March 24, 2015

April Fools’ Day news film

Just in time for April 1, this 1973 short news piece from NYC Channel 2 WCBS-TV was at the top of our 16mm film inspection queue today.


This humorous piece has a local reporter interviewing passerby about who they would elect as the 1973 April Fool. Folks overwhelmingly voted for Nixon, with “Average New Yorkers” and “Mayor Lindsay” coming in at close seconds. One cheerful cyclist elected “Pedestrians who cross the street without looking at the traffic lights”, while another interviewee nominated “The general electorate…because they voted for Nixon!”

This cyclist wants pedestrians to watch the traffic lights!

This cyclist wants pedestrians to watch the traffic lights!

Other questions included, “How will you celebrate April Fools’ Day?” and “Should April Fools’ Day continue to be held every year, or every four years?” to which one woman enthusiastically responded, “There are enough foolish New Yorkers! Hold it every four!”

Disappointed that his interviewees were “so serious” in their responses, the reporter turned and showed his own April Fools’ Day humor, in true New York fashion.


A WCBS-TV April Fools’ Day prank from 1973

Happy April Fools’ Day!


Posted in Archivists' pick on 24 March 2015 at 5:02 pm by conservator3
March 10, 2015

Poster Tuesday

Kanal (1957) directed by Andrzej Wajda. From the Harvard Film Archive poster collection. Browse more HFA images from the HOLLIS+ catalog here.


Kanal (1957) directed by Andrzej Wajda

Posted in poster on 10 March 2015 at 2:13 pm by conservator3
February 24, 2015

The HFA screens Robert Flaherty’s lost film

OIDCHE SHEANCHAUS fireside scene one frame with perfs


You may have been following the news about Harvard’s rediscovery and preservation of Robert Flahery’s Oidhche Sheanchais (A Night of Storytelling). The first film made in the Irish language, this short was produced in 1935 during the filming of Flaherty’s Man of Aran. On February 19, 2015, the Harvard Film Archive had its premiere screening of the film, in a new 35mm print, as part of Folklore and Flaherty: A Symposium on the First Irish-Language Film, with Harvard’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literature.  This new preservation effort by the Harvard Film Archive also marks the first time the film has been subtitled in English.


OIDCHE SHEANCHAUS boy on floor one frame with perfs

The symposium was well attended by the public and the Harvard community, and included short presentations by participants in the film’s research, subtitling, and preservation efforts. Both presenters and attendees brought thoughtful questions and comments about historical context and future plans for the film.  A major theme was the folklore tradition in Ireland, specifically the Aran Islands and surrounding areas where Flaherty’s Man of Aran was filmed.  The film itself features a traditional song, sung by Maggie Dirrane, and a traditional story, told by Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin.  Symposium participants and those present spoke to their own experiences of Irish folklore, folk music, and storytelling. Each emphasized the importance of preservation for carrying traditions and customs forward through music, storytelling, song, and film. The audience included many Aran Islanders, who spoke joyously of the screening in both personal and cultural terms, bringing their own historical context to the event.

Oidhche Sheanchais (A Night of Storytelling) will screen again as part of the HFA series The Lost Worlds of Robert Flaherty. Join us for a screening of three shorts by Flaherty on Sunday, March 1 and with Man of Aran on Monday, March 9. Please check the HFA online calendar for further information on these screenings.

You can read more about the rediscovery and preservation of this previously lost gem on our previous blog post and on the Harvard Gazette website.

Posted in HFA events, lost film on 24 February 2015 at 7:07 pm by conservator3
February 3, 2015

A slideshow of vintage posters on Harvard Spectacle

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 7.14.53 PM


We have been having a ball making slideshows with Harvard Spectacle, a discovery tool developed and recently launched with help from Harvard University’s Library Lab program.


Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 7.15.36 PM


Harvard Spectacle is an open source, web-based service that allows users to find and compile Harvard-owned images from Harvard Library and LibraryCloud, into an online slideshow. This is a great tool for exploring and discovering the many online images from Harvard’s collections, including images from the Harvard Film Archive and Film Conservation Center!

Spectacle’s unique design gives you the option to link to descriptive metadata for each item, creating a complete record for sharing and recording related information. Other features include links to add public-domain images from Flickr, audio from SoundCloud, and animated GIFs from Giphy, for a truly customized presentation. Social share buttons at the top of each page make it easy to embed slideshows to your Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts.

Best of all: ANYONE can register to use Harvard Spectacle!

Visit the Harvard Spectacle website to create a profile and get started. While you’re there, explore the slideshows compiled by Harvard librarians and archivists that showcase some pretty spectacular collection materials (sorry – we couldn’t help ourselves!) and check out the Film Conservation Center’s slideshow of vintage film posters.

Harvard Spectacle may be here only for a limited time, but the more users the better! Create a profile today and help boost this project to a featured slot on the Library Lab website.

Posted in poster on 3 February 2015 at 6:42 pm by conservator3
January 20, 2015

Attention – film inspector!

A sticker on the lid of a red film canister reads: help! each foot of scratched film costs 35 cents. Please wind carefully.

We recently found the following urgent calls for help while processing a 16mm film collection. The collection contains many educational and instructional films. One can only hope the cards reached sympathetic librarians and classroom teachers, and not distracted AV kids (you know who you are!)

