Film can from the EMF Collection with Shicklegruber on the label.
Usually collections featured in MIR have been organized, described, and transferred for access. This time we’re presenting a collection “before,” because frankly, many of our collections are not fully processed. It seemed interesting to share the steps we follow, give a sense of the time and money required, as well as explore the content of the collection.
The EMF Collection was donated by Ed Katz of Cambridge, MA, in 2007. (EMF Camera was the company his father started and ran.) Although the film was shot by his family, he did not have much information on it. He knew the collection had significance and wanted it kept safe. Thanks to the help of Albert Steg, a fellow Association of Moving Image Archivists member, NHF and Katz connected.
The EMF Collection is one of our largest amateur film collections: 168 reels of 8mm and 16mm film and several thousand slides. We assigned an intern, Justin Bonfiglio, to assess the condition of the reels, test for vinegar syndrome, assign numbers to the reels, and fill out a condition report on each reel. The report contains the AD strip test results, the approximate length of the reels, the year (if written on the can or using date codes), and the title (if written on the can or leader). Most of the cans had no labels, so little information was captured. We spent 30 hours to perform this assessment and identify the collection well enough to house it safely.
No Hippies at Harvard?
The other day I was trying to fulfill a research request for footage of hippies and Harvard University. I remembered the EMF Collection and decided to explore the collection folder, flipping through the sheets, hoping in vain, as it turned out, for hippies. Reel 155 was described as “NY World’s Fair”, which is currently the focus of a project (see Page 7), so I reported the 1939 World’s Fair notation to media cataloger Brian Graney.
Propaganda Both Ways
The next day Brian told me that in addition to other footage from the 1938-1940 period, he noted a reel, Shicklegruber does the Lambeth Walk, of Adolf Hitler giving a speech. Shicklegruber was the maiden name of Hitler’s maternal grandmother.
The Lambeth Walk refers to a song from a 1937 musical called Me and My Girl, which became a dance craze. A member of the Nazi Party declared the Lambeth Walk to be “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping.” In 1942, Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information made a short propaganda film, Lambeth Walk, Nazi Style, which edited existing footage of Hitler and German soldiers taken from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will to The Lambeth Walk. Joseph Goebbels reportedly ran out of the screening room kicking chairs and screaming profanities. The propaganda “comedy” was distributed uncredited to newsreel companies.
The collection contains travel film of Puerto Rico and Israel, the family cabin in Maine, a Cambridge parade of WWI Jewish veterans, and perhaps negatives left over from EMF film-processing days. Several reels refer to Cambridge Cinamateurs, which might be a local Cine Club affiliate of the Amateur Cinema League.
If this collection has so much interesting material in it, you might ask why we haven’t made more progress working on it. The answer: time and money. The cost of processing the collection is:
|Organize, repair and recan
Digitizing for access
Serendipity led us back to this collection, and we learned a little about some of the reels in it. Thanks to funding from the project “Amateur Filmmakers Record the New York World’s Fair and Its Period,” Brian will be able to commit processing time to the New York World’s Fair film and accompanying 1938 to 1940 footage. Visit us online at fairfilm.org for progress updates. This effort will not complete the processing of the EMF Collection, but we’re off to a good start.