How I wished for a Steenbeck to accomplish my task, as I decided that the brittleness and dryness of the film would make putting it through the available projector too risky. No matter, I decided to unwind manually and look at the frames through a light box and 10x loupe. (Yes, it was more than a little time consuming.) But, within a workday, I knew everything I needed to know in order to make the decision to digitize.
Each of the three films is in the “amateur home movie” genre. For many years, films such as these have been regarded as throwaway or lacking in depth, certainly not worthy of scholarly research. But, the tide has turned in archives and film studies, and keeps turning. The preservation of amateur home movies is now regarded (rightly, in this archivist’s opinion) as rich with meaning and potential for interpretation. Some will view the films as mildly entertaining, and others will find them a gold mine of clues embedded in a social and cultural context. The importance of home movies has produced a Home Movie Day©, endorsed by movie auteur Martin Scorsese and critic Leonard Maltin. Relative to home movies and similarly small, popularly produced films with no known author, the National Film Preservation Foundation was created to provide awareness and financial support for the preservation of orphan films, “as the then little-known films came to be called,” which “painted a portrait of America not found in history books.”
The digitization of these three films will contribute to a growing effort to preserve this ephemera in motion, so informing American popular history.
|I believe this is A. Philip Randolph on the front porch of|
Claude and ZerNona Black's home, film processed July 1959
|Two men at airport, about to board a plane,|
film processed July 1959
In my frame-by-frame examination, I attempted to photograph on the light box, partly to try to identify certain people present in the films, but also to share here on the blog. Here are four of the shots I obtained – they’re a bit fuzzy because of my photography method, but the actual image on the frames and the color quality are surprisingly good.