November 25, 2015

Report on Anne Charlotte Robertson screenings in Portland, OR

ACR programs

Last week we attended the annual Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference in lovely Portland, Oregon and had the pleasure of presenting two screenings of digitized films from the Anne Charlotte Robertson Collection.

The first screening was hosted by Portland, Oregon’s Cinema Project. This is a great organization, co-founded by the HFA’s very own Jeremy Rossen! The Cinema Project crew graciously coordinated the event and even held a bake sale in honor of Anne, who often brought baked goods to her own screenings.

Later in the week the 2001 Anne Robertson short, My Cat, My Garden and 9/11 was presented to great reception as part of AMIA’s Archival Screening Night at the Northwest Film Center in Downtown Portland.


My Cat My Garden and 9/11 top images, Archival Screening Night Highlights! Instagram image courtesy of @amiarchivists

It was very rewarding to share Anne’s incredible work with these communities. Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, who helped make these unique events possible!

These were some of the last screenings of Anne’s work until 2017.  We will screen Reel 3 of the Five Year Diary at the Harvard Film Archive on December 18th at 7pm, and then the work will be out of circulation until we have completed preservation and digitization of the collection, which we expect to have finished by early 2017.

Posted in Anne Robertson on 25 November 2015 at 2:10 pm by conservator3
November 10, 2015

Second Tuesday vintage poster

From the HFA vintage poster collection: Billy Wilder’s 1961 comedy of politics and manners, One, Two, Three – with censorship blocks!

one two three poster

one two three poster cu

Posted in poster on 10 November 2015 at 12:44 pm by conservator3
October 23, 2015

Photo album: Home Movie Day 2015

Thanks to everyone who made it out for a successful Home Movie Day last weekend! This year the event was co-hosted by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood. HMD15 Boston was an enjoyable evening of unique films under a crystal chandelier in the elegant NEHGS Reading Room. We topped past participant numbers and had a treasure trove of great material shared among attendees, including beautiful Kodachrome films of Maine, Gloucester and 1960’s downtown Boston with an amazingly small amount of traffic. Below are some highlights from the evening. Be sure to check out more event photos on our Flickr page.

A special thank you to our host at NEHGS, Ginevra Morse, and our staff of HMD volunteers: Sara Meyers, Derek Murphy and Adam Schutzman.





We hope to see you next year!

Posted in HFA events, home movies, New England on 23 October 2015 at 4:52 pm by conservator3
October 13, 2015

Newly digitized Anne Charlotte Robertson titles

Here is an update on the Anne Robertson films that have been digitized and are available for loan.  We are working on making more available soon!

Five Year Diary reel 26 making Magazine Mouth FYD47thrift_two_frame FYD83mother_and_sister

These are generally available as DCP or files.  Some are available on DigiBeta for you oldschoolers.  As always, please contact the HFA’s Loan Officer for more information.

Subways (1976) – 13 min.
Going to Work (1981) – 7 min.
Locomotion (1981) – 7 min.
Magazine Mouth (1983) – 7 min.
Depression Focus Please (1984) – 4 min.
Talking to Myself (1985) – 3 min.
Kafka Kamera (1985) – 3 min.
Apologies (1986/1990) – 17 min.
My Cat, My Garden, 9/11 (2001) – 6 min.

Five Year Diary newly digitized reels: Reel 3, Reel 26, Reel 40, Reel 47, Reel 83

FIVE YEAR DIARY (approx. 27 min per reel):
The Five Year Diary explores many aspects of soundtrack. Many reels have synch sound – mag stripe Super 8. Sometimes the soundtrack is spotty, other times it continues for the entire reel. Audio cassettes were used as well, either on their own or in conjunction with SOF (sound on film). Some tapes were used multiple times for many reels. A narration was usually performed live, and several reels have Anne’s audio narration, which she recorded in the 1990s for posterity and so her narrated film could travel without her.

