Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cataloging Throughout New England

One of the definite pluses of networked online software is the opportunity to engage a cataloging team regardless of proximity. The CLIR Project was glad to welcome Tim Rohe, Simmons College GSLIS graduate student on as a part-time cataloger after his fine work as an intern.

Because we are using CollectiveAccess (and previously used the OpenWebWorks item-level webform created by Jack Brighton), I am able to create copies of pertinent file information and send materials to Tim in Massachusetts. Tim Rohe has been an invaluable addition to the CLIR cataloging team, and his finding aids and item records attest to his original cataloging skills.

Below, please enjoy his recent discoveries:

"I got a weird sense of deja vu the other day while I was working on a film from a former Executive Director of the Maine Development Commission. The footage I was looking at was shot at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. In the film, a marching band passed in front of the Maine pavilion and that’s when it hit me. I could swear that I had seen this before. It turns out that I had. I remembered that another collection I had worked on contained some footage from the 1939 World’s Fair. When I went back and looked at the footage from the previous collection, I was struck by the similarities between the films. It’s very possible that the two cameramen were standing right next to each other when the footage from each collection was being shot. While I was looking through my notes to find which film in the previous collection contained the footage I was looking for, I started to notice other similarities between the two collections as well. Both of them had footage from an event organized by a sporting camp where people dress up in costumes and act out scenes in and around an old narrow gauge train. I looked at a map of Maine and the two creators of the collections lived pretty close to each other. I started to wonder if they knew each other.

Since then, I have noticed other similarities across other collections that I’ve worked on, which started to give me a strong sense of community about Maine. Many of the films from the former director of the Maine Development Commission were promotional films produced by the commission in an effort to entice people from around the U.S. to spend their vacation in Maine, claiming that the state has any kind of vacation you could want on offer. He worked for the State of Maine for forty years and I can see why they kept him around so long: he was good at his job. The films certainly worked on me. After watching all the footage of people skiing down scenic mountains, relaxing at sporting camps on the porches of their lakeside cabins after a fishing trip and enjoying wonderful, fresh food at clambakes and lobster shacks along the shore, I’m sold. I want to go to Maine!"

-Tim Rohe, CLIR cataloging assistant.

Selznick School Presentation

A trip to Rochester, NY, through snow and wind resulted in a delayed arrival--and departure--Tuesday, December 7, on the way to presenting to the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation class of 2011 at George Eastman House.
The Selznick students participated in discussion of regional moving image archives policies and practices. This class of twelve was particularly tuned in to acquisition and access issues. "How do you generate public interest?" (Justin LaLiberty). "How do you determine the cultural value of materials before acquisition?" (Marissa Haddock). "What do you do for rare materials in poor condition?" (Nikki Shayer).

These questions are addressed in the case of the Norma Willard Collection footage, which was originally accepted at the archives with a donation of a VHS videotape showing three young people with a kayak and a three-section rowboat. Research determined that the unique footage related to a significant marine architect, Norman Skene, and our online finding aid points others to his publications. Happily in the course of this project our executive director recontacted the donor who still had the original 35 mm. film and was pleased to donate it to Northeast Historic Film. The print has been accessioned and will be sent to the laboratory for film-to-film preservation. Here is the collection record for the Norma Willard Collection.

During the day's presentation we talked about descriptive practices and our use of the PBCore data structure standard. The item-level description will help expose the content to the public and will provide important metadata for finding and managing the future digital copies of the 1921 work.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bemis and Shurcliff, excerpts

The Alan Bemis Collection contains 47 reels of 16 mm. film shot by Alan Bemis and Sidney Shurcliff between 1927 and 1948....
The collection contains a group of Motormauler films, conceived and shot by Sidney Shurcliff.

