Leading Outside The Canon

May Hong HaDuong ’00

A photo portrait of May Ha Duong '00

Photo: JuanTallo.com

Photo: JuanTallo.com

When May Hong HaDuong ’00 arrived at Wellesley in 1996, it was a bit of culture shock. She came to campus, sight unseen, from a strict yet loving Orange County, Calif., family. Three thousand miles from home, she suddenly found herself surrounded by “amazing, strong women who had opinions,” she says. She was thrilled and motivated, and with a new sense of autonomy, she “leapt into a world that I had never even seen.” Wellesley, she explained over a recent Zoom call, “gave me this curiosity not just for learning, but for doing better and for expanding your own world.”

May brings this passion to her new position as director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. She now is the first woman and person of color to direct the world’s largest university-held collection of motion pictures and broadcast programming and second-largest repository of moving images in the United States, after the Library of Congress.

May discovered her passion for film and archives at Wellesley. She was inspired by the College’s screenings of international cinema and classes on subjects outside the margins of traditional film studies. She fondly recalls Japanese and Italian cinema classes, and feels that the College’s broad focus on international and nontraditional works has been deeply influential throughout her career, ultimately leading to her work in archives.

“I think that the idea of studying cinema that was outside the margins of the canon really led to a curiosity toward seeing different types of works, including queer film, and an understanding that if I didn’t seek these out, find them, and share them that perhaps people wouldn’t find them or see them,” May says. “And that’s the root of archival work. It’s the opportunity to share and provide folks with a window into a different world. That’s what’s so exciting about archiving.”

During her time on campus, Wellesley did not offer a cinema or media studies major, nor did it have a department. Passionate about the medium, May petitioned the College to form her own major, combining studies in photography with cinema courses. “What was amazing about Wellesley,” she says, “was that it didn’t really matter what department you’re in. If you establish yourself as somebody who was serious about your studies, you would find a community of support within the students, within the administration, and within the professors. I felt very lucky in that world.”

After graduation, May spent time in Boston working on the Boston Gay and Lesbian Film Video Festival (now known as Wicked Queer) before moving to Los Angeles, where she earned her master’s degree in moving image archive studies from UCLA in 2006. She went on to work as the project manager for the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBTQ Moving Image Preservation, and later as senior manager of public access at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where she served as a principal representative for the Academy’s film archive.

In her new role, May will oversee all areas of the archive, including the collection, preservation, and exhibition of film and television materials, management, digitization services, content licensing, and services provided by the Archive Research and Study Center. And UCLA is thrilled to have her. Virginia Steel, the Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian, stated when May’s role was announced, “As we seek to broaden access to and representation across our collections, May’s experience in public access, her scholarly interests, and her personal biography, as both the daughter of immigrants and as an active proponent of underrepresented communities, uniquely positions her to move the film archive forward at this critical moment in its history.”

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