Reel 1: The Beginning – Thanksgiving, November 3 – December 13, 1981
Vegetarianism, bingeing, Thanksgiving with parents. (ACR)
In the first reel of the Five Year Diary, we watch Anne grow up, consider food and fat, and don her yellow leotard in front of the camera for the first time. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 2: Definitions of Fat and Thin, December 13 – 22, 1981
Anne consults the dictionary in this one – what is “fat?” what is “thin?” Inanimate objects are animated, and Anne experiences problems with her camera. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 3: Christmas and New Year ’82, December 20-January 9, 1982
The first of many year-end holiday reels. Cooking, cleaning, pixilation. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 9: April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, March 17 – March 27, 1982
Pixilation. Sleeping, cooking, resolving to quit smoking. (LC)
Audio cassette

Reel 22: A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, August 23 – September 1, 1982
Anne finds a lover, loses him, mourns him, and has a nervous breakdown. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 23: A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, September 1 – December 13, 1982
Anne’s nervous breakdown continues until she is hospitalized. One track was recorded during the mania; in the second track, Anne reflects, years later, on this troubled time. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 26: First Semester Grad School, February 28 – May 20, 1983
Two years into the Diary, Anne began graduate school at Massachusetts College of Art. Reel 26 was shot silently; the soundtrack is an audio recording she made during a graduate review. She discusses her work with Super 8 auteur and professor Saul Levine and a second faculty member. Ideas brought up in the discussion were later implemented in Reel 22 and 23 and in the presentation of the work in general. (LC)
audio cassette

Reel 31: Niagara Falls, August 19 – 28, 1983
Anne takes a road trip to Niagara Falls trip with her family in this exceptionally beautiful Diary reel. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 40: Visiting Grandmother, My Insanity, & Wyoming, July 17 – August 26, 1984
Anne travels west with her camera to visit family. (LC)

Reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End, October 21 – November 2, 1986
The would-be penultimate Diary reel. Anne ruminates about the upcoming end of the Diary – and mourns it, of course. Familiar themes of Dr Who, drinking, comedy, and a nice trick-or-treat Halloween sequence. (LC)
“There is a tendency to film your life like it is scenes.” (ACR)
Sound on film.

Reel 80: Emily Died, May 14 – September 26, 1994
Anne’s niece Emily dies. Anne goes into a deep depression. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 81: Mourning Emily, September 27, 1994 – January 29, 1995
Anne mourns the death of her young niece, Emily. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 83: [Untitled, final finished reel] December 24, 1995 – March 19, 1997
It’s been 16 years, and finally the Diary ends, an unintended ending that visits familiar territory.

(ACR) = text by Anne Charlotte Robertson

(LC) = text by Liz Coffey


Posted in Anne Robertson, Archivists' pick, Local interest, New England, super 8, women filmmakers on 13 October 2015 at 6:42 pm by conservator1

Soviet Collection wrap-up

A few folks have asked about the status of our processing for the Soviet Film Collection. We have wrapped up the main aspects of this massive processing project and the films are now safely in our cold storage vault. Stay tuned for updates on access and future screenings from this collection. In the meantime, we have a time lapse video record of the (often relentless seeming) process.  This video is courtesy of Soviet Film Collection project employee (and accomplished filmmaker/photographer/artist) Michael Hutcherson.


Soviet Film Collection project staff celebrating the last day of the project with a Soviet Film themed cake. From left to right: Liz Coffey, Michael Hutcherson, Laurel Gildersleeve, Adrianne Jorge


Posted in Soviet Film Collection on 13 October 2015 at 4:47 pm by conservator1
September 30, 2015

#AskAnArchivist Day 2015 is October 1st!

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 6.40.03 PM

We are looking forward to #‎AskAnArchivist‬ Day, happening TOMORROW October 1st! Rather than looking to the Twittersphere, our archivists will be answering your questions on the HFA Facebook page. Please post any curiosities you have about Home Movie Day, how we process our archival collections, or the most oddball items that we have found in the archive. Ask us anything! No question is too big or too small!


Posted in Archives on 30 September 2015 at 10:52 am by conservator3
September 28, 2015

Home Movie Day 2015 is just around the corner!


HMD 2014

Greetings, home movie makers and fans! It’s that time again and we hope you will join us for our annual screening of your home movies.

What is Home Movie Day? For more than a decade, film archivists and the public have been convening in small spaces all over the globe and gathering around flickering images of times of yore. Grandmothers and babies, now since gone or grown, smile and wave to the camera-person as we watch them through the magical time machine of cinema. Vacations! Parties! Amateur theatricals! There is always something interesting and funny to watch, and we hope you will join us for this year’s event.

