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Archival News
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Past Issues of Archival News can be found here

Archival News 58.4 Summer 2019
Edited by Rielle Navitski


ACQUISITIONS

Over 4 Million Photos and 10,000 Hours of Video from Ebony and Jet Archives Bought by Consortium of Foundations for Future Donation, Public Access

Over 4 Million Photos and 10,000 Hours of Video from Ebony and Jet Archives Bought by Consortium of Foundations for Future Donation, Public Access

This 1964 photo of Martin Luther King Jr. holding the Nobel Peace Prize by Moneta Sleet Jr. is one of four million images from the Johnson Publishing Company archives acquired by a group of charitable foundations.

Documenting over a half century of iconic figures and moments in the African American experience, the archives of Johnson Publishing—known for creating Ebony and Jet magazines—fetched $30 million at an auction held as part of the company’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings in July. In an unusual move, four major charitable foundations – the Ford Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – joined forces to purchase the photos with an eye to ensuring future public access. Spearheaded by Elizabeth Alexander of the Mellon Foundation and Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, the initiative was organized in less than ten days. The buyers committed to donating the archives to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute to facilitate consultation by journalists, researchers, and the general public. For more on the acquisition, see here, here, and here.


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Schomburg Center Acquires Archive of Fab 5 Freddy, Including Rare Images of New York’s Early Hip-Hop Scene

Schomburg Center Acquires Archive of Fab 5 Freddy, Including Rare Images of New York’s Early Hip-Hop Scene

 

A sampling from Fab 5 Freddy’s archive. Photograph by Cole Wilson for the New York Times.

The papers of artist, musician, and filmmaker Fred Brathwaite—better known as Fab 5 Freddy—who helped popularize hip-hop as the host of Yo! MTV Raps (1987-1985), have been acquired by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the institution announced in May. Amongst the collection’s 120 boxes are VHS and hi8 videotapes documenting hip-hop events, which Fab 5 Freddy shot as part of his daily routine; footage from music videos he directed featuring Queen Latifah and Nas; recordings of Yo! MTV Raps unavailable elsewhere; and scripts of hip-hop-inspired films Wild Style (Charlie Ahearn, 1982), New Jack City (Mario van Peebles, 1991) and Juice (Ernest R. Dickerson, 1992), which he helped develop. More information on the collection is available here and here.

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PRESERVATION

Experimental Sound Film by László Moholy-Nagy Rediscovered, Restored at British Film Institute

Experimental Sound Film by László Moholy-Nagy Rediscovered, Restored at British Film Institute

An enlarged, re-photographed optical soundtrack allows the viewer to simultaneously see and hear a series of abstract shapes in László Moholy-Nagy’s Tönendes ABC (ABC in sound, 1933). British Film Institute.

Believed lost for eight decades, Tönendes ABC (ABC in Sound, 1933) by the Bauhaus-affiliated artist László Moholy-Nagy premiered in a restored version at the BFI in June. Playfully making optical sound visible—a re-photographed image of the soundtrack occupies the frame—the film screened alongside Oskar Fischinger’s Early Experiments in Hand Drawn Sound (1931) at the London Film Society in 1936. BFI curators Bryony Dixon and William Fowler encountered Moholy-Nagy’s film spliced into the reel used for the 1936 screening while researching a program on sound in early avant-garde film in 2018. For more information on the rediscovery, see here and here. Tönendes ABC can be viewed on the BFI’s YouTube channel.

 

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As Ouya Console Goes Permanently Offline, Preservationists Scramble to Save Its Games

As Ouya Console Goes Permanently Offline, Preservationists Scramble to Save Its Games

A prototype of the Ouya console as advertised in its 2012 Kickstarter campaign.  

The Video Game History Foundation is leading the charge to preserve games unique to the Ouya, a now-defunct console whose servers were shut down on June 25. The Ouya raised over $8 million through Kickstarter with its promise of a compact gaming console that cost under $100 and offered an attractive platform for would-be developers to create games. However, the device never gained traction in the market, and it was bought out by Razer in 2015. In the wake of Razer’s announcement that it would shut down Ouya’s servers, Vojtěch Straka of the Video Game History Foundation galvanized a group of Ouya enthusiasts to purchase and download the full library of games, with an estimated 80 percent of Ouya titles preserved in this manner, though more experimentation is needed to allow offline play in some cases. For more on the preservation effort, see here.

