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Archival News 57.2 (Winter 2018)
Edited by Rielle Navitski

Past issues of Archival News can be found here.


ACQUISITIONS

After Lengthy Negotiations, Harry Ransom Center Acquires Arthur Miller’s Papers

After Lengthy Negotiations, Harry Ransom Center Acquires Arthur Miller’s Papers

Production still from The Misfits (1961). Source: Gus Bundy Collection, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.

Playwright Arthur Miller’s archive, which includes a number of film-related documents, was acquired in January by the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center for $2.7 million following extensive discussions with representatives of the writer’s estate. Although Miller had donated 160 boxes of materials to the Ransom Center beginning in the 1960s, negotiations for the

Ransom Center’s purchase of his remaining papers stalled in 2013. The final sale price matched a counteroffer for the full set of Miller’s papers made by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The collection includes multiple drafts of Miller’s script for The Misfits (1961); an incomplete version of his screenplay for Everybody Wins (1990); materials from an unproduced film project, The Hook (1947); and documents related to the screen adaptations of Miller’s plays Death of a Salesman and A View from the Bridge. The Ransom Center estimates the collection will be fully processed and available to researchers and the public within the next two years. An online finding aid for the collection can be consulted here. For more information on the acquisition, see here and here.

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Original Negatives from Raj Kapoor’s Studio Transferred to National Film Archive of India

Original Negatives from Raj Kapoor’s Studio Transferred to National Film Archive of India

Publicity for Raj Kapoor’s first film as director, Aag (Fire) on the cover of FilmIndia. Source: Media History Digital Library.

The family of celebrated Indian actor and director Raj Kapoor deposited the original camera negatives for the entire output of RK Films, Kapoor’s production company, with the National Film Archive of India in early January. The collection of twenty-one films, dated between 1948 and 1999, includes several of midcentury Hindi cinema’s greatest domestic and international successes, including Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), and Sangam (1964). The impetus for the transfer appears to be a September 2017 fire that broke out at the RK Studios facility, which destroyed costumes and other memorabilia; the negatives, stored offsite, were undamaged. Kapoor’s sons, actor-directors Randhir and Rishi Kapoor, formally transferred the films to the NFAI during the opening ceremony of the Pune International Film Festival, which incorporated a retrospective of four films directed by Kapoor and an exhibit of poster art from RK Films. For more on the acquisition, see here.

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Cache of Over 80,000 Television Commercials Donated to Indiana University

Cache of Over 80,000 Television Commercials Donated to Indiana University

Commercial for Lawson’s ice cream, undated. Source: Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.

An extensive collection of television advertising spots submitted to the Clio awards, one of the advertising world’s top honors, between 1959 and 1991, has been donated to the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive by the London International Advertising Awards. Made up of over 11,000 16mm and 35mm reels, the collection is estimated to contain between 80,000 and 100,000 commercials, submitted to Clipo from 85 countries. Archivist Andy Ulrich stressed the collection’s research value, commenting, "Advertisements are easy artifacts to show people. The ideology is so on the surface that it is useful for many different areas of scholarship and helps us study cultural norms of any given time." A selection of forty-five commercials from the collection has been digitized and made available here. More information about the acquisition is available here and here.

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Virtual Reality Pioneer Morton Heilig’s Archive Finds New Home at USC

Virtual Reality Pioneer Morton Heilig’s Archive Finds New Home at USC

Heilig’s Sensorama machine installed at the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive. Source: Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive Facebook page.

The archive of Morton Heilig, a filmmaker, inventor, and writer who developed an early virtual reality machine in 1957, was transferred to USC’s Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive in November. In addition to inventing the Sensorama, a machine for a single viewer that combined the projection of 3D images with stereo sound, vibrations, scents, and breeze, Heilig developed the Telesphere Mask, a wearable VR display, and the Experience Theater, which combined widescreen images and multichannel sound with moving seats, smells, wind, changes in temperature. In addition, Heilig also directed an allegorical feature film, Once (1973) that won the Auteur’s Award at the Cannes Film Festival. The archive includes over a hundred reels of film, fifty inventions, and more than thirty boxes of papers. Learn more about Heilig’s career here and more about the collection here.

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PRESERVATION

Shaw Brothers and American Genre Film Archive Partner on Restoration of 30 Hong Kong Martial-Arts Films

Shaw Brothers and American Genre Film Archive Partner on Restoration of 30 Hong Kong Martial-Arts Films

Still from Come Drink with Me (dir. King Hu, Shaw Brothers, 1966).

