Inside the Film Archive

14 Feb
Film & Media Archive stacks

Washington University Film & Media Archive stacks

The climate controlled vault at the Film & Media Archive was designed to address the challenges of storing film and other media to ensure the material lasts for the maximum amount of time and remains in the best condition.

Film preservation efforts varied over time, but unfortunately 90 percent of all American silent films made before 1929 and 50 percent of American sound films made before 1950 are lost. ( Dave Kehr (14 October 2010). “Film Riches, Cleaned Up for Posterity”New York Times.

To properly store film the temperature and humidity must be controlled and provide a stable environment for the materials. Filmmakers and historians recognized the need for this and the Museum of Modern Art in New York was one of the first institutions to collect and preserve film. Followed by the founding of the  George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in 1947, the American Film Institute founded in 1967, and The Film Foundation, created by Martin Scorsese in 1990. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but over the years film preservationists have  continued to make advances in how film is stored and treated.

The Washington University Film & Media Archive currently contains 6,500,000 feet (based on can size),  1,300 linear feet (manuscript boxes), 19,900 video tapes, 10, 150 audio tapes, 4,650 books, 160 CDs, 800 DVDs, and 25,000 photographs.

 Photos by Alison Carrick. 

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