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First African Color Animation Among Slate of Restorations Sponsored by France’s Cinémathèque Afrique and Centre National du Cinéma

First African Color Animation Among Slate of Restorations Sponsored by France’s Cinémathèque Afrique and Centre National du Cinéma

Still from Samba le Grand. Cultural Services - French Embassy in the United States.

A new restoration of Africa’s earliest animated film shot in color, Moustapha Alassane’s Samba le grand (Samba the Great, Niger, 1977) received its world premiere at Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in June. The film, which combines stop-motion and cartoon sequences depicting the courtship of a West African princess by an aristocratic suitor, was restored under the supervision of Bill Brand through a partnership between the French Embassy’s Cultural Services in New York and New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program. Samba the Great is one of twenty titles to be restored by the Institut Français’s Cinémathèque Afrique and France’s Centre National du Cinéma et l’Image Animée in the run-up to the Africa 2020 Cultural Season. For more information, see here.

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INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS

New York’s Revamped Museum of Modern Art to Place New Emphasis on Film

New York’s Revamped Museum of Modern Art to Place New Emphasis on Film

African American comedian Bert Williams appears in blackface in the recently rediscovered Lime Kiln Club Field Day, one of the early films to be featured in the New York Museum of Modern’s Art’s permanent collection exhibit. San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Scheduled to reopen in October 2019 after a $400 million renovation, New York’s Museum of Modern Art will highlight the moving image in new ways. In addition to devoting greater attention to women and artists of color in its permanent collection exhibit (slated to rotate every eighteen months), MoMA will feature works of early cinema alongside more traditional forms of visual art. These include “Interior New Subway,” a brief glimpse of the city’s metro dating from its launch in 1905, and “Lime Kiln Club Field Day,” an unfinished film starring Black comedian Bert Williams produced by Biograph in 1913. In addition, MoMA’s reopening will be marked by a screening series centered on home movies—the first in the museum’s history—entitled “Private Lives, Public Spaces.” For more on the renovation and film’s place within MoMA’s new approach, see here and here.

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Korean Film Archive and Taiwan Institute Formalize Cross-Border Collaboration

Korean Film Archive and Taiwan Institute Formalize Cross-Border Collaboration

Still from King Hu’s Raining in the Mountain (1979), one of the titles recently restored through a partnership between the Korean Film Archive and Taiwan Film Institute.

Building on existing partnerships, the Korean Film Archive and Taiwan Film Institute signed a memorandum of understanding outlining joint initiatives in preservation, digitization, and curating in May. To date, the archives have teamed up on two restorations: the Korean romantic drama Mujeong (Cool and Cold, Lee Kang-cheon, 1962), based on a celebrated 1917 novel by Yi Kwang-su, and the Taiwanese-Korean coproduction Kong shan ling yu (Raining in the Mountain, a 1979 martial arts film directed by King Hu. Previously thought to be among the over half of 1960s Korean films that are now lost, Cool and Cold was rediscovered at the Taiwan Film Institute. The 16mm print of the film, which originated from Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, was likely shown to Taiwanese troops. For the restoration of Raining in the Mountain, the Korean Film Archive contributed film elements that had been incorporated into the Korean feature Death Gate Monk, which shares nearly an hour of footage with King Hu’s film. More information on the partnership is available here and here.

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AWARDS

National Film Preservation Foundation Grants to Support Preservation of James Baldwin Documentary, Asian American Activist Film and More

National Film Preservation Foundation Grants to Support Preservation of James Baldwin Documentary, Asian American Activist Film and More

Still from Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (Duane Kubo and Robert Nakamura, 1980), produced by the Asian American media activist group Visual Communications, one of 74 films to be preserved through National Film Preservation Foundation grants.

