Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Motion Picture Film Preservation at the Clarke

 [editor's note: Due to an event, the Clarke Historical Library will be closing at 4:00 pm on Friday, June 7. We will resume normal business hours - Monday to Friday 8 am to 5 pm - on Monday, June 10.]

Motion Picture Film Preservation at the Clarke

by Tressa Graves

In the fall of 2012, The Clarke Historical Library started a film preservation project to properly preserve all of the 8 mm and 16 mm films in our collections for eventual digitization. The intention of the project is to can (rehouse) and core (place onto a new spool) films using archival supplies, identify film scenes, and to get proper temperature storage for the films.

The project is unique because film preservation is usually put on the back burner for its complexity and time-consuming nature. Currently, we have transferred two films to more modern formats (DVD or other digital media) for researcher use. The rest of the films have not been accessible to view by employees or patrons since they were donated to the Clarke. Until recently, we have not had the supplies to view any of the films.

The Clarke holds approximately 70 cubic feet, or 3,000 reels of film, from the 1920s to the 1980s, covering everything from CMU events like marching band performances, graduations, and homecomings to CMU educational materials and from 1920s and 1930s northern Michigan home movies to citizen military training camps at Camp Custer (now Fort Custer, a National Guard training facility). We also hold news footage from the Channel 9 and 10 News. The majority of the films the Clarke holds are Channel 9 and 10 footage from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Currently, materials that are not related to the Channel 9 and 10 News footage are nearly all identified and re-canned. As films and their scenes are being identified, the additional metadata (information) about the films is being added to our finding aids. The project will continue through at least the spring of 2014 and beyond for digitization.

The top image, from the Senator Robert Griffin collection, shows a film core that now holds 16 short black and white interviews with Senator Griffin. Each interview is separated by a piece of blank white film leader.

Some of the films came with some very basic additional information attached to either the reels or their film cans. For example, the bottom images shows a reel from the Michigan Films collection that simply states “winter sports” and contains footage of cross-country skiers, people skiing downhill, and people snow shoeing.