Alan Cogswell Bemis (1906-1991) was a professor of physics at MIT, and was director of MIT's Weather Radar Research Project. He worked on guided missile technology during World War II and retired from MIT in 1972. The Bemis family spent part of every year in Maine, building their summer home "High Head" on Naskeag Point in Brooklin in 1937. For further biographical information about Alan C. Bemis, see the donor file, which includes his "Random Recollections" which were dictated in 1988 and 1989. The Collection File also includes a biography created for his Harvard class reunions, a list of owned cars, and recollections of family fun. A copy of The Saga of the Motormaulers, by Bemis and Sid Shurcliff written in 1980 which describes the making of the Motormaulers film series, is also included in the collection.

Sidney N. Shurcliff, who photographed and edited the Motormauler films in this collection, was a classmate of Alan Bemis's at Harvard. His father, Arthur, and Frederick Law Olmsted, founded the Harvard School of Landscape Design, the first professional program of its kind in the world. Arthur Shurcliff was the landscape designer for the gardens of Colonial Williamsburg. Sidney N. Shurcliff received his education as a landscape designer at Harvard, and joined his father in practice in the 1930s, expanding the office to become Shurcliff, Merrill & Footit. He is notable for being instrumental in the revival of interest in Olmsted's work. Papers of Arthur A. Shurcliff and Sidney N. Shurcliff can be found at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Frances Loeb Library Special Collections. Sidney Shurcliff was a frequent guest of Bemis's in Maine, and also edited many of the sailing/cruising films in this collection. The papers include information about Sidney Shurcliff's interests in movie-making, sports and automobile racing.

The Motormaulers Club

The general plan was that the Club would meet once a year. Each member was to show up with a $10.00 automobile which he would contribute to the outing. Sid Shurcliff would dream up a movie scenario involving a chase of some kind.
We would prepare the cars by removing all the glass (if indeed they had any). For sending cars off banks and for head-on collision we would rig a throttle control that could be yanked wide open as the driver bailed out at the last moment. Marshall was a maestro at high-speed bail-outs, but we all took our turn. The bail-outs were made on grass to minimize bruises.
The whole operation, as well as being a pole of fun, took much planning, and two weekends for each one. On the first weekend we did little motormauling, but took all the character and plot-development shots. Then, on the second weekend we got going on the fender-benders and big final crashes. As anyone knows who has done any movie editing it is a tremendous and demanding job. Sid did it all. What a great result!
The Saga of the Motormaulers, written by Alan Bemis and Sidney Shurcliff in 1980, which can be found in the Collection File.
Excerpted from the finding aid, researched and written by Karen Wyatt and Katrina Dixon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Provincetown, 1916

frame enlargement of an unknown woman painting, Oregon Historical Society/Eugene Stoeller Collection, Provincetown 1916

Provincetown, 1916 Film

A story in the New York Times about painter Charles Webster Hawthorne, his oldest living model and his art school barn, prompted us to contact the current owners of Hawthorne's barn, Joshua Prager and Ricky Opaterny, about Northeast Historic Film's film containing footage of Hawthorne teaching his art students. Prager and Opaterny have formed a nonprofit organization to support the preservation of the barn, which was built over 100 years ago and used for most of that time for painting classes. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today we talked about film preservation--as the moving image record of Hawthorne and other artists such as Hans Hoffman, of Provincetown's people and landscape, will be part of the story of the barn going forward.

In the New York Times story, Doris Bryant Makas, who was born in 1910, remembers going with her mother to sit for Charles Webster Hawthorne. Doris's daughter, Elaine, describes the painter's context:
Provincetown had a large Portuguese immigrant population back then, and Hawthorne mostly hired Portuguese models,” Elaine Makas recalled. “But it’s likely he knew my grandmother and her hardships at the time. She was desperate for money, and he would have known she was a tough, single mother and maybe that’s why he called it ‘Motherhood Triumphant.’
The film identifies an elderly man as "A type of Portuguese fisherman that is fast passing," a following scene, "Overhauling the nets," shows three men working on fish nets in town.