The National Film Preservation Foundation’s federally funded grants will fund the preservation of seventy-four films held by thirty-five institutions, the organization announced in May. Films earmarked for preservation range from a diverse array of home movies—including images of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in Hollywood—to socially engaged documentaries like Sedat Pakay’s 1973 film James Baldwin: From Another Place, a portrait of the writer and activist during his residency in Istanbul, and Haskell Wexler’s The Bus (1965), which depicts a group of protestors traveling to the 1963 March on Washington. Two works by Visual Communications, a pioneering Asian American media activist group, will also be preserved through the program: the documentary Wataridori: Birds of Passage (Robert Nakamura, 1976) on first-generation Japanese immigrants, and Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (Duane Kubo and Robert Nakamura, 1980), a narrative feature on gentrification in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. Learn more about the 2019 grantees here; a full list of films to be preserved can be found here.

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Council on Library Information Resources Awards Over $570,000 Through Recordings at Risk Program

Council on Library Information Resources Awards Over $570,000 Through Recordings at Risk Program

Thanks to a CLIR Recordings at Risk grant, footage of the Apollo 11 launch will join digitized materials like this commemorative pamphlet from the Eleanor Hutchens Collection, The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections. 

CLIR’s Recordings at Risk program, now in its fifth year, announced grants to twenty institutions for the preservation of audiovisual materials at risk of degradation and obsolescence in April. Several of the grants, which are supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will bankroll the digitization of media materials documenting marginalized communities. These awards include grants to KUT Radio at the University of Texas at Austin, which will digitize early episodes of the long-running, nationally syndicated program In Black America; the Holyoke Public Library Corporation, which plans to digitally transfer public-access television programs produced by Puerto Rican and Latino residents of Western Massachusetts in the 1990s; and the University of Washington, which will digitally preserve recordings of indigenous language and music from its Jacobs and Hilbert Collections. Grants tied to major anniversaries include an award to the University of Alabama in Huntsville to fund the cleaning and digitization of 186 film reels related to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and support for Kent State University’s preservation of audiovisual materials related to the National Guard shootings on its campus in 1970. See here for more on this year’s grantees.

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Allyson Nadia Field and Mindy Johnson Named Academy Film Scholars

Allyson Nadia Field and Mindy Johnson Named Academy Film Scholars

Left: Mindy Johnson. Right: Allyson Nadia Field.

University of Chicago professor Allyson Nadia Field and writer/filmmaker Mindy Johnson have been honored with $25,000 grants from the Academy Film Scholars Program for research projects on the interconnections between minstrelsy and early film and on women’s contributions to early animation, respectively. Established in 1999, the Academy Film Scholars program is dedicated to promoting diversity, shedding light on neglected aspects of film history, and attracting new audiences for cinema. More on this year’s grantees can be found here; for additional information on the program, see here.

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EXHIBITIONS AND FESTIVALS

Fifth Nitrate Picture Show Features Film Noir, Hitchcock and Buñuel

Fifth Nitrate Picture Show Features Film Noir, Hitchcock and Buñuel

Still from Nightmare Alley, Edmond Goulding, U.S., 1947.

The annual George Eastman House event dedicated to screening prints of the famously flammable film stock emphasized Hollywood genre films, including the noirs Nightmare Alley (Edmond Goulding, 1947) and Dead Reckoning (John Cromwell, 1947) and the Technicolor and Cinecolor westerns The Beautiful Blonde of Bashful Bend (Preston Sturges, 1949) and The Nevadan (Gordon Douglas, 1950). Classic titles like Luis Buñuel’s L’âge d’or—screened in a print sold to George Eastman House curator James Card by Henri Langlois of the Cinémathèque Française, who found himself strapped for cash during a trip to America—and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) rounded out the line-up alongside less familiar films like the Finnish feature Ihmiset suvivössä (People in the Summer Night, Valentin Vaala, 1948). Festival reports on the Nitrate Picture Show can be found here and here; the full program is available here.

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Il Cinema Ritrovato Showcases Psychedelic Cinema of the 1970s, African and South Korean Film

Il Cinema Ritrovato Showcases Psychedelic Cinema of the 1970s, African and South Korean Film

Still from Hanyeo (The Housemaid, Kim Ki-young, 1960). Il Cinema Ritrovato.