Based on the good condition of these films, it looks like the caretakers heeded the advice and treated each print with the TLC they deserved.


A form for alerting film distributors if a film needs extra care.

This was by far the most frequent form uncovered in this collection.


A form for providing information on a specific film print.

Many of the forms contained blank fields for both librarians and film inspectors. Often, the tasks of collection development, care, and screenings, were performed by one person, who may or may not have been trained to handle film.



An inspection form for the Heartland Film Library

Collective “weeding” and collection management.


A notice requesting borrowers to rewind film.

We must admit: not all the films arrived without a fair share of tape splices.


A form provided for documentation of film damage.

Sometimes, you have to be explicit!


A card giving instructions on what to do if film breaks.

Note the enthusiastic question marks!!!! Below: the pink card in question.


A hand designed note card with blank lines for indicating film damage.

Yes — the film “reels” do look just like hamburgers.


A printed card with blank lines to indicate film damage.

Check out the progression from hand-penned to sleek computer graphics on this form.


A form for removing unwanted or unusable films from a collection.

More on collective management of the film collections.

Posted in educational films, ephemera on 20 January 2015 at 6:08 pm by conservator3
January 6, 2015

Second Tuesday Poster

From the HFA Collection.

An image of a red and white film poster for the film The Importance of Being Earnest. The image features cartoon drawings of the main characters.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

Posted in poster on 6 January 2015 at 1:23 pm by conservator3
December 17, 2014

Christmas programs this weekend

This weekend the Harvard Film Archive brings some winter revelry to the screen with Another Kuchar Christmas and the Annual Vintage Holiday Show.



‘Tis the season for festive video offerings! Join us for four short films from prolific artist George Kuchar (1942-2011) on Saturday December 20 at 7pm. Come share in Kuchar’s feasts of the senses with his singular take on the rituals and feelings brought to the fore at Christmas.

VINTAGE HOLIDAY SHOW – Sunday afternoon – free admission!

Every December, we scour the Harvard Film Archive’s collection for winter-holiday-themed films and present them for free the weekend before Christmas.  Like everything else at this time of year, it tends to be very Christmas-oriented, but we are not trying to push religion on you.  In fact, yours truly, the curator of this screening, is an atheist.  Nevertheless, I enjoy a Christmas movie as much as the next atheist, and a lot of them were made over the years!

The program is always free, appropriate for all ages, and a lot of fun!  Since this is a shorts program, you are welcome to stay as long as you like, and we don’t even mind if you bring a baby along.

This year’s lineup includes some animated shorts, a locally-produced film about Christmastime window-shopping, which depicts some nice Downtown Crossing window displays, and a “meaning of Christmas” TV special starring a young Seth Green.

We hope to see you Sunday the 21st at 3pm!

Click here for a link to the program.

figgy duff

Posted in children's films, HFA events on 17 December 2014 at 11:28 am by conservator1
December 2, 2014

HFA poster Tuesdays

For your enjoyment: a poster from the HFA collection will be featured the first Tuesday of each month.


Pirosmani (1969)

Pirosmani, 1969 (dir. Giorgi Shengelaia)

Posted in poster on 2 December 2014 at 5:46 pm by conservator3
November 25, 2014

Vintage equipment

A few stars from the Harvard Film Archive Conservation Center’s stable of vintage and small gauge equipment:


Vintage speaker

Vintage speaker


Paillard Bolex projector

Paillard Bolex projector


Picnic projector

Paillard Bolex projector with “picnic” case


Technicolor projector, as seen in Brian De Palma’s Hi, Mom.

Posted in ephemera on 25 November 2014 at 5:54 pm by conservator3
November 18, 2014

The value of educational shorts: artifacts of the age


Technicolor ad from 1967 Business Screen Magazine courtesy of the Media History Digital Library

We are currently working on a collection which includes many educational and classroom shorts. These films came from a collector, who is said to have watched one film, on film, every day (a collector after our own hearts.) Although often treated as humorous in today’s social context, short educational films from the mid-century and beyond hold great cultural value in what they reveal about shifting American social values and cultural norms.
Major distributors for educational films recently found in this collection include Coronet Films, known for their personal guidance shorts, which instructed youth on social practices. Coronet shorts from the Beginning Responsibility series encountered in this collection reveal the push for balance through behavior modification in post WWII America.


Courtesy A/V Geeks and…


Titles from Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corporation and Journal Films in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s reveal the growing values of science, technology and innovation in the classroom environment: Osmosis and Diffusion, Cavitation and Orbital Shapes and Paths.

The late 1960’s and 1970’s introduce a more relaxed viewpoint on behavior and social roles with films such as Naturally…a Girl (Association-Sterling Films) and Every Family is Special (Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corporation.)
Some of the most interesting (read: quirky) educational films in this collection come from the Moody Institute of Science. Part of the Moody Bible Institute, the Moody Institute of Science was founded in San Francisco by Irwin A. Moon (Dr. Moon) in 1938 to forward the Moody Institute’s evangelical message. The films, introduced as “A Sermon from Science,” present scientific concepts with a didactic Creationist spin. The films, which often starred Moon as a narrator or participant in experiments, range in titles from subtle (Blind as a Bat) to over the top (God of the Atom.)


Courtesy of…



Posted in educational films on 18 November 2014 at 5:39 pm by conservator3