Educational Films Arrive at the Film Archive

20 Jun

Washington University Film & Media Archive Staff processing films from the Educational Film Collection.

 

In 2003, the Film & Media Archive obtained 200 educational films from the St. Louis Public School’s Film Collection. Another portion of the collection went to the St. Louis branch of the Academic Film Archive of North America, and the rest were stored in various locations in St. Louis and in Columbia, Missouri. After almost nine years, a large portion of the remaining St. Louis Public School films are now part of the Educational Film Collection at the Film & Media Archive. Nadia Ghasedi, Head of the Visual Media Research Lab (VMRL), Irene Taylor, Film & Media Cataloging and Preservation Archivist, and Barry Kelley, Processing Assistant, spent two full days in Columbia, Missouri testing many of the remaining films for vinegar syndrome, a condition which deteriorates film, checking for duplicate titles, and packing up the prints to be shipped back to St. Louis. Now, Irene, Barry, and two student assistants are assessing and cataloging approximately 6,500 films.

Film reels from the Educational Film Collection. Washington University Film & Media Archive.

Federal funding throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s helped make this a thriving genre, but now many of these academic films are in danger of being lost and an effort is underway to preserve these films. Often overlooked and discounted, the films are a rich visual resource and can provide glimpses into the past fashions, social customs and attitudes, as well as provide a snapshot of the culture at a special point in time. Mainly from the 1960’s and 70’s, the collection includes purely education documentaries, dramatizations of literature and history, and “guidance” films which were made to highlight social mores, or focus on safety issues, and the subjects include African-American history, the labor movement, dance and music performances, and advertising.

Sample titles from the collection include, Eli WhitneyHarriet Tubman and the Underground RailroadImmigrant from America;Minorities – Patterns of ChangeTribute to Malcolm XThe Labor Movement: Beginnings and Growth in America, How to Save a Choking Victim, I’m the Only Me, Pioneers of the Plains, and Zero: Something for Nothing.

Photos by Alison Carrick.

Film reels from the Educational Film Collection. Washington University Film & Media Archive.

Film reels from the Educational Film Collection. Washington University Film & Media Archive.

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