Alongside restorations of mind-bending 1970s features—Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1969) and La montaña sagrada (The Holy Mountain, 1973), and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival shed new light on the history of world cinema through programs focusing on South Korean film of the 1960s and works screened at FESPACO (Féstival panafricain du cinéma de Ouagadougou) over the past five decades. Key titles screened in the former included Kim Ki-young’s Hanyeo (The housemaid, 1960) and Goryeojang (1963) and Shin Sang-ok’s CinemaScope epic Seong Chun-hyang (The Story of Chunhyang, 1961), with Film Foundation restorations La femme au couteau (The Woman with the Knife, Timité Bassori, Côte d’Ivoire, 1969) and and Muna Moto (The Child of Another, Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa, Cameroon, 1975) figuring prominently in the latter. Other programs focused on the material dimensions of the medium. “16mm: The Great Small Gauge” celebrated the amateur, avant-garde and educational filmmaking practices closely linked with the format, while “In Search of Color” featured restorations of hand-colored films, those shot in the early Keller-Dorian and Gaumont Chronochrome processes, and the first three-strip Technicolor feature, Rouben Mamoulian’s Becky Sharp (1935).

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UCLA Screening Series Marks Tenth Anniversary of American Genre Film Archive

UCLA Screening Series Marks Tenth Anniversary of American Genre Film Archive

Still from Nude on the Moon (Doris Wishman, 1961). American Genre Film Archive.

Founded in 2009, the Austin-based American Genre Film Archive preserves horror, action, exploitation, and cult film, and has amassed a collection totaling over 6,000 prints. In July, the UCLA Film & Television Archive celebrated AGFA’s work with seven programs ranging from a grab bag of the first reels of four unannounced features, to films by female DIY and exploitation filmmakers Doris Wishman, Penelope Spheeris, and Sarah Jacobson, to titles from Indonesia (Pembalasan Ratu Pantai Selatan/Lady Terminator, Jalil Jackson, 1988), Japan (Onna Hissatsu Ken/Sister Street Fighter, Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, 1974), and Mexico (Dimensiones ocultas/Don’t Panic, Rubén Galindo Jr., 1988).

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CONFERENCES, SYMPOSIA, AND WORKSHOPS

Documenting Cinema: Film Librarians Conference Highlights Opportunities and Challenges for Archives in the Digital Age

Documenting Cinema: Film Librarians Conference Highlights Opportunities and Challenges for Archives in the Digital Age

Held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in May, the second biannual Film Librarians Conference tackled the promise and pitfalls of digital preservation in panels on data management and digital collections’ role in broadening received notions of film history. In addition, several presentations highlighted experiences with non-film materials like screenplays, scores, animation cels, and oral histories with filmmakers. Larry Karaszewski, screenwriter for the biopics Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994) and The People vs. Larry Flynt (Miloš Forman, 2002) and the miniseries American Crime Story (2016-present) delivered the conference’s keynote address, while special guests Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva of the podcast “The Kitchen Sisters” shared excerpts from their new NPR series “The Keepers” on archivists and librarians. More information on the conference is available here and here.

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Now in its Twentieth Year, Orphan Film Symposium Delves into Radical Film Histories

Now in its Twentieth Year, Orphan Film Symposium Delves into Radical Film Histories

Frame enlargement, Angela Davis Report (East Germany, 1972), Communist Party of the United States of America Collection, Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Hosted by the Austrian Filmmuseum in June, the Orphan Film Symposium—dedicated to cinema on the margins of canonical histories and preservation priorities—highlighted intersections of cinema and radical politics. Case studies ranged from documents of the Black Panther movement—including the recently restored Puppet Show (Josh Morton, U.S., 1970) and Angela Davis Report (East Germany, 1972)—to Spanish radical film archives and Chilean cinema of exile. Other highlights included the screening of footage from Hans Richter’s Every Day (UK, 1929), recently rediscovered at the Cinémathèque Suisse.

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Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium Places Focus on Amateur Film

Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium Places Focus on Amateur Film

McLeod/Bolden/Shannon Home Videos, c. 1985. National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Building on one of the core strengths of Northeast Historic Film’s collection, the organization’s nineteenth annual summer symposium in July centered on the work of non-professional image-makers, ranging from studies of individuals like Robbin Barstow—whose Disneyland Dream (1956) was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2008—to broader considerations, including oppositional aesthetics in Black home movies and the presence of amateur footage in U.S. government archives. Martin L. Johnson, recipient of Northeast Historic Film’s 2018 O’Farrell Fellowship, delivered the symposium keynote on the forgotten history of advertising film’s expulsion from U.S. screens through the efforts of exhibitors in 1919. Learn more about the event here.

