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August 31, 2005

Digging in the Archives

So, basically this blog entry has turned into a paragraph summary of a phone conversation, but I don't want to lose track of all of these cool film and media resources....

For my junior seminar in media studies, I've been working on setting up guest lectures featuring speakers from various libraries/archives here in DC, and I'm amazed at the amount of material "out there," waiting to be explored. I just got off the phone with one of the archivists from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Archives Center, where they have a really cool collection of materials, including a collection of industrial films and National Zoo Training films (!).

She referred me to several other collections, many of which are available online. The coolest highlight is the Prelinger Archives, where you can watch everything from Are You Popular?, a 1947 social-guidance film, to Duck and Cover, a civil defense film in which Bert the Turtle teaches chldren what to do in case of atomic attack. I could easily spend days scouring the Prelinger Archives (and probably will).

She also reminded me about Home Movie Day (I've been talking about this topic for a while), an annual event that usually takes place around August 16th, or 8/16, a sly reference to the two most popular (8mm and 16mm) home movie gauges. I wanted to attend DC's event at the Warehouse Theater, but only heard about it a few hours in advance. Maybe next year (here's an older NPR story on Home Movie Day and a blog entry).

She also mentioned some cool new films that I haven't seen, including Karen Shopsowitz's 2000 film, My Father's Camera, which explores the role home movies play in social and family life (produced by the National Film Board of Canada, another cool resource), as well as the PBS American Experience documentary, Tupperware! (IMDB), which apparently made use of some of archival materials available at the Smithsonian.

And, here's one more archival resource worth visiting: the National Anthropological Archives' Human Studies Film Archives. My connection at the National Museum of American History mentioned their extensive collection of travel and ethnographic films. Finally, although I already knew about the fantastic Treasures from American Film Archives, I'm glad to have the link handy.

I'm also planning to introduce my students to the National Archives, and of course, the Library of Congress.

Posted by chuck at August 31, 2005 12:01 PM

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