The collection was donated to the University’s Music Department by an alumnus, the distinguished film and television composer and producer, John Altman. The collection comprised approximately 1600 VHS tapes of footage of jazz performances recorded off-air from television broadcasts. Altman, along with his colleague the late Eric Koss, established a network of collectors who had been exchanging and sharing the footage over a period of some years.
The School of Media, Film and Music has started to digitise this footage in order to enhance access to the collection for students, and for visiting scholars.
The Centre is highlighting this to improve knowledge and understanding of the collection. This will allow the collection a new lease of life, preserving footage that might otherwise have been lost from studio archives. Having the collection in one place provides the opportunity for researchers to look at it in a broader context and to readily compare material across a wide range of sources.
The physical collection also includes meticulously hand typed index cards which will be documented along with the footage, as well as a number of notes to and from various collectors, along with newspaper cuttings from some of the broadcasts. It also includes several revised catalogues with details of when and where the material was collected. Over time the carefully catalogued tapes have been subject to the slow shuffle of entropy, so it is hoped that the digitisation of the collection will preserve their order. As an artefact, the collection bears the marks of a community of avid collectors who put huge amounts of time and effort into an area of study that Heile notes had hitherto been overlooked. As the title of one of the catalogue attests, the collection is the extraordinary result of the dedicated efforts of a ‘video freak’. The collection will be made available through the School of Media Film & Music’s Resource Centre to current students and to visiting scholars.