In Memoriam Maryann Gomes

By McBain, Janet | Journal of Film Preservation, December 2002 | Go to article overview

In Memoriam Maryann Gomes


McBain, Janet, Journal of Film Preservation


Maryann Gomes, Director of the North West Film Archive, born 15 August 1954; died 2 June 2002.We present hereafter the texts of two colleagues that have known her for a long time.

A night at the pictures presented by Maryann Gomes confounded pleasurably two sets of stereotypes. That historical factual film albeit worthy and educational can also be entrancing, entertaining, revealing and viewed with affection and humour, and that archivists can be lively and energetic, passionate and extrovert as well as knowledgeable about their collections.

Born in Glasgow of Goanese parents, she was educated at Loreto Grammar School, Manchester, the University of London, and Leeds Polytechnic, training in the teaching of art and art history. After educational posts for Manchester City Art Galleries Service and Manchester Polytechnic, where she developed interests in both social history and film, in 1983 she became curator of the North West Film Archive, one of the pioneering regional film collections to emerge in England in the mid 1970s. Maryann rose to the challenge of developing the film collection to reflect the history of the region and earning for local productions a hitherto neglected place in the canon of British cinema history.

Maryann's presentational style reflected her personality - her passion for the subject, her affection for the images and their recording of ordinary peoples' lives and her determination that the films would be available for future generations to understand and enjoy. Throughout her tenure as Curator, later Director, of the Archive she fought hard to preserve and develop the archive's role of acquisition, preservation and access, activities which were maintained in good part through stalwart support from Manchester Metropolitan University, despite a dispiriting lack of statutory core funding and fluctuating staffing levels.

She acquired new skills in marketing management to equip herself with the tools of fund raising which in recent years of necessity would occupy the greater proportion of her time. Successes in this field came about due to her determination, tenacity and drive, attributes that carried over into every aspect of her life. As a colleague she was challenging, stimulating and demanded the highest standards in everything, yet she was also delightful, funny and the most welcome of companions on any occasion.

She has left her colleagues with many fond memories of the strength of her personality.

Maryann during sight-seeing breaks at international congresses, doggedly and good humouredly bartering for hours with local traders and typically emerging triumphant with armfuls of gifts for friends and workmates back home while her faint hearted colleagues sat quietly in the shade of tropical heat. Meetings of the UK's Film Archive Forum, of which she was a founder member, enlivened by her contributions - always articulate and energetic, if not always consensual. It is hard when someone with such a zest for life is taken so young from the friends and colleagues who loved her.

Roger Smither, Keeper, Imperial War Museum Film & Video Archive/Vice-President, FIAF

With her profound commitment to the film heritage preserved in her archive, Maryann naturally took a leading role in championing such material in the international domain. She made an incontestable case for the NWFA's membership of FIAF, and gained admission in 1995, when the Federation was governed by rules which normally expected candidates to "operate at the national level." Although many FIAF members at that time had little time for non-fiction film of any kind, Maryann's symposium presentations on amateur film at the Cartagena Congress in 1997 and on local topicals at the London Congress in 2000 helped open their eyes. Her participation in other elements of the Federation's annual congresses proved the relevance and value to FIAF's terms of reference of all kinds of moving images - and moving image archives - and helped pave the way for the more inclusive membership definition that was adopted in 2000. …

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