Martha McNamara, Ph.D., Wellesley College, director of the New England Arts and Architecture program, is responsible for lectures, workshops and symposia as well as teaching. She is an American Studies scholar with a regional specialty in the arts and architecture of New England, teaching a seminar this spring on that subject. She is interested in the 1916 Metro Pictures travelogue. In conversation with our CLIR visiting team, McNamara said,
It's this incredible clip of Provincetown at the turn of the century with great footage of the plein air arts school out on the Cape run by Charles Webster Hawthorne. The rest of the school is even more captivating to me and more helpful for my class this spring because it really gets at this question of how New England is represented. There is an aerial shot of Provincetown with schooners in the harbor, crooked narrow streets, these characters, old people in old clothing. It depicts New England as a bygone place. The idea of New England as a quaint place that time has forgotten is a generator of the tourism industry. This one clip brings it all together, the vision of New England as a backwater, the artist come up from New York runs a plein air school: the creation of the image and the image creators.

Monday, November 8, 2010

See Yourself as Others See You

A pictorial blog post today on landing back from the Association of Moving Image Archivists/IASA conference. Northeast Historic Film team members Joe Gardner (tech services) and Katrina Dixon (media cataloger) attended their first AMIA conference and played key roles in our hidden collections itinerant film presentation. Joe prepared and ran moving image clips. Katrina presented on her experience describing "See yourself" films. See previous blog post. Special thanks to Martin Johnson, NYU, for his comprehensive chronology with great examples.

Christa Williford, Program Officer at the Council on Library and Information Resources, attended the session. At least 50 people were in the room; many knew of itinerant film creators--and had pursued research on luminaries such as H. Lee Waters and Melton Barker.

Karan Sheldon, Martin Johnson, Christa Williford, Katrina Dixon.

Andy Uhrich, University of Indiana, loaned his laptop so we could play DVDs between showing slides.

from left: Dan Streible, Regina Longo, Liz Coffey, Caroline Frick Page, Melissa Dollman. Moving image preservation colleagues in the room.
Below, cover of the Spring 2010 issue of The Moving Image, journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, an itinerant-themed issue. Marsha Orgeron and Devin Orgeron, editors; Teri Tynes, managing editor (appreciate the cover, which we used in our presentation).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scholarly Engagement Site Visit

Kelly Miller (University of Virginia Harrison Institute) and Tim Stinson (North Carolina State University) spent the day on October 29 in a Scholarly Engagement Site Visit. They were investigating past and prospective interactions with our Moving Images of Work Life cataloging project and broader issues. Conversations with scholars included Martin Johnson, NYU Cinema Studies, Karen Alexander and Bill Leavenworth, University of New Hampshire fisheries historians, and Martha McNamara, Wellesley College Art and Architecture.

Katrina Dixon, media cataloger, here on the left next to Bill Leavenworth, Karen Wyatt, media cataloging assistant, and other Northeast Historic Film staff members participated in the morning discussion and facilities tour led by Gemma Perretta.

The chief topic was how our moving image materials are used and their value to researchers, teachers, public programmers, and the public. Alexander and Leavenworth have been working with primary source materials relating to 17th century fisheries and are moving into the modern period looking at documentation of coastal fisheries. The film record provides evidence relating to forage fish, clupeidae such as Atlantic herring.

Martin Johnson and Martha McNamara underlined their challenges in finding film for their work. "Moving images gave not been given the scholarly attention they deserve. This project will enable people like me to use them for teaching and other activities," said McNamara, who joined us on the phone from Wellesley College. Her spring seminar for art historians, "New England Arts and Architecture," will use our 1916 Provincetown travelogue. Besides the plein air painting class, the importance of the film is how New England is represented as a land time has forgotten, a backwater--to discuss in learning more about such image creation and the image creators.

