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, February 9, 2011

Intro to Partners / 1939-40 NYWF

The National Building Museum's exhibition, Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s, is entirely worth a visit, or several. I had the pleasure of a tour on February 4 by Deborah Sorensen, co-curator, who was responsible--among much more--for the audiovisual component of the exhibition. There are nine screens incorporated in the galleries, including moving images of the construction of the New York World's Fair and exhibits at the fair (with Northeast Historic Film footage from the Robert Decker and Wilbur Senter Collections).

I met with Sorensen, Cathy Frankel, VP for Exhibitions and Collections, and Brett Rodgers, Online Marketing and Communications Manager, to discuss our project planning. When Designing Tomorrow leaves the National Building Museum on July 10, 2011, for its two-year tour we hope to have a portion of 1938-1940 amateur film content described for public viewing and would like to work with exhibition sites and to perhaps provide continuing content for the Designing Tomorrow blog.

As the project team begins to learn about the period of 1938-1940 and about the Fair we will develop keywords through discussions among subject experts, catalogers, curators, and researchers. From their saturation with the 1930s fairs, what are the National Building Museum team members thinking? In the exhibition there were clear themes relating to industrial design, domestic consumption, the corporations, the buildings, travel to the fairs, buses, trains, and most certainly the automobile. From this we may be on the lookout for amateur film coverage of travel from and to the Fair and to engagement with the city and coverage of home life.

Delightfully, Brett asked that we consider tagging camera information when possible. We discussed visual evidence of tripod use, of static shots and of the "garden hose" vertiginous pan. Film gauge will of course be recorded, and specific camera models may be tagged through donor information and use of "Identification Marks Used In Substandard Motion Picture Cameras," coding on the film frame edge left by specific makes and models of cameras. See Alan Kattelle's Home Movies: A History of the American Industry, 1897-1979, Appendix 11.

On Monday, February 7, I visited Louise Weinberg and Jodi Hanel at the Queens Museum of Art with a tour by Louise of Luis Márquez in the World of Tomorrow: Mexican Identity and the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. The Queens Museum of Art is steeped in the Fair, being located in the New York City Pavilion of the 1939-1940 Fair, currently under expansion for opening in 2013. Several 8 mm. cans were on site and we discussed approaches to obtaining information on the creators.

Work Life Content Overview

Moving Images of Work Life, 1916-1960

Consistent with the characteristics of the region, the work life in the hidden collections represents a range of largely rural content with some industrial documents. One of the surprises was the strength of the scientific expedition coverage, which would otherwise have been unknown and thus unlikely to attract use without this identification.

Luther Holbrook Collection 1934 scientific voyage by Admiral Donald MacMillan, schooner Bowdoin to Labrador and Newfoundland. Dr. Alfred Gross of Bowdoin College, ornithologist, and Dr. David Potter of Clark University, botanist.

Irving Forbes Collection 1931 expedition by Alexander Forbes to survey the northern third of the Labrador coast. The expedition included the Ramah, and two airplanes, a Fairchild cabin monoplane and a smaller Waco biplane, Reel here.

Charles S. Houston Collection Mountain climber and expert in the effects of high altitudes on human physiology; mountaineering footage in Alaska, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Attracting scholarly attention presently, the itinerant women filmmakers who worked for the Amateur Theatre Guild, Boston, shooting Movie Queen films. The Moving Image (Univ. of Minnesota Press journal) in its most recent issue featured itinerant films and filmmakers. Evidence of itinerant filmmakers’ practices and the businesses they recorded has been recently discussed at the Association of Moving Image Archivists annual meeting, among the students at The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at George Eastman House, and at our archives.

Belfast Historical Society Collection 1935 footage from Belfast, Maine, Movie Queen

John Bruner Collection 1939 Movie Queen by Margaret Showalter, shot in Groton, Mass.

Norwood Historical Society Collection 1935 Movie Queen shot in Norwood, Mass.

Daniel Lapointe Collection 1936 Movie Queen filmed in Van Buren, Maine, on the Canadian border.

Industrialization and mechanization is represented in several strong pieces depicting factory work with close attention by creators with ties to the industries in question. The themes include transition from handwork, pre-industrial processes, innovation, use of automobiles and internal combustion engines.

Charles B. Hinds Collection 1925 processes at Hinds Laboratory, manufacturing cosmetics in Portland, Maine.

Leadbetter Collection ca. 1932 from white pine lumber to spools for sewing thread at John MacGregor Corporation spool mill in South Lincoln, Maine.

Ernest Groth Collection 1926 ice harvesting and distribution, Spring Brook, Connecticut.

Edwin Bienick Collection, ca. 1929 American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in a bilingual sales film.

Electrical generation, hydropower, the community and environmental impact.

Central Maine Power Collection 1920 to 1938 Central Maine Power Company and E.H. Maxcy. Bucksport, Maine. Paper mill and Wyman Dam in Bingham, Maine, corporate and community life.

Milford Baker Collection, 1930-1932 Wyman Dam in Bingham, Maine, construction details with laborers and equipment such as turbines, generation units.

Roger Lincoln Collection, 1915-1916 film from Enfield, Mass., which was destroyed when flooded by the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir in 1939.

Agriculture, fisheries and pre-industrial work, with extraordinary aesthetic qualities to the film in many cases. Traditional and persistent economic areas (tourism, summer camps, and forestry) are well represented.

Palermo Historical Society 1930-1960, Milton Dowe amateur film of haying, alewife fish run, documentation of wooden fences in agricultural fields, and other rural activities.

Irving Forbes Collection 1915 sheep herding on Naushon Island, Mass.

Pierce Pearmain Collection 1926 Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, Boston, and the suppliers of agricultural products the the market. By Philip Davis, a significant figure in sponsored films with a background in the union movement.

Philippe Beaudry Collection 1927 Cary Maple Sugar Company of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and Lennoxville, Quebec, the world’s largest maple sugar company.