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PUBLICATIONS AND DVDS

Rick Prelinger, Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak Offer Provocations in Archives

Rick Prelinger, Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak Offer Provocations in Archives

The latest installment in the In Search of Media series, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Press and Meson Press that explores key terms for contemporary media studies, Archives contains two reflections by archivists/librarians practicing outside dominant institutional norms: Rick Prelinger of the Prelinger Archives and Prelinger Library—whose collections comprise orphan films, ephemera, and other neglected materials—and Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak of Public Library/Memory of the World project, which aims to boost the online circulation of knowledge through a decentralized system for sharing texts. Prelinger identifies several key tensions within our thinking on archives, including the disconnect between academic theorization and archival practice, the necessary persistence of physical objects in an age of digital preservation and dissemination, and the need for novel and utopian visions of the archive, including the potential of amateur archiving practices. Mars and Medak outline a critique of the legal framework of copyright and the artificial scarcity that marks the media economy in a digital age, and sketch out the alternative possibilities offered by contemporary networked culture.

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ONLINE RESOURCES

Over 25,000 Photographs Now Freely Available from Arab Image Foundation

Over 25,000 Photographs Now Freely Available from Arab Image Foundation

Studio portrait of Ismail Sahid (right) and unknown man, Alexandria, Egypt, 1898. Photographer unknown. 0056ri00015, 0056ri - Ismail Rachid Collection, courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.

Beirut’s Arab Image Foundation released 25,000 digitized works from its collection of 500,000 photographs from the Middle East, North Africa, and their diasporas on its website in May. Collection items date from the 1860s through the present and include works by over 250 amateur photographers and more than 700 professionals and studios. With the launch of the online portal, the Arab Image Foundation shifted its policy regarding image reuse, permitting the non-commercial utilization of collection items, provided the image is not altered and proper attribution is given. The online collection was made possible by support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Beirut, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and the Ford Foundation. For more on the collection, see here and here.

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Site Designed to Boost the Accessibility of Swiss Film Classics Debuts Online

Site Designed to Boost the Accessibility of Swiss Film Classics Debuts Online

Still from World War II drama Die letzte chance (The last chance, Leopold Lindtberg, 1945), one of ten films featured on a new website highlighting. Filmo.

In June, the Solothurn Film Festival and Migros Engagement—the development wing of Switzerland’s largest retailer—launched the Filmo website, the public-facing component of an initiative to restore, digitize and disseminate Swiss film heritage. The site’s selection of titles draws on “top ten” lists compiled by festival directors, academics, and film editors. Users of the site are directed to the six commercial streaming services that carry Filmo’s library—Teleclub On Demand, cinefile, iTunes, leKino, Sky Store and upc OnDemand. The site’s initial slate of ten films—with ten more to be released on a quarterly basis—includes World War II dramas Die letzte chance (The Last Chance, Leopold Lindtberg, 1945), Der 10. Mai (May 10th, Franz Schnyder, 1957), and Das boot ist voll (The Boat is Full, Markus Imhoof, 1981), as well as two films that examine the topic of immigration, the documentary San Gottardo (Villi Hermann, 1977) and the narrative feature Reise der hoffnung (Journey of Hope, Xavier Koller, 1990). More information about the project is available here (in English) and here (in French, German, and Italian).

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National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Releases Vintage Radio Serials

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Releases Vintage Radio Serials

Radio producer Grace Gibson (far right) circa 1944. National Film and Sound Archive, title 359204.

Marking thirty years since the death of prominent radio producer Grace Gibson, Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive added several episodes of her production company’s serials to its online Women in Radio collection in July, including crime-themed titles like Mystery is My Hobby (1954) and All This and Heaven Too (1963). Born in El Paso, Texas, Gibson began her career licensing U.S. radio dramas to Australian stations, a profitable practice she continued after founding Grace Gibson Productions, which became one of the world’s most successful radio companies, in 1944. Find out more about Gibson here.

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Archival News” reports recent news highlights from the media archive community for the JCMS 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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