Our thanks to Karen Alexander, Martin Johnson, Bill Leavenworth, and Martha McNamara for their knowledge, skills, imagination, energy, and time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time Traveler In Amateur Film

As reports of the "time traveler" in the Chaplin DVD extra criss-crossed the globe, Northeast Historic Film finds evidence that time travelers passed through amateur films. Here is a frame grab captured from Lauren K. Woods' home movies: the woman on the right sports a bluetooth headphone, providing her a hands-free connection to the future.

Friday at AMIA/IASA come to our 2 p.m. session on Describing Local Films: New Thoughts on Itinerant-produced Work. Martin Johnson found the Lauren Woods image in Bucksport this morning; Woods was proprietor of the firm that sent young women to rural towns directing Movie Queen plays and short films.

Lauren K. Woods--home movies, Reel 2, ca. 1935-1936, found in the Sally Johnston Collection, one of the 50 Moving Images of Work Life Hidden Collections.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Describing Local Films: New Thoughts on Itinerant-produced Works

Friday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Association of Moving Image Archivists/ International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives conference in Philadelphia we will present on "See yourself" films from the 1930s. See the finding aids for ten of these works in the collections of Northeast Historic Film here.

State archives, historical societies, universities and colleges, and regional history collections often have local films made by itinerant filmmakers in their collections. When we identify, classify and make accessible these films we make decisions that affect how the public understands them. As this advertisement from a 1938 Rotary magazine indicates, service clubs were targeted as sponsors for many of these productions.

Martin Johnson, a doctoral candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University, and Katrina Dixon, Northeast Historic Film media cataloger, will show itinerant film examples and discuss acc
ess strategies. Tomorrow in Bucksport, Maine, Martin Johnson, Katrina Dixon, and Karan Sheldon, the session chair, will polish up our presentation--and share new discoveries.

The Hidden Collections of Work Life project includes PBCore item level records on Movie Queen films, and the home movies of Lauren K. Woods, whose business, the Amateur Theatre Guild in Boston, sent itinerant directors into farflung communities. To select these records click here. Where it says Search this collection enter "movie queen" then press Submit. 

Over two weeks each young woman who acted as field producer wrangled committees, put on a live show and made a short film cataloging local businesses with a comedy "kidnapping drama." Woods's printed instructions stipulated "Put film on 400 foot reels for organization, end each one with next reel follows, watch closely, be sure there is enough agfa to mark each reel, number the boxes in there [sic] order, and give to general chairman." Surviving 16mm films remained in their communities since the 1930s. They represent a detailed record of the towns' livelihoods, significant both to each town and in comparison to one another, and as a record of the unsung experiences of the women on the road.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Priceless Process

As we work through the project, we are constantly building, testing, and either tweaking/rebuilding or celebrating.

The latest development that has shifted from rebuilding to celebrating is our updated EAD XML output that is not limited to EAD or XML! This discovery is thrilling for a number of reasons, but, the two most important to me at this moment: this is how we will be able to wed PBCore items to our EAD collections beyond CollectiveAccess; there is no limit to how many configured mappings/outputs we can create. We will be able to share and share alike with a freedom that has happily replaced a lump of anxiety formed by the unknown of future sharing.

How is this possible? As CollectiveAccess creator/developer Seth Kaufman explained it: "The new system generates export data based upon rules and mappings between elements in the export format and CA fields, so it's not limited to EAD or even XML. It's also possible to have multiple mappings for a given format, and to have mappings for different types of objects, collections, etc. The new system currently supports EAD, PBCore, NewsML and OAI DublinCore. More formats can be added if the need arises."

Maine Archival Collections Online (MACON) is an initiative among Maine archives and libraries in development of a multi-institutional repository with EAD search capability. Gemma Perretta, NHF collections manager, conducted a comparative analysis between our EAD XML and that of the MACON EAD best practices mapping, and we'll be able to create an output specific to sharing our records with the proposed repository.

