Kevin McMahon: His Class Project Beame SCI-Arc's Media Archive


By Joanie Harmon

Published Apr 9, 2013 3:33 PM

When Kevin McMahon '11 enrolled in UCLA's Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) program in 2009, he hoped it might help him in his job at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). But he never dreamed that one of his first class projects would lead to the creation of the SCI-Arc Media Archive. Then, by the time he was ready to take his comprehensive oral exam to complete the program, the Getty Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts had agreed to fund the SCI-Arc archive.

Launched last September—in time for SCI-Arc's 40th anniversary celebration this year—the archive houses more than 3,000 topics covered in more than 1,000 hours of audio and video, dating from 1974 to now. McMahon says that along with SCI-Arc's international stature as a school of architecture, the archive, which receives approximately 8,000 visitors a month, represents the most comprehensive look at the profession in Southern California.

Since 1987, McMahon has been manager of Sci-Arc's Kappe Library, where he works with fellow UCLA Department of Information Studies graduate and assistant librarian Rachel Rohac '12. In addition to editing the school's newsletter and serving as accreditation liaison officer for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), McMahon co-manages the Media Archive project.

"It's a huge project, and it's not really done," he says. "Since we went live, people have been sending us stuff that we didn't know about. It never ends." Moving images were the defining media of the 20th Century, and many have been lost, while many others await physical preservation and restoration, critical rediscovery, study and appreciation.

McMahon and his co-creators of the archive, Reza Monahan and Aaron Bocanegra, presented their work at the Association of Moving Image Archivists' (AMIA) Reel Thing XXIX conference last August. AIMA framed their talk, titled "One Short Lecture About 629 Longer Ones," as an interesting model for other small independent institutions that have media resources and don't know what to do with them.

An expert on architectural research with an undergraduate degree in classics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, McMahon is one of four guest curators featured on the SCI-Arc Media Archive. In addition to SCI-Arc, McMahon has worked as a library consultant for the architecture collection at the University of Limerick, a record conversion project editor at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, and a copy editor for Verso Press.

SCI-Arc, he says, offers material for anybody interested in the history of L.A., whether they are specifically interested in architecture or not. They're going to find "information about their city, their neighborhood, proposals that have been made about where they live, and how decisions got made that determined and built the environment they live in."



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