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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010



My name is Boafoa, and as you have previously read, I am the summer intern from Wellesley College. I arrived in Bucksport about two weeks ago, and I think I'm finally starting to settle into this small, close-knit community by the beautiful and scenic Penobscot.

I spent my first week at Northeast familiarizing my self with PBCore tools and elements. That went simply enough, and I then entered in the Joshua Curtis collection. I really enjoyed the collection. There was so much parade footage, and it was interesting to see the ingenuity that went behind each small and sometimes makeshift float. I also saw footage of Enfield, Massachusetts which is now a ghost town. The majority of the town is now underneath the Quabbin reservoir, as it was flooded during the construction of the reservoir. Its almost eerie how such a thriving town can no longer be in existence.

After this, Gemma and Katrina gave me the tedious task of typing up a logbook covering over 100 reels worth of footage, which came up to about 40 pages. It took me about two weeks to complete. But I'm done with that now, and I will begin to enter the item records into the PBCore webform. The life of an intern never slows.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Use Your Words

Media cataloger Katrina Dixon and CollectiveAccess developer Seth Kaufman met on Monday in New York for an update and discussion of next steps. This is the midpoint of Moving Images of Work Life. Time to note achievements, a few recent lessons learned, and announce public activities.

The first 25+ finding aids are online at Moving Images of Worklife, 1916-1960, accessible from Northeast Historic Film's website, To achieve this, we have temporary server access from NHF's Linux server while the project's editing and record creation continues on a CollectiveAccess server at, Seth Kaufman's company.
Lesson learned: software development for descriptive access has many dependencies; forward motion is often sideways and requires levels of communication and compromise. BTW, we're looking for a Linux server specialist to help with updates and security--for us this is new tech, new issues.

Boafoa Offei-Darko, in Bucksport for a ten-week internship from Wellesley College, has been entering PBCore item level records, starting with the Joshua Curtis home movies.
The screenshot shows her selection of subject index terms for this reel: Cities and towns, Ice industry, Winter, Parades.
The cataloging team must have access to the materials to be described, which for moving images requires reference copies, usually DVD copies of each reel. For the PBCore item level records each reel is described at a level of detail that allows differentiation among the reels. Shot level description is too time consuming, while sequences described in one pass by the cataloger seems to be a useful aim.
The collection file and accompanying annotation provide essential background for item and colleciton level description. Boafoa digitized an exceptional log created by the Hinds family last week, accompanying their 100+ reels of 16 mm. film. From the new CollectiveAccess accession database by Gemma Perretta. "Accompanying material: Charles B. Hinds Logbook, a 6"x8" 3 ring bound notebook with 143 pages of typed notes by reel describing home movies 1914-1953. Author, Charles B. Hinds."
Lesson learned: communication among staff members backed up by ongoing documentation of holdings allows for efficient knowledge building and quicker sharing of essential information with the public. New systems can be straightforward and followed consistently.

With a grant from the Library of Congress, The Center for Home Movies plans a September Digitization & Access Summit in Culpeper, Virginia, addressing, among other issues, cataloging and description on the way to a plan for increasing the availability and understanding of amateur filmmaking. Our team is participating.

Our access session, "Describing Local Films: New Thoughts on Itinerant-produced Works," with presenters Katrina Dixon and Martin Johnson, a doctoral candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University, was accepted for the Association of Moving Image Archivists annual conference to be held November in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Team Work Life

Members of the Northeast Historic Film Hidden Collections team gathered for a photo on one of the longest days of the Maine summer. Audrey Young, a graduate of the New York University Moving Image Archives program, comes to the project following a Fulbright award for study in Portugal. Boafoa Offei-Darko is here on an internship from Wellesley College, where she has studied with filmmaker Salem Mekuria.

Left to right in the back row: Katrina Dixon (media cataloger), Audrey Young (cataloging assistant), Boafoa Offei-Darko (Wellesley College intern). In the front row are essential project members, although not full time, Gemma Perretta, collections manager, and Joe Gardner, tech services. Monica Nicola has left Northeast Historic Film.

Another glimpse of catalog record, the Norma Willard Collection.

REMINDER: Northeast Historic Film hosts the annual
Summer Film Symposium in Bucksport, Maine, on July 23-24. Filmic Representations of Indigenous Peoples, organized by Janna Jones, Mark Neumann and Snowden Becker. Time to register!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Curiouser! Curiouser!

I've been happily immersed in the first twenty-five collections, thrilled to see each finding aid with a beautiful still image representation in our initial Web UI as we approach the launch of the new website. Building the foundation for the project alongside conducting the actual work of the project has been an enlightening experience. As pieces come together it is that much more satisfying. While I wish to write for days about all of our discoveries since my arrival in February, I thought I could provide a few highlights:

While working on the Gillingham Collection, I was sitting in the middle of the reading room, viewing the VHS access copy. I was watching a simple scene of a family trip to a docked, historic ship (imagine cannons, huge masts, tourists looking through the portholes, etc.). Executive Director David Weiss was walking behind me just as the camera panned out to the water, briefly (maybe five seconds?) depicting an anchored boat before scanning the shoreline. As if from nowhere, I hear: "That's the USS Sultana!" While I could not identify the historic tourist attraction star of this scene (nor could he), he did happen to correctly identify an old war ship that was out on the water! This is not just any old ship, but the star of The Seventh Day - a 1922 film shot in Maine. NHF actually used a clip from the film (not only highlighting the ship, but also depicting the proper New England women scoffing at the exposed ankles of the wild New York women) in our recent collaboration with Maine Boats Homes & Harbors Magazine, In Our Wake. David dutifully retrieved the movie poster which had burned the image of the ship into his mind. This is yet another argument in favor of opening these amateur film collections to the public for outside perspectives that can potentially provide more in-depth description of even the smallest details.