The Shaw Brothers Studio, one of the most prominent producers of popular Hong Kong cinema, will collaborate with the non-profit American Genre Film Archive to restore thirty titles from the production company’s catalog. The titles, which include well-known works of the wuxia (martial arts) film like Come Drink with Me (1966) and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), will be released theatrically on DCP and in some cases, 35mm. Further information and a full list of titles to be restored is available from the American Genre Film Archive’s website here; for additional coverage, see here.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture Launches Digitization Program

National Museum of African American History and Culture Launches Digitization Program

Still from an amateur film by Reverend Solomon Sir Jones documenting Black communities in Oklahoma in the 1920s. Source: National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The National Museum of African American History, a division of the Smithsonian Institution, is offering no-cost digitization services to Black families wishing to transfer photographs, audio recordings, and home movies and videos stored on obsolete or vulnerable formats, supported by gifts from Robert F. Smith and Earl W. and Amanda Stafford. Selections from these digitized works have been made available for online research, complementing the NMAAH’s holdings of home and amateur films documenting Black communities. NMAAHC media archivist Walter Forsberg told the Baltimore Sun, “In a very radical way, we recognize the importance of these vernacular, homemade images, this folk cinema, as an alternate history to the kinds of history that the mass media tells.” The project’s online collection may be accessed here; for additional coverage of the digitization project, see here.

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Footage from 1924 Stan Laurel Film Rediscovered at Frisian Film Archive

Footage from 1924 Stan Laurel Film Rediscovered at Frisian Film Archive

A still from rediscovered footage of Stan Laurel’s performance in the 1924 film Detained. Source: FriesFilmArchief.

Footage from the two-reel comedy Detained (dir. Percy Pembroke, 1924) starring Stan Laurel, including scenes previously thought lost, were uncovered by Jurjen Enzing of Holland’s FriesFilmArchief (Frisian Film Archive) during an inventory of nitrate holdings last year. The rediscovered footage features a gruesome special effect: an attempt to hang Laurel’s character succeeds only in stretching his neck. The FriesFilmArchief has made the restored version of Detained—a collaboration between Haghefilm Digital and Lobster Film—freely available here. The archive also shared a side-by-side comparison of previously known and rediscovered footage that can be viewed here. For additional coverage, see here and here.

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Mexican American Home Movies Named to National Film Registry

Mexican American Home Movies Named to National Film Registry

Still, Christmas Day (Antonio Rodríguez Fuentes, 1938). Source: Texas Moving Image Archive.

Along with classical Hollywood films like Only Angels Have Wings and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and more contemporary titles such as Die Hard, The Princess Bride, and Titanic, an ephemeral and historically neglected forms of film production—the home movie—was recognized in this year’s additions to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, selected by the Librarian of Congress from nominations made by the public.

The registry, which identifies twenty-five “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” films for long-term preservation each year, now includes the Fuentes Family Home Movie Collection, a cache of footage shot by Corpus Christi resident Antonio Rodríguez Fuentes in the 1920s and 1930s. Preserved by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, the collection includes some of the earliest images of Mexican American civic and family life in the state. 

A complete list of titles in the National Film Registry can be consulted here; a selection of sixty-four films from the registry are freely available online here. More information about the Fuentes Family Home Movie Collection and a selection of films from the collection are available from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image here and here.

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INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS

London Cinema Museum Threatened with Closure

London Cinema Museum Threatened with Closure

Exploding Cinema experimental film event at the London Cinema Museum in 2017. Source: London Cinema Museum website.

Boasting an extensive collection of films and artifacts ranging from posters to projection equipment, theater seats, and usher uniforms, the London Cinema Museum has been threatened with closure by the pending sale of its current site, the Lambeth Workhouse where Charlie Chaplin lived briefly as a child. The property’s owners, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), declined the Cinema Museum’s £ 14 million bid to purchase the property in partnership with a social housing association that planned to develop other portions of the property into affordable units. In mid-Feburary, the owners accepted a bid from buyers who expressed interest in maintaining the museum onsite, but declined to make this a provision of the property’s sale. A petition to keep the museum open in its current location has garnered nearly 30,000 signatures.

More information is available from the museum’s website here; see additional coverage here.

