Since motion pictures were introduced to the world as a new form of art and entertainment in the 1890s, they have had a troubled history relative to institutions charged with collecting, preserving, and interpreting the creative works of humankind. The notion that "movies" developed into an original art form during the early years of the 20th century is widely recognized, and that motion pictures collectively have had a pervasive and transformative influence on all aspects of modern history and culture is also unchallenged. Yet, in spite of this critical recognition, motion pictures have largely suffered an orphan's existence during the past century in the museums, libraries, universities, archives, historical societies, and other institutions that exist to collect, preserve, and study the memory of the world.
The concept of establishing schools and training programs for motion picture archivists and curators is a recent phenomenon. One of the first to recognize the importance of professionalizing the field of film preservation was L. Jeffrey Selznick (1932–1997). In 1996, in collaboration with Paolo Cherchi Usai, Jeffrey Selznick established the first such school in North America at the George Eastman Museum (then George Eastman House). The success of the Selznick School and the contributions of the staff and graduates to the preservation of the world's film heritage constitute a living testimony to their vision. Today, the excellence of the Selznick School is recognized worldwide, and more than 180 graduates are now employed in leadership positions in public and private audio visual archives in 21 countries.
The work of film and audiovisual archiving is now recognized as a distinct field of professional endeavor, embracing ethical and curatorial standards, collection management best practices, historical research, public exhibition and interpretation of collections, and cultural conservation.
The staff and alumni of the Selznick School lead the way in studying the conservation challenges of the moving image and audio visual formats of the past and present, and in preparing students to meet those of the future.