As we develop the public utility we are not enjoying the gigantic list of place names. We notice variations of the same place names (Massachusetts, Mass., Ma, MA) and place names that lead to nowhere (aka The Mystery Places). Clicking on a place name should result in a listing of related collections; clicking the Mystery Places result in a page without any listings. Zero results. Karan Sheldon has been tracking heritage data issues, and we will be working on a new plan for integrated collection and item-level place browse and search.

We are halfway to being OAI compliant, meaning we can import, but are waiting for export capabilities. WorldCat, here we come!

Northeast Historic Film looks forward to hosting Kelly Miller and Tim Stinson on their site visit for the CLIR-funded study "Observations on Engagement with Hidden Special Collections and Archives." The goal of the study is to document current practice regarding scholarly engagement with hidden special collections and archives that may be useful to others. We will meet Kelly and Tim on Friday, October 29, as they spend the day learning about Northeast Historic Film, our hidden and previously hidden collections, and get a chance to meet some scholars we are working with.

I look forward to sharing more celebratory updates very soon. Until then, I hope you're enjoying the transition from outdoor fun to indoor fun with some loving company!

Philip W. Hussey Home Movies, Philip W. Hussey Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Boy plays checkers with grandfather, ca.1940.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scholars Working with Nontheatrical Film

Over September 22-24, the Center for Home Movies held a Digitization and Access Summit at the Library of Congress' Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. Summit participants, about 40 of us, addressed amateur film and video, cataloging and description, and the impact of online access (they’re thinking a million home movies) on home movie makers, families, researchers, filmmakers, and the public.

Scholars who work with nontheatrical material presented, beginning with Heather Norris Nicholson and Maija Howe, who summarized the University College Cork "Saving Private Reels" program (that conference described by Katrina Dixon below). They noted scholarship using audiovisual materials regarding local and national identity, and the development of conceptual and theoretical language for amateur film and home movies. One example described, ”Children and Amateur Media in Scotland,” is a 2010-2014 project (£584,152 to the University of Glasgow) for work by Karen Lury and Ryan Shand, among others. These two presented in Cork and attended our Work Life presentation, with plans to exchange information going forward.

Dan Streible asked the scholars in Culpeper to review
a film from November 1956 that appears to be documentation of deaths at home with family and community interaction, which raised again questions posed by Norris Nicholson about privacy, footage ethics, and the layering of meaning. In this case, the death footage is from the undocumented FilmCollectief collection on the Internet Archive. Streible suggested that the film “captured the mundane and the uncanny“ in ways that commercial films are not able. We have had discussion with Simona Monizza in the Netherlands and others about documenting provenance. Andrea Leigh, Library of Congress Moving Image Processing Unit Head, was present at the Center for Home Movies gathering and in conversation noted the importance of data structure and content standards for description. We recommend her article in The Moving Image,
Context, Context, Context.

Jackie Stewart asks when teaching amateur film and home movies that the entire work be shown; some students “get it,” some are put off. Home movies are like avant-garde films in often demanding much of their audiences. Stewart also stated--and Northeast Historic Film strongly subscribes to this concept--that films need to stay in dialog with the communities from which they come.

The Center for Home Movies videotaped the gathering and hosts a collaborative discussion site that includes an excellent "Home Movie Scholars Discussion." For more information, contact Dwight Swanson,

Top photo, from left: Pam Wintle, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution (a member of Northeast Historic Film’s board of directors); Heather Norris Nicholson, Manchester Metropolitan University; Jackie Stewart, Northwestern University; Maija Howe, University of New South Wales; Dan Streible, NYU. At lectern, Dwight Swanson, Center for Home Movies (convener), and Rick Prelinger, Internet Archive.
Second photo, Ryan Shand and Karen Lury, from Glasgow, Scotland at University College Cork conference.

