The Library of Congress’ Packard Campus brings many “firsts” to light in the course of its staff’s daily endeavors to preserve the nation’s film, video and sound gems for posterity.
On Thursday night, it will share a first-ever public screening of rare film discovered in the planet’s moving-image archives, courtesy of the Association of Moving Image Archivists.
The association has lent the library’s National Audio Visual Conservation Center its “Archival Screening Night” film, to be shown to archivists from around the globe who will gather next week in Baltimore for their annual meeting.
The films have been the centerpiece of every AMIA conference since 1991.
“For the first time ever, this members-only event is being made accessible to the public to see the incredible, strange, astonishing, hilarious and curious treasures from the world’s moving image archives,” AMIA President Dennis Doros said. “It is my favorite evening of the year.”
Composed of 22 films and videos from archives ranging from Rochester, NY, to Alaska, Hawaii, Israel, the Netherlands, and back, the program has something for everyone, Doros said.
“This amazing cabinet of wonders celebrates the work of the nearly one thousand members of AMIA from 29 countries, all helping to preserve and make accessible the visual memory of the world,” Doros said. “We are proud of their efforts and dedicate this screening to them all.”
The evening will highlight past submissions from 1913 to 1988, demonstrating the wide range of archives participating in the Baltimore meeting and the fun variety of that content, Mashon said.
The Library of Congress has steadily contributed to Archival Screening Night over the years.
“Past contributions have included an excerpt from The Star Wars Holiday Special (the first videotape ever preserved at the Packard Campus, incidentally), and various oddities and outtakes from the film collection,” said Mike Mashon, head of the library’s Moving Image Section.
The roadshow version is a wonderful opportunity for audiences to see the enormously entertaining diversity of film and video being preserved by archives all over the world, from Alaska to Hawaii, and from Thailand to Culpeper, he said.
The audio visual center’s contribution, preserved from highly flammable nitrate film, is the Fourth Annual Field Day of the Physical Education Dept. at Baltimore, Maryland.
The library’s description for the 1919 event states: “The fourth annual field-day for the colored pupils of the public schools of Baltimore, Md., has taken place on the football field at Druid Hill Park. Thirteen schools, representing 1,200 participants, took part. Eleven schools were represented by fifty girls each in folk-dancing.”
The tinted nitrate reel was discovered in an old projector, and scanned by the center’s Film Laboratory in 2K definition.
It will be shown to the archivists assembled in Baltimore on Nov. 14.
The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. at the Packard Campus Theater, at 19053 Mount Pony Road in Culpeper County. Admission to the center’s state-of-the-art, Art Decor-style theater is free.
To support the AMIA, the center contributed a highlight of its collection—an issue of All-American News, the first newsreel produced exclusively for a black audience.
“Made in the 1940s and 1950s, the newsreels were originally intended to encourage African-Americans to participate in, and support the war effort, and to reflect an African-American perspective on world and national events,” Mashon said Wednesday.
The reel to be shown in the archivists’ film was scanned in 2K by the center’s Film Laboratory.
“We are honored that the organizers of the ASN chose it for inclusion in the roadshow package,” Mashon said.
The library has 35 episodes of All-American News in its collection that arrived 10 years ago as part of the J. Fred and Leslie W. MacDonald Collection, Mashon said.
All are available for viewing in the Library’s National Screening Room.
One newsreel in the collection is based on a news story about the crew of a World War II sunken merchant ship that returned home to Baltimore, as reported in the Aug. 8, 1942, edition of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper.
Also included is footage of members of the U.S. Coast Guard training in freezing weather and the Great Lakes Band strutting its stuff, “with plenty of ‘OOMPH! OOMPH! OOMPH!,’ ” the library’s description states.
For more on the clips included in the 110-minute Archival Screening Night roadshow, visit https://asnroadshow.com/2019/09/06/about-the-films/.
To contribute to AIMA’s efforts or request help in finding your local archive, email firstname.lastname@example.org.