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, March 22, 2011

Cyrus Pinkham Collection draws scholarly attention

Last summer (August 2010), our first William S. O'Farrell Fellow Caitlin McGrath came to the archives in Bucksport to research NHF's holdings of amateur films shot at the New York World's Fair. During her exploratory phase she commented to me that a reel shot by Cyrus Pinkham stood out from the group as a high quality film, and that it exemplified the concept of looking at the individual's experience at the fair through the filmmaker's lens. Well, I was thrilled to hear Caitlin's enthusiasm for Pinkham's work as I have been excited about all of the material in that collection since it came in as a technical services transfer job in 2009. So, I suggested that she take a look at the rest of that collection, and she was immediately taken by it.

Two weeks ago, on March 11th, we screened a compilation of materials from the Cyrus Pinkham Collection at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in New Orleans to a small group of scholars and researchers. I introduced the screening and Caitlin spoke over the silent films, narrating about the people, places and history of the filmmaker that she had learned about from talking with the donor. The screening was very well received, and noted for Pinkham's sophisticated use of industry filming and editing techniques and high quality cinematography skills.

The following day Caitlin chaired a panel called "Alternative Film Histories: Hollywood and the Amateur Revisited," in which she presented a paper analyzing Pinkham's Collection, and specifically his short film Be Beautiful (ca. 1938). Her interpretation of the film included an in depth analysis of the techniques used in creating the films and their potential for exposing possible relationships between amateur filmmakers and industrial filmmaking. She also explored the sociological revelations that can be possible when background information is available for amateur films.

The Cyrus Pinkham Collection is slated for cataloging this year as part of the "Moving Images 1938-1939: Amateur Filmmakers Record The New York World's Fair and Its Period" project. We are also seeking preservation funding to create new 16mm film negatives and prints for 2 reels from the collection. For more information about the Cyrus Pinkham Collection please contact us! (

Happy Spring! Gemma


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