Bringing New England to Cork ; CLIR in Memories of Maine Magazine

Karan Sheldon, Work Life project director, and I attended different sessions throughout our three days at the University College Cork (UCC) Saving Private Reels Conference, reuniting for keynote addresses, evening meals, and discussing our sessions over breakfast each morning. While I wish to speak about every detail, I'll do my best to provide the highlights:

First things first: to be in a conference setting where we do not need to fight for the acknowledgement, inclusion or importance of nontheatrical film is a true gift.

Friday, September 17, began with an inspiring presentation by Paolo Simoni of the Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia. Simoni spoke on the exhibition of amateur films and home movies, highlighting the role of Associazione Home Movies--Archivo Nazionale del Film di Famiglia, who are working with artists, filmmakers and other institutions to find innovative ways to share amateur films with the public. My favorite example included the use of two screens: playing films with a second screen providing commentary from interviews with the family members or movie makers. I loved to see the interviewees' faces react to the film and could feel their feelings without knowing any Italian.

Roger Odin's presentation brought me some discomfort due to his declaration that men shot all of the home movies. And while he did include a lengthy passage highlighting his home town, St. Etienne, where family film was shown and appreciated, I was struck by a statement he made regarding home movies only having meaning to the families in them or when re-worked into a new film.

Richard Kilborn's presentation about the documentary practice of Peter Forgacs (whose aim is to "open up the secret vaults of a personal memory archive..." to produce "a hidden cultural history.") provided a beautiful example of this recontextualization Roger Odin discussed. Working from his personal archives of home movies from 1920-1980, Forgacs couples archival footage with interviews from surviving members of families in his films, highlighting the power of sharing our stories.

Friday evening, Karan Sheldon and I presented Describing Amateur Films of Work Life. We were able to provide a history and institutional layout of NHF, and then present our project experiences while engaging in international conversations about metadata and descriptive practices. I am always glad to be able to share the technical foundation and details of a project and to then engage with others about how the materials affect us. Our conversations have continued, and we are currently building relationships with Lotte Belice Baltussen at the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Karen Lury at The University of Glasgow, and Sue Howard at the Yorkshire Film Archive, among others.

Our presentation audience: Front row, Jane Alvey (East Anglia), Lotte Baltussen, Ruth Hinkel-Pevzner (London).

On Saturday, I enjoyed the Historical Moment panel. Sunniva O'Flynn from the Irish Film Institute had us exploring clerical collections in the IFI Irish Film Archive. My favorite was a clip shot by a nun. Kodachrome footage of nuns sitting seaside with blue skies, cliffs, sunshine, and then diving into the ocean in their swimsuits, laughing and smiling. I learned about the lip-reading technology (software that matches lip movement angles to a database of sounds) used to restore sound to Hitler's home movies in Rachel MagShamhrain's (University College Cork) presentation: Adolf Talks! Oyvind Vagnes finished the panel with his discussion of the Zapruder film's transformation from home movie to evidential record to million-dollar aesthetic image up for auction.

I thought that starting with Paolo Simoni's presentation set the stage for how this conference would resonate as one of my most valuable professional experiences. His presentation echoed the main ideas of keynote speaker Patricia Zimmermann's presentation on Saturday. I felt very affected by Zimmermann's call for us to breathe new life into our archival collections. She asked for us to build upon our beliefs and practices to include collaborations with artists and other creative institutions to engage our communities. I felt inspired in the same way I felt when first discovering postmodern archival theory. We will not be mere custodians of information! We will provide access! We will invite people in! We will share!

Sunday, screenings day, I was able to enjoy the home video work by artist Kate Rowles, and to wholly feel one of the best documentaries I have seen, Ashley Maynor's For Memories' Sake.


In other news, I am happy to report that my article "The Big Reveal: Northeast Historic Film Unveils Previously Hidden Collections" has been published in the Fall 2010 issue of Memories of Maine Magazine. Happier, still, to say a woman called to discuss the transfer of her home movies after reading said article!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Conference in Ireland, Sept. 17-19

We will be attending the conference Saving Private Reels, Appropriation and Re-contextualisation of the Amateur Moving Image, at University College Cork with keynotes by Roger Odin and Patricia Zimmermann. The gathering is funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences as part of the research project, Capturing the Nation: Irish Home Movies, 1930-1970.

