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.