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Bangladesh Film Archive Moves into New Facility

Bangladesh Film Archive Moves into New Facility

Source: Photo by Sheikh Mehedi Morshed via the Daily Star.

Established in 1978, the Bangladesh Film Archive (a division of the Ministry of Information) is now operating for the first time in a new facility, constructed with government financing. In addition to temperature-controlled vaults and film scanning equipment, the new facility possesses a three-hundred seat auditorium for screenings, a library, and exhibit space. The archive’s holdings include nearly 3,200 films, 2,300 of them produced in Bangladesh, and over 5,000 books. Learn more about the facility here; visit the English-language version of the archive’s website here.

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Armenian Cinema Museum Opens in Yerevan

Armenian Cinema Museum Opens in Yerevan

A selection from the collections of the Armenian Cinema Museum. Source: Photo by Hayk Baghdasaryan via JAM News.

The Armenian Cinema Museum opened in the nation’s capital, Yerevan, in December with an initial display of collection items, including films, camera and lighting equipment, and handwritten film scores donated by Armenian film industry figures. The museum site will include a library and screening room, host master classes, and conduct film restoration. Additional information is available here; images from the press conference announcing the museum’s opening can be viewed here.

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EXHIBITIONS

George Eastman House Exhibit Showcases the Vibrant Colors of Early Cinema

George Eastman House Exhibit Showcases the Vibrant Colors of Early Cinema

 

Frames from the stencil-colored Pathé Frères film Au pays de l’or (In the Land of Gold, 1908). Source: George Eastman House.

The George Eastman Houses’s exhibition Dreaming in Color: The Davide Turconi Collection of Early Cinema, which opened in January, showcases the vibrant uses of applied color—handcoloring, stenciling, tinting, and toning—used during the early cinema period. Curated by Joshua Yumibe, the exhibition features slideshows comprising roughly six hundred digitized images, drawn from more than 23,000 nitrate frames collected by Italian film scholar Davide Turconi during the 1960s from a cache of films assembled by Jesuit priest Josef-Alexis Joye. Fearing that nitrate decomposition would destroy the collection and unable to secure resources to preserve it in its entirety, Turconi clipped frames from the prints and stored them in envelopes. Yumibe noted, “It is extremely difficult to exhibit and preserve early color film images accurately, which is what makes the Turconi collection so unique. Because of the way Turconi made and stored his clippings, the images have maintained most of their original color.Turconi’s collection was digitized between 2000 and 2011 through a partnership between the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and the Giornate del Cinema Muto and is freely available for consultation online.

For more on the exhibition, see here. Learn more about the Turconi project here and access the online database of digitized film frames here.

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NY MoMA’s Festival of Film Preservation Highlights African Cinema, Female Filmmakers

NY MoMA’s Festival of Film Preservation Highlights African Cinema, Female Filmmakers

Still from Soleil Ô (Med Hondo, Mauritania/France, 1970). Source: Museum of Modern Art.

 

New York’s Museum of Modern Art held its fifteenth edition of “To Save and Project,” an annual festival of film preservation in late January. Program highlights include two key works of African cinema, Soleil Ô (Med Hondo, Mauritania/France, 1970) and Wend Kuundi (Gaston Kaboré, Burkina Faso, 1982); a spotlight on films by women, including features by Chantal Akerman and Ida Lupino, 1920s and 1930s travelogues by the globe-trotting Aloha Wanderwell, and experimental works by Peggy Ahwesh, Barbara Hammer, Victoria Hochberg, Maria Lassnig, and Sheila Paige; and two 1950s features shot in the Cinerama widescreen system and its competitor Cinemiracle.

More information about the festival is available here and here; the full program can be consulted here.

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PUBLICATIONS AND DVDS

Restored Lois Weber Films Released on Home Video by Milestone

Restored Lois Weber Films Released on Home Video by Milestone

 

Still from Lois Weber’s Shoes (1916). Source: Milestone Films.

Two feature films by pioneering female filmmaker Lois Weber, whose stature rivaled that of her contemporaries D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, are now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Milestone Films. Shoes (1916), a tale of working-class hardship that leads a young woman into casual prostitution, features commentary by Weber historian Shelley Stamp. The film was reconstructed by the Netherlands’ Eye Filmmuseum from prints held in Dutch and American archives, with the aid of a script and list of intertitles recently rediscovered at NBC-Universal. The Dumb Girl of Portici (also 1916), starring celebrated dancer Anna Pavlova, was restored by the George Willeman and Valerie Cervantes of the Library of Congress using film elements held by the British Film Institute and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

For more information on the restorations, see here; the films are available for purchase here and here.

