Author Archives: conservator1

The Five Year Diary (1981-1997)

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This week I’ve been watching some episodes of Anne Robertson’s Five Year Diary with a visiting researcher.  It’s been great getting back into this work.  There were quite a few exciting finds among reels I’d never seen, including one with a soundtrack recorded during a review at Mass Art.  Anne discusses her work with her professors, Saul Levine and a second, as yet unidentified, man.  This episode is somewhat early in the work (1983), but the discussion is relevant to the work as a whole.

Part of my goal with watching more reels of the Diary is to prioritize reels for digitization.  Presently, 8 reels of the work have been digitized and are available for screenings.  It is our goal to digitize the entire work; we are prioritizing and hope to have more reels available this fall.

The final reel of the Diary (Reel 83, 1997), which was only accidentally so, includes some images that remind me of earlier reels.  There is some focus on weight, a theme from the beginning, as well as the family gravestones, holidays, and, as always the moon.  I’m going to have to watch the entire work – is there an episode without the moon?  The moon and Anne are the constant characters in the film.  Anne travels; her companion the moon meets her there.  Anne goes through cycles of mental stability; the moon waxes and wanes.

The Diary is most obviously a thorough evaluation of the self, but despite Anne’s obsessions about her own body and life, she is also a solid viewer of the natural world.  The moon is the face of it, but we see the seasons closely monitored, plant life, the weather.  Paradoxically, her romantic obsessions are found on television, and on programs that are anything but celebrations of nature.

Here in Cambridge, the summer is drawing to a close.  It’s made most obvious by the return of the students, clearly demonstrated by traffic and restaurant crowds, but Anne’s films remind me to look to the trees that are beginning to brown, the flowers that are going to seed, the vegetables that will require harvest before the frost.

~Liz Coffey

FYD 2 reading definitions of fat and thin

A word from the filmmaker

The Arthur H. Freedman Collection at the Harvard Film Archives 

and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Museum of the Harvard College Library.

Marky Mayhem mini dv tapesStatement by the documentarian Arthur Freedman

August 13, 2015

I am honored to have my life’s work inducted into these prestigious collections. In 2012 I was contacted by Elizabeth Coffey, Film Conservator for the Harvard Film Archive, and by Peter Laurence and David Ackerman of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. They had heard of my extensive documentation on audio and video of unsigned local bands that played in the nightclubs around Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and surrounding locales. I have had various write-ups and press over the years, and evidently it resonated with the progressive thinking at Harvard to see how it would integrate into an historic place amongst the more recognized works. Special thanks go out to Robert Dennis and Denise Gorayeb, along with those at Harvard who were, are, and will be involved in this project, with whom I am not familiar.

I would like to call to your attention several individuals who had very significant roles in collaboration with me, without whose support much of my work would not have been possible. First and foremost, Patricia Ann Pelland, who is a fine emerging photographer; the photograph of me amongst my recordings was taken by her. Patricia was often my roadie, collaborator on the Boston Archives Project, my wife and partner for over 10 years, and now, a quarter of a century later, still my best friend. Others include Timothy Fulham; Thomas White, videographer at MIT, film maker, guitarist for Unnatural Axe, Beach Combovers and several other bands; Kevin Boisevert; Timothy Jackson; Karen DiBiasse; Linda Cardinal; Paul Lovell; Timothy Maxwell; Steven Nelson; William McCarthy; Joseph and Nabil Sater; William Ruane; Jan Crocker; Mark Hussey, Steven Morse, Tristram Lozaw, Andrew Smith, Kris Fell. I am also grateful to musicians who thanked me from the stage, on their records and cds, and those who signed releases, as well those who called me to come and record them.

My audio recordings were primarily done using cassette tape and 2 microphones.  Video was almost always single camera, either hand-held or tripod.

Occasionally I had equipment problems, and it is a deep regret that I did not have better gear with which to work and additional camera operators with whom to collaborate. During the era in which I was recording, there were very few people doing what I was doing. The time of camera phones and miniature video cameras had not arrived, and 99% of the time I was the only one dedicated to chronicling the careers of bands I cared about. Regardless, the recordings are a time capsule of the music at a time of great creativity and energy. The bands with whom I worked were unsigned, unknown, sometimes underappreciated, and often forgotten. There were many times I would be one of only a few people in the audience. Those of you who attend large venue concerts do not have the connection to the musicians as I have had. I invite you to listen to these bands and let your imagination take you to dive bars with a dance floor where the audiences’ heads are bopping and a dance called the pogo is hep cat go man go!

Since very early in my recordings, I always wanted the bands to be vested in the project; I tried to make the recordings and my time available. The tapes were becoming more numerous and preservation of the fragile magnetic media was always on my mind, but due to financial constraints, time and resources, it has taken till now with the wonderful folks at Harvard to begin this monumental project. The recordings had never been properly cataloged and now that that has been accomplished, I am astonished at the breadth of what I have done. I still have additional recordings that I will be adding to this collection and there are some real treasures in those.