On Friday, September 17, Karan Sheldon and Katrina Dixon will present "Describing Amateur Films of Work Life. Collection- and Item-Level Discoveries, 50 Collections/1,200 Reels."

We look forward to the opportunity to benefit from the most current thoughts of scholars working in the arena where we provide research materials. We hope to communicate the urgency of maintaining and exposing the provenance of moving image materials. Twentieth-century moving images are both lost, and there is less possibility of understanding them when found, when they lack context. Emerging scholarship will advance, we believe, when libraries and archives are able to provide a three-dimensional sense of moving image creators' work through skillful finding aids and attached reel information. And these research tools will become even more powerful when they point to associated material and the results of original scholarship.

Katrina Dixon, media cataloger, will discuss her discoveries on joining Northeast Historic Film, inviting dialog with panel attendees. In February 2010 Dixon and her team set out to create new records for
50 film collections. To our knowledge this is the first project creating original DACS finding aids for audiovisual collections (Encoded Archival Description allowing XML export) to be integrated with PBCore item-level records of the film reels.

Customized open source database software CollectiveAccess is used to create the collection-level finding aids. Collaboration on a shared Web-enabled system allows for review of works in progress. For the item-level records, although we do not yet have the CollectiveAccess tools, we are cataloging approximately 40 items per week. Go here to see the PBCore records as they are being written. Our purpose is to raise public and scholarly awareness of moving images as important primary source materials for enjoyment and use. Our true goal is to support and encourage a much closer relationship between users and the collections. Interaction with the moving images in their larger context at the archives has enormous benefits.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Map of Projects

A bit of context of our work may be seen in the interactive map of other projects funded by the CLIR/Mellon program here, Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives: Building a New Research Environment. And fellow archives' resources are linked from Resources Related to the Hidden Collections Program.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Game On

Finding Aids Incorporated in Newly Designed Website
Moving Images of Work Life, 1916-1960

Brass 9, a California-based Web design company (Geir Gaseidnes, Ian Smithdahl, Chris Moschini) flipped the switch: Northeast Historic Film's old Website is no more. We are now in a newly-designed Drupal site at with tons of new functionality: Integrated blog on the front page, video spotlights, home page search for site, collections, and store.

CollectiveAccess, the database for Moving Images of Work Life and our collections overall, is not yet presented with a Drupal front end but thanks to happy coordination between the teams all our finding aids are seamlessly integrated with the new site. Browse Northeast Historic Film's collections and search the finding aids here. You can leave a comment on an individual collection, click to "like," and download XML.

Start your day with pushups, joining the Camp Katahdin boys.
Douglas Crate, Sr. Legacy Collection video excerpt, 1956.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thanks to Students

Summer is coming to a close; Boafoa Offei-Darko, Wellesley College intern, has left the project. Our warm thanks to Boafoa for her help with the massive Charles B. Hinds Collection and with the Camp Runoia Collection. She viewed and entered PBCore records for 22 Camp Runioia reels. Yesterday we had a discussion about the remaining reels from that collection, which are outside our project scope being either post-1960 or purchased reels (or both). We will enter minimal records for each of these 54 reels to ensure that researchers have access to the entire audiovisual fonds of this institution. At some point in the future further description may be warranted.

Karen Wyatt will return in September. Meanwhile, Tim Rohe, Simmons GSLIS student, has been creating original descriptive records for Great Cranberry Library Collection and the David Almus Gregg II Collection, among others.

Caitlin McGrath, University of Chicago Cinema and Media Studies, is at Northeast Historic Film pursuing research this month. She is the first recipient of the William S. O'Farrell Fellowship. The fellowship supports research toward a publication, production, or presentation based on moving image history and culture, particularly amateur and nontheatrical film. The award honors the legacy of Canadian film archivist William S. O’Farrell, an advocate for amateur and nontheatrical film collections.

