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Archive for October, 2007

John Wesley Slide

John Wesley courtesy of Elsbury Images

Elsbury Images Magic Lantern Powerpoint

Many substantial collections of moving image artefacts in the United Kingdom have been built over many years, fuelled by the enthusiasm of an individual. Elsbury Images is the commerical aspects of such a personal collection which includes magic lanterns and magic lantern slides from 1880-1910, some of which can be seen in the powerpoint presentation above; 35mm, 28mm and 16mm projectors, including Kodacolor dating back to 1906 as well as cine cameras from 1910 to 1960. All this equipment is supplemented by the original promotional material including various large posters and life-size cut-outs, mainly for Kodak products, together with an extensive collection of catalogues for Cine-Kodak (1923-1980), Pathescope 9.5 (1923-1950) as well as film hire library catalogues (1935-1960). This type of documentation is often disregarded but provides invaluable context for this equipment. Is there a comprehensive collection of catalogues and manuals out there?

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UNESCO Logo

The UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage takes place this Saturday, the 27th October with a variety of activities taking place across the globe designed to focus international attention on the importance of audiovisual material within human memory, culture and identity. In his downloadable message, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has called for governments to provide the necessary resources to safeguard these assets for future generations marking a critical juncture in the global preservation of this material.

Several sites are carrying information about the World Day. The South East Asia Pacific Audio Visual Archive Association (SEAPAVAA) includes details of initiatives resulting from this in the Phillipines and Thailand. A global representation of other activities can be found on a UNESCO World Day micro-site of the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) and includes our Survey of Moving Image Artefacts under the United Kingdom. Placing our survey within an international context highlights aspects of our work that address these issues and raises questions about the existence of other national mapping exercises and the use of the information generated from them.

Projector
1929 Bell & Howell projector set up for Kodacolor lenticular film, courtesy of Elsbury Images

Our Survey echoes many of the ideas behind the World Day; raising awareness, particularly a wider understanding of Screen Heritage within a national context, and making connections, providing an intial place of contact for all the individuals, societies, museums and universities that hold this material. Although the main objective of the survey is to provide a directory, the data will enable us to build a detailed picture of how well particular objects and areas are represented across the country. This not only tells us what there is but more importantly where the gaps might lie. At the moment one of the lowest response sections is for Sets and Costumes, closely followed by Sound and one of the highest for Magic Lanterns and Cinema & Projectors.

The World Day inevitably raises the question of what other national surveys related to screen heritage have been undertaken across the world. What areas have they covered, what kind of response did they get and how was this information utilised? Does anyone know of similar exercises that have been carried out?

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La Charette, officially deemed the smallest cinema in Wales, has closed after fifty years, the BBC reported yesterday. The 23-seat cinema was built by electrician Gwyn Phillips and housed in an old railway carriage in his back garden in Gorseinon, near Swansea. Although a club has maintained the cinema since his death in 1996, the costs of maintaining the building have now proved prohibitive and the doors of this tiny building, which boasted a wide screen and surround sound, have finally shut. The report states that it will be ‘demolished in the near future’. Undeniably a part of our national screen heritage. Is there anyone out there willing to give it home?

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Cinema restorations

As the debate on the long-term preservation of our national screen heritage continues to focus primarily on the moving images themselves, it’s worth highlighting two major cinema restoration projects that are taking place in Britain at the moment. If you know of any more, do let us know.

Each of these concerns very different examples of cinemas from the 1930s, a super cinema and a newsreel theatre. The first is the Plaza Super Cinema and Variety Theatre, a grade II listed building which opened its doors in Stockport on 6th October 1932. It has survived virtually intact together with one of its greatest assets, a fully working Compton organ. The Stockport Plaza Trust is the charitable trust responsible for saving, restoring and operating the Plaza, hopes to provide the public and researchers with a valuable resouce whilst working alongside the community of Greater Manchester to foster an appreciation of its cinematic heritage. The second concerns the restoration of the Bijou News-Reel Cinema, as it was originally called, which opened on Tyneside on 1st February 1937. The Tyneside Cinema re-development aims to take the building back to its newsreel roots whilst constructing two new screens to accommodate the needs of future generations. It’s hoped that the building will re-open in April 2008.

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John Ellis summing up

There is a summary available of the recent symposium on Screen Heritage which was held at Roehampton University on 22 September.

Included with the summary is an audio recording of the summing up of the day’s debates, made by Professor John Ellis of Royal Holloway, University of London.

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Cinema Museum

The Cinema Museum in Lambeth has a new website, which is rich in images of its collections of cinema memorabilia, and the buildings in which these are housed. However, the Museum is having to look for a new home. As this article in The Observer reports, the NHS Trust which owns the building (a former workhouse, which once had Charlie Chaplin’s mother as an inmate) is selling it, and the Museum needs to find a new home by March 2008. Photographs of possible new homes are included on the website.

There’s a marvellous video on the site, and on YouTube, made in 2000, in which Museum founder Ronald Grant shows us round the collections.

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Local history treasures

Delving into local history museums can unearth some unexpected troves of moving image artefacts. Gunnersbury Park Museum in Hounslow, West London may not immediately spring to mind when researching film and television but a clue can be found in the London boroughs it serves, Hounslow and Ealing. Over the years the museum has built up a significant collection of material relating to Ealing Studios, primarily of scripts, posters, campaign books and includes oral history interviews with the editor and producer Sid Cole, his daughter and the assistant director, Tom Pevsner. A couple of models are of special interest in this context, a post production model of the Titfield Thunderbolt and one of the set of Passport to Pimlico. Television researchers can even find the head of the Robot of Death from Dr Who alongside headdresses from Elizabeth R. All research access is by appointment between 9 and 5, weekdays only.

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