In the United States, archival institutions have prioritized the preservation of commercial and Hollywood cinema overlooking small-scale media production by non-professionals and independent media artists. Media arts centers, however, have played a pivotal role in the continued access, use, and preservation of materials produced by the communities that they serve. These non-profit media collectives were imagined as a distributed network of organizations supporting the production, exhibition and study of media; serving as information centers about media resources; and supporting regional preservation efforts. However, media arts centers have remained over-looked and unexplored by the archival field. This dissertation seeks to shift this balance, including these artist-run organizations as part of the network of archives and collecting institutions preserving independent media.
Using case study methodologies this study investigated the practices at three media arts centers, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Paper Tiger Television, and the Termite Television Collective, seeking to understand the role of these organizations in the collection and preservation of independent media and the development of archival practices in non-profit media organizations. The study places each of these organizations in the wider history of media arts center movement in the United States and looks broadly at the development of archives and archival practices within these organizations. Framing media arts centers as maker-spaces and archival spaces, this dissertation argues for a critique of professional archival practices and a redefinition of the standards for preservation of audiovisual materials.