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Anthology on Amateur Filmmaking Wins SCMS Award for Best Edited Collection

Anthology on Amateur Filmmaking Wins SCMS Award for Best Edited Collection

Signaling the significance of a growing body of archivally-grounded research on amateur film, Amateur Movie Making: Aesthetics of the Everyday in New England Film, 1915-1960 received the Best Edited Collection Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Coedited by Martha J. MacNamara, director of the New England Arts and Architecture Program in the Department of Art at Wellesley College, and Karan Sheldon, cofounder of Northeast Historic Film, the book features essays by scholars and archivists, as well as filmmaker Whit Stillman. Northeast Historic Film has made digitized versions of films discussed in the book freely available online. Learn more the book here and here; access online versions of the films here.

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ONLINE RESOURCES

Library of Congress Ends its Comprehensive Collection of Tweets

Library of Congress Ends its Comprehensive Collection of Tweets

 

In mid-December, the Library of Congress announced that it would no longer comprehensively archive all public tweets, an initiative launched in 2010.

The library received a full archive of Twitter’s content from 2006 to 2010, and continued to receive a full record of public tweets through December 31, 2017. Citing the rapidly increasing volume of tweets (an estimated 500 million a day in 2016) and the recent increase in tweet length, the Library of Congress indicated that it “will continue to acquire tweets but will do so on a very selective basis under the overall guidance provided in the Library’s Collections Policy Statements...Generally, the tweets collected and archived will be thematic and event-based, including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy.” The Twitter collection has not been made available to the public, and the library has not provided a timetable for collection processing and access.

In response to the decision, archivists and scholars expressed concern about the shift to selective preservation. Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration at Northeastern University and former founding Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America commented, “Due to Twitter’s original terms of service and the public availability of most tweets, which stand in contrast to many other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Snapchat, we are unlikely to preserve anything else like it from our digital age...Archives have always had to make tough choices about what to preserve and what to discard. However, it is also true that we cannot always anticipate what future historians will want to see and read from our era.” Read the Library of Congress’s statement on the policy change here; additional commentary on the Twitter archive is available here and here.

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Over 10,000 Movie Posters, Archive of Novelist and Screenwriter Gabriel García Márquez to Be Made Available Online by the Ransom Center

Over 10,000 Movie Posters, Archive of Novelist and Screenwriter Gabriel García Márquez to Be Made Available Online by the Ransom Center

Poster art, Africa Texas Style!, dir. Malcolm Arnold1967. Source: Harry Ransom Center Digital Collections.

More than 10,000 movie posters are being digitized and made available online by the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. Drawn largely from a collection amassed by the Interstate Theater Circuit, one of the largest vaudeville and film exhibition companies in the American South in the first half of the twentieth century, the posters span the 1920s through the 1970s. The digitization initiative is led by project librarian Laura Walker in collaboration with Pete Smith and Jackie Mann. Four thousand of the collection’s ten thousand posters have been digitized, with five hundred of these now available online; digitization is slated for completion by early 2019. The collection may be accessed here; more information about the digitization project is available here. To learn more about the broader Interstate Theater collection, see here.

Another Ransom Center initiative made over 27,000 digital images from the papers of Nobel Prize-winning novelist and longtime screenwriter Gabriel García Márquez freely available online in December. Spearheaded by project librarian Julianne Ballou, the creation of the online Gabriel García Márquez collection was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, supported by the Mellon Foundation. Materials from the archive documenting the author’s film-related activities include a treatment and script for Tiempo de morir (A Time to Die, 1966), co-written by García Márquez and writer Carlos Fuentes and directed by Arturo Ripstein, and an unproduced screenplay from 1977. The online collection may be accessed here; for more information, see here and here.

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“Archival News” reports recent news highlights from the media archive community for the Cinema Journal readership. Some information in this column comes courtesy of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) listserv, along with institutional newsletters, websites, and press releases. This column is updated quarterly. Contributions to this column are welcomed. Information should be sent to Rielle Navitski, Theatre and Film Studies, University of Georgia, Fine Arts Building, Athens, GA, 30602-3154, email: rnavitsk@uga.edu. For news and finds from online media archives, follow @archivalnews on Twitter and Instagram.

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