Another thrilling discovery came when Monica was viewing footage from the Sally Johnston Collection, which consists of home movies shot between 1936 and 1968. Some of the footage contains casual views of cast and crew members at the Lakewood Theatre, a summer playhouse near Skowhegan, Maine. Rumour had it some celebrities had ties to the Lakewood Theatre, so Monica was in charge of scouting footage for celebrity sightings. Imagine our surprise when handsome, young Bogie drove up in a convertible!

Sally Johnston Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Humphrey Bogart outside of the Lakewood Theatre in Skowhegan, Maine, ca. 1930s.

I have also been affected by various stories I uncover during my detective work with our collections. I am not sure where else to highlight these stories - there is no DACS element for ironic/poetic/pull-your-heartstrings fates of collection creators. While the first two fates are captured in the biographical/historical notes of our finding aids, this will be the only public record of Raymond Cotton's story.

Milford Baker Collection:
Milford Baker was a young photographer who documented the construction of the Wyman Dam on the Kennebec River in Moscow, Maine. He set up shop at the base of the construction site where he would sell his photographs of the progress over time. Baker tirelessly documented the Wyman Dam construction in both still and moving images from 1928-1931, only to drown in the salmon pool directly below the dam in 1933 while fishing with friends.

Norma Willard Collection:
This collection consists of one reel of film shot by Norman L. Skene, who was a naval architect and author of "Elements of Yacht Design" (1904). Skene was one of the best known marine architects of the 20th Century, and adapted South Greenland kayak designs for use in North America. He disappeared at sea off Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1932. His kayak was found with a broken paddle and a hole punctured in the bow.

Hiram Historical Society Collection:
I most recently learned that NHF holds the last footage shot by Raymond Cotton, who took great care in documenting life in and around Hiram, Maine. Mr. Cotton had taken his wife and daughter with him to shoot high water on the banks of a river or stream in town. A sudden burst of rain came, causing a nearby dam to break, and all three were swept away in a flash flood. He was the only survivor -- lost his wife, daughter, and camera to the water -- never to shoot again.

Monday, June 7, 2010

PBCore Items, Wrangling

Twenty-five collections are lining up to roll out to the public. Their item-level descriptions, the records that provide details of individual film reels, are coming along thanks to a Web-based system written for us by Jack Brighton in Expression Engine. PBCore's data structure requires us to track the reels' intellectual content, rights, physical instantiations, and prepare to offer images and video surrogates.

The first field is pbcoreTitle, which in this case is Charles B. Hinds home movies, Reel 10. The program automatically populates the URL title. The picklists are based on PBCore controlled vocabularies and customized for our use. It is very pleasing to be working with just the terms that are relevant to us. And we find equal delight in seeing accurate field names. The labels actually describe the elements, minimizing head-scratching time. Other fields include pbcoreGenre--the Hinds Collection is mostly amateur, except for five reels of the U.S. Signal Corps World War I production America Goes Over. The repeatable element coverageType allows for spatial and temporal content: the reel of workers in the A.S. Hinds factory was shot in 1925 in Portland, Maine.

Here's a formatted view of a single item-level record.

For a preview of the Charles B. Hinds Collection, go to this temporary URL. If it's not there, we're in transition to the public site and we'll be back soon. Images are yet to be added and the information around the edges is not complete. But we're getting there!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"This is a part of America"

Ordinarily, Northeast Historic Film has little to do with Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, despite his Vermont roots and strong Massachusetts connections. This week, however, he arose in the Charles B. Hinds Collection several times. The Hinds family, founder of the A.S. Hinds Laboratory in Portland, Maine, donated 40 reels of film that includes documentation of the manufacture of A.S. Hinds famous almond and honey hand cream.

The family was strongly connected to the Boy Scouts, donating 300 acres on Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine, to found the William Hinds Camp in 1927. Charles B. Hinds shot scouts on Coolidge's White House grounds, May 1, 1927, with delightful coverage of Olave and Robert Baden-Powell, founders of the scouting movement.

The previous year, Hinds had an excellent viewpoint to film Calvin Coolidge arriving to lay the cornerstone for the National Press Club building.

This project provides the essential opportunity to connect New England creators, distant researchers, and NHF staff with our collections and those elsewhere. Calvin Coolidge's speech at the National Press Club ceremony on April 8, 1926
includes this excerpt:
We are all one people. While a proper pride in our own individual locality is both justifiable and helpful, it ought to be remembered that each individual locality is what it is mainly because it is an integral part of the whole Nation. But however great may be the accomplishments of that section in which we happen to live, they can never be great enough to warrant any disparagement of any other section. No part of our Nation is so perfect that it can look with any disdain on the imperfections of any other part, and, conversely, all of our different areas each have sufficient advantages to commend them to respect. It is enough to know that all can say "This is a part of America," and "We are Americans." Under our institutions all are equal.

Charles B. Hinds Collection. April 8, 1926. Ceremony for laying of the cornerstone of National Press Club building in Washington, D.C.