”
She credits the impressive growth and impact of the archive to support from IU Libraries and university-level leaders, who clearly understand that today’s libraries can offer more than ever before. Stoeltje said it’s exciting to play a part in the evolution.
“There’s been a shift from 10 years ago when people wanted to know, ‘How many books do you have in the library?’ to a better understanding of the diverse and relevant services and materials that IU Libraries provides.”