This year the Boston area HMD 13 will be held at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston’s Back Bay.

As always, this event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, October 17, 2015
3pm film check in
5pm-7:30 film screening

early film drop off encouraged at the HFA offices in the lower level of the Carpenter Center, Harvard University, or by 3pm on October 17 at NEHGS.

Formats accepted: 8mm, super 8, super 8 sound, 16mm, VHS, DVD, digital files (playable via laptop)

Films will be inspected for damage prior to projection, so please drop-off early.


The HMD 2014 volunteers

Join our Home Movie Day Boston 2015 Facebook Event Page to receive information and updates:

As always, more information is available at the Center for Home Movies, found here:

In related news, this week we will be participating in #AskAnArchivist Day on Thursday, October 1st! This event is sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, and is an opportunity for everyone to reach out with questions about the archives on social media. We will be anticipating YOUR questions, which you can post on Thursday to the Harvard Film Archive Facebook page! This is a great chance to ask us anything about Home Movie Day, how we process our archival collections, or the most oddball items that we have found in the archive. No question is too big or too small!

Posted in HFA events, home movies on 28 September 2015 at 5:27 pm by conservator3
September 24, 2015

Interlibrary loan of 16mm films


Image courtesy of Creative Commons

This afternoon we received a very pleasant, unexpected phone call from a gentleman in Florida who asked if we sent out any of our 16mm films for interlibrary loan. His local library is no longer circulating their 16mm films and this true film enthusiast has been seeking out other options. Although we cannot send any of our collection materials his way, a quick search online indicates that there are, indeed, a few libraries which still send out their 16mm films through ILL, including the Jacksonville Public Library! We hope you see this dear caller and fellow film fan!

Posted in Research requests on 24 September 2015 at 5:07 pm by conservator3
September 18, 2015

Intern Report: The Bruce Ricker Collection

A new post from our fantastic Summer Intern, Derek Murphy!

Diving deep into a stranger’s records can be an intense experience. As the summer 2015 intern at the Harvard Film Conservation Center, I trawled through a career’s worth of documents from the life and work of Bruce Ricker. Ricker was primarily a jazz and blues documentary filmmaker. From his first pivot from law practice to filmmaking in 1974 until his death in 2011, he worked tirelessly to promote education about and appreciation for the music that moved him.

Last of the Blue Devils Japanese posterLast of the Blue Devils


The majority of the papers I organized originated from the production of Ricker’s films. His first feature documentary, The Last of the Blue Devils, saw him capturing and preserving some of the final performances the world ever saw from Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, and several other prominent musicians from the 1920’s Kansas City jazz scene. The film was treasured by jazz enthusiasts, eventually attracting the attention of Clint Eastwood.  A lifelong listener and performer of jazz music, Eastwood loved the film, and contacted Ricker out of the blue. The two met for dinner and began a friendship that led to the creation of several more films. Most notably, Ricker and Eastwood collaborated on one of Ricker’s most well-known films, Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser. The 1988 documentary featured rare and previously unreleased archival footage of some of Monk’s later performances before illness ended his career, and eventually his life. It also contained interviews with many of Monk’s creative collaborators and loved ones after his death.

eastwood and ricker

Ricker and Eastwood’s collaboration did not end there. The two worked together on the production of documentaries about Budd Boetticher, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mercer, and Dave Brubeck. Additionally, Ricker directed two documentaries about Eastwood.  Ricker started Rhapsody Films, through which distributed his and other noteworthy films about jazz and blues.  As I got a handle on Ricker’s papers I saw marketing materials, catalogs, notes, correspondence, and research related to the company.

The Harvard Film Archive prioritizes multimedia holdings over papers when processing materials, so when I came on board, Ricker’s papers had been only partially described, and had not yet been arranged. The goal of my internship was to describe the papers that hadn’t yet been looked at, and arrange the totality of them into series to help create a finding aid for the collection. On my first day, I was given four boxes of papers straight from Ricker’s filing cabinets, still in their original order. Over the course of several weeks, I dove into these papers. I kept a spreadsheet where I entered information about the folders and papers I encountered, to aid in their later arrangement. This was a great learning experience. It was very satisfying to make connections between papers I’d seen in completely different boxes, and come to realizations about their place in Ricker’s oeuvre.