Ken Middleton, on behalf of the blog Women's History Sources, contacted us about summer camp film--a traditional business for women and families in northern New England as noted in earlier blog posts. Middleton, who is the editor of Microform & Imaging Review, is at Middle Tennessee State University. Our moving images are an outstanding women's history source. The blog post highlights three films benefiting from National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) preservation support. A 1919 Wohelo-Luther Gulick Camp Collection clip, streamed as Flash video on the NFPF Website, made it to the finish line before Northeast Historic Film's new Website launch. Enjoy!

By next week we expect to announce our newly designed Phew.

Roger Lincoln Collection, Enfield (1915/1916)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Half Year Report

July's work includes completion of a half-year report summarizing accomplishments to date and work still ahead. For a copy of the report, email It comes with an optional 26 pages of attachments, details of the cataloging system documented in screen shots (and so forth).

Intellectual Access Progress
We have created original finding aids for film collections in CollectiveAccess open source Web-enabled software, using the DACS content standard to complete 25 of 50 collections. These 25+ collection descriptions are on Northeast Historic Film’s server here.

Collaboration on a shared Web-enabled system allows for easy review of works in progress. The ability to upload and download images using CollectiveAccess is a pleasure and enhances the appeal of the finding aid. We look forward to adding digital video clips in the future. The user interface with live Genre, Subject, and Place links is useful and reviewers have said they appreciate the “i” information rollover explanation for each field.

Our goal by the end of the project (Dec. 31, 2010) is to complete the remaining 25 finding aids and publish them all to Northeast Historic Film’s Website, Public search and browse functionality will begin with that integration. We will export the records in Encoded Archival Description to other utilities as appropriate.

What's Next
In the second half of the year we will complete the item level cataloging in the PBCore data structure for moving images, describing individual works (reels of film) and their instantiations. The 50 collections comprise approximately 1,200 reels, with collection size ranging from one reel to 123 reels. We are cataloging at the rate of approximately 60 items per week to finish the remaining items. Visit the PBCore records as they are being written here. Raymond Cotton home movies, Hiram Historical Society Collection.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Notes from the Transfer Process

Although officially the Cataloging Assistant, I work more on the technical end of things, shepherding the moving images along their way from stacks of dusty film cans to shiny DVDs. Probably the most exciting point in the process is the actual moment of transfer—instead of viewing small, individual frames through a loupe, or cataloging the paper ephemera that has made its way into the cans over the years (found last week: a Peanuts comic strip!) the images are, as they have been anxiously waiting to be, in motion on the screen.

The past few weeks have found me slowly working my way through the collection of Everett Greaton. Mr. Greaton worked for the state of Maine for over 40 years, beginning in 1932 as head of the Development Commission, and later on as the head of the intriguingly-named "vacation travel." He is credited with being one of the first to recognize the potential of Maine as a resort destination, as well as the first to use color film in the promotion of Maine, capturing it all on beautifully-shot Kodachrome.

I have followed Mr. Greaton on his journeys throughout this big ol' state for several hours each day, accompanying a honeymooning couple from New York as they play tennis and take a romantic canoe ride, tagging along with a group of hunters wrestling pheasants out of the mouths of their mischievous hounds, and learning just what it takes to be one of the few young men chosen to keep our citizens safe as part of the annual summer Bicycle Safety Patrol.

But the images that are most hypnotic (and indeed, those most relevant to our project here) are when Mr. Greaton turns his eye away from the leisure class, and instead documents the local workers: tapping trees for maple sap on snowshoes, fabric weaving on outdoor looms, steaming up freshly-caught lobsters at the pound, apple picking & crate packing, and my personal favorite, seaweed harvesting.

(All still images are from the Everett Greaton Collection, Northeast Historic Film)