David Weiss, Executive Director
It all started with one simple question and a reasonable one to ask, given the success and widespread interest in the film From Stump to Ship, which we restored and re-released in a project with the University of Maine. “Who has the rest of the old film?” Northeast Historic Film (NHF) has been trying to answer that question for 25 years, so far.
Today, looking back, the question is still a good, simple question. The answer, “Here, There and Everywhere,” is what complicated things. And a good thing, too. Film, and I’ll include video and other moving images with it, has been shot for countless reasons by millions of people for over a century. It stands to reason that film is completely scattered around. The diversity of purpose, place and time gave birth to the variety of film, which makes film such a priceless resource for us today, and for future generations.
Over the last century, the vision and interests of the people of northern New England have been boundless, and for most of that time, people could (and did) grab a camera and make a record of that interest.
Each film is like a jigsaw puzzle piece of the past. The more that are found and saved, the more complete the picture becomes. So far NHF has found over 10,000 hours of pieces. Enough so that if you watched an hour a day, it would take you more than 25 years to see it all.
In addition to our own material, NHF vaults safely store collections for many institutions and individuals around the region. We make viewing copies for hundreds of clients every year and talk to people almost every day with questions about preserving their film or videotape. In the years to come, we will just keep answering that same old question.
And From Stump to Ship? It is a hale and hearty 81, permanently named to the National Film Registry by the Librarian of Congress, still being requested and watched across the country, viewed regularly as part of the history curriculum in schools and colleges around Maine and New England, and inspiring artists like Sumner McKane to create new from the old. (See In The Blood on oldfilm.org/store)
A Cinematic Cabinet of Curiosities
The 12th Annual Summer Symposium, held July 28-July 30, encountered the unusual in amateur film. Among the presenters, Mary Cappello, a University of Rhode Island faculty member, presented Swallowed and Saved, about items extracted by laryngolist Dr. Chevalier Jackson. Did anyone swallow film?
Jane Gillooly, Film and Graduate Faculty, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, presented Suitcase of Love and Shame. Gilloolly recounted, “In 2009 I acquired a suitcase purchased on eBay. Inside were 50 hours of reel-to-reel audiotape chronicling the details of an adulterous love affair...” The presentation relates to the Symposium’s 2001 program on privacy, a continuing topic of interest for archivists, scholars, and all who use the Internet and electronic media.
Students were welcome, with the caution that, because of the nature of this year’s topic, some adult material was shown. A synopsis of the program is at: oldfilm.org/content/2011-symposium.
We are grateful for a grant from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that helped fund this year’s Annual Summer Symposium. The Academy’s Institutional Grants program fosters interactions between the public and the film industry while encouraging the appreciation of motion pictures as art form and vocation.