I was not familiar with Ricker or his work when I began my internship, but by my last day I felt a strange closeness to him. Even though I’ll never meet him, I think that my work at the HFA has given me a strong sense of his personality. I am working on my own feature-length documentary right now, so as I looked over his notes and production documents, I got a good feel for his process, and I felt a certain kinship. I even picked up a few good tips from looking at his workflow! It’s a bit uncanny, getting to know a man through the incidental papers he left behind, but I’m thankful that I got the chance to.

My internship at the HFA was extremely instructive for me, and the time I spent there was completely worthwhile. I was able to pick up hands-on skills in working with both paper and film collections. It really grounded the theory I’ve been learning in my archives classes at Simmons College’s School of Library and Information Science. In addition to the expansion of my archives knowledge, I also learned the basics of physical film handling, something I’ve wanted to do for many years. Both of my supervisors were very generous with their time, willing to answer any questions I had. They were extremely skilled and they were happy to help me pick up some of those skills myself. And, most importantly, they were a ton of fun to hang out with!

-Derek Murphy


Posted in interns, jazz, music on 18 September 2015 at 4:25 pm by conservator1
September 9, 2015

A woman for all seasons: processing the Mildred Freed Alberg Papers

This is a guest post from our spring 2015 intern, Gabby Womack!

When I began my internship with the Harvard Film Archive, I knew that I would be working with the papers of a female television and film producer from the 1960s. In fact, Mildred Freed Alberg was one of the reasons I was drawn to the internship. I was curious about what her life was like, what kinds of shows and films she produced, and whether or not she was successful, because I had never heard of her before.

Star Intern, Gabby Womack holding a photograph from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection.

Star Intern, Gabby Womack, holding a photograph from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection.

Mildred Freed Alberg was a female film and television producer from the late 1950s into the 1980s. She began her work in radio and worked her way up to producing TV shows, telemovies, films/documentaries, and a play. She was best known for her work in shows such as Hallmark Hall of Fame (1955-60) and Our American Heritage (1959-62), as well as her documentary The Royal Archives of Elba (1980). Alberg also brought Shakespeare to television, despite much skepticism. Basically, she was awesome and ambitious.

I was excited to dig into her papers once I had an overall idea of her accomplishments. Of course, I was in for some very cool surprises once I began. After weeks of processing, I found a short letter discussing the cast schedules of the film Hot Millions (1968) starring Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith. Although the find was small, it made me excited. So many Millennials have only seen Maggie Smith in her later years and have come to picture her as Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter films, or Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey. I loved reading Alberg’s letter asking about whether the young starlet was going to become a part of the cast and begin rehearsals. I later found compelling letters discussing the possibilities of casting Muhammad Ali or Johnny Cash as a lead in a movie that never ended up being filmed (Rogue). There were many letters to and from Johnny Cash about the role, attempts to meet, and Alberg’s thoughts on those meetings. The part that I found pretty funny was the way she referred to him as “a young musician who is on the rise and well liked by the younger crowd.”

Promotional item from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection

Promotional item from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection

Mildred Freed Alberg also worked with notable author Elie Wiesel on scripts for the 25th Anniversary of the State of Israel in 1972. It seemed to me that Alberg wanted her work to be as authentic as it could be, and conducted thorough research into Wiesel’s work as well as biblical stories and Israel as a whole. In fact, everything she produced showed the same depth of research. In one episode of Our American Heritage, she received some negative feedback from someone who claimed that she had misrepresented some information on Eli Whitney and his invention of the cotton gin. Alberg did not take kindly to this criticism because they had implied that she had not done her research on everyone in the episode. She wrote back to this person and shared her letter with the heads of the production company she worked for. The letter tore apart the recipient and detailed exactly where she found her information, all the way down to the page number and paragraphs.
Processing the Mildred Freed Alberg collection has shown me how this tough, but likeable, woman worked her way up to the top within the entertainment industry and never let anyone or anything stop her. Before processing this collection, I had no idea women were able to find work within that field besides acting and being assistants. She was an inspiring woman and I believe that she is a great example of what the industry is missing to this day.

Posted in collection update, interns, women filmmakers on 9 September 2015 at 10:00 am by conservator3