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.

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!