About Film Preservation

"Archives exist for the preservation and continuation of the cultural heritage and that heritage is made from a variety of cultures, past and current civilizations, artifacts, manuscripts and printed materials and the more recent phenomena of audiovisual materials and electronic documents.

Human endeavor has long been transmitted by images and the oral tradition: cave paintings, hieroglyphics, ancient scripts and the passing on of legend and tradition by word of mouth. Next came the written records – clay tablets, papyrus, manuscripts. The invention of printing made material more widely available, providing the recipient could read, and more recently the materials could be recorded on to a visual or audio format for widespread transmission and distribution. The audiovisual materials had arrived.

All these elements are part of the record of the cultural heritage and if they are to continue to exist require saving, gathering, preserving and/or conserving and they also need to be accessible to encourage the spread of knowledge.”[i]

Commonly film preservation means duplication and storing in climate-controlled conditions. Film archives also use the term to describe the technical activities of creating new analog film prints from existing films. The field is still in the process of developing and defining digital preservation as standards and workflows continue to emerge. Preservation is distinguished from other activities archives do, which we refer to as conservation, such as inspecting film, re-housing, storing and creating access copies.

"Movies have documented world culture for more than one hundred years. Since Thomas Edison introduced the movie camera in 1893, amateur and professional filmmakers have used motion pictures to tell stories, record communities, explain the work of business and government, and illustrate current events. They captured, with the immediacy unique to the moving image, how generations of humans have lived, worked, and dreamed. By preserving films, we save a century of history.[ii]

For more information about NHF’s mission please visit our About Us section.

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Helen P. Harrison, Audiovisual Archives:  A Practical Reader 

 National Film Preservation Foundation