This collection will include additional works from me shortly and over time. On 7.26.1981, I was recording Mission of Burma and The Stains at the Paradise. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and my car was stolen. In it was a case containing nearly 60 sets of my favorite early tapes I had recorded; they were never recovered. It is my hope that in watching, listening, and discovering the bands among my recordings that you step out, pay the cover charge and see some of these great bands yourselves. Please support live music, buy bands’ compact discs, records, and merchandise, and immerse yourself in one of the coolest eras of creativity. You will have the best times of your lives.

As I have previously mentioned, most of these bands are likely unknown to you, so I will offer several websites that can be useful in learning more:

http://bostongroupienews.com/

http://www.thenoise-boston.com/

http://mmone.org/

http://kinodv.net/home.html

http://www.collectorscum.com/volume3/mass/

Some of the performers and participants whose voices have been silenced:

http://bostongroupienews.com/BGNInMemorium.htm

I invite band members band members to sign releases, donate cds, records, tapes, set lists, personnel lists and contact information, posters, and flyers from any of the sets listed and help to make this one of the most important music history collections of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Thank you to all who give this project more than a passing glance.

Arthur Freedman

CONSERVATOR’S NOTE:

It was Tom White (Unnatural Axe, Beach Combovers) who tipped me off to Arthur’s collection.  I had recently been talking to Billy Ruane about his own extensive collection of local band recordings, and was rather heartbroken to learn that most of these tapes were lost when Billy stopped paying the bill on a storage container.  I didn’t want anything to happen to Arthur’s recordings, and hoped he would be interested in getting them into cold storage at Harvard.  We were very pleased when he agreed to give us this important collection.  ~Liz Coffey

Christmas programs this weekend

This weekend the Harvard Film Archive brings some winter revelry to the screen with Another Kuchar Christmas and the Annual Vintage Holiday Show.

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GEORGE KUCHAR – Saturday

‘Tis the season for festive video offerings! Join us for four short films from prolific artist George Kuchar (1942-2011) on Saturday December 20 at 7pm. Come share in Kuchar’s feasts of the senses with his singular take on the rituals and feelings brought to the fore at Christmas.

VINTAGE HOLIDAY SHOW – Sunday afternoon – free admission!

Every December, we scour the Harvard Film Archive’s collection for winter-holiday-themed films and present them for free the weekend before Christmas.  Like everything else at this time of year, it tends to be very Christmas-oriented, but we are not trying to push religion on you.  In fact, yours truly, the curator of this screening, is an atheist.  Nevertheless, I enjoy a Christmas movie as much as the next atheist, and a lot of them were made over the years!

The program is always free, appropriate for all ages, and a lot of fun!  Since this is a shorts program, you are welcome to stay as long as you like, and we don’t even mind if you bring a baby along.

This year’s lineup includes some animated shorts, a locally-produced film about Christmastime window-shopping, which depicts some nice Downtown Crossing window displays, and a “meaning of Christmas” TV special starring a young Seth Green.

We hope to see you Sunday the 21st at 3pm!

Click here for a link to the program.

figgy duff

Home Movie Day 2014

Greetings, home movie makers and fans! We hope you will join us for our yearly screening of your home movies this Saturday, October 18.

What *is* Home Movie Day?

Home Movie Day is a celebration of amateur films and filmmaking held annually at venues worldwide. Home Movie Day events provide the opportunity for individuals and families to see and share their home movies with an audience of their community, and to see their neighbor’s in turn.

For well over a decade, film lovers, film archivists and the general public have been convening in small spaces in the Boston area and all over the globe, gathering around flickering images of times of yore. Grandparents and babies, now since gone or grown, smile and wave to the camera as we watch them through the magical time machine of cinema.

Exotic and domestic vacations!

Parties, birthday and otherwise!

Amateur theatricals!

There is always something interesting and funny to watch, and we hope you will join us for this year’s event. The Boston area 12th annual Home Movie Day will be held at the Harvard Film Archive on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

11am film check-in noon,  3pm screening

Early film drop off encouraged, at the HFA offices in the lower level of the Carpenter Center, Harvard University.

Formats accepted: 8mm, super 8, 16mm, VHS, DVD, digital files (playable via laptop).  Video and digital versions have a 5 minute limit.  Please cue your tapes if possible.

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

More information is available here: http://homemovieday.com/

Here is our facebook event page.

We hope to see you and your movies this weekend!

 


NE home movie sculptress

Anne Charlotte Robertson Papers

 

In addition to her films, Anne Robertson left us a wealth of accompanying papers, including:

  • scripts
  • diaries
  • film recipts
  • festival entry papers
  • clippings
  • items made for film screenings
  • correspondence

A few winners from today’s work are below.  I especially like William Davis’ notes about the Five Year Diary chapter A BREAKDOWN and AFTER THE MENTAL HOSPITAL

 

flier for Mass Art program small IAC competition Suicide smallerA Breakdown judge report smaller

available Anne Robertson titles

 

Hello.  I’ll bet you’ve been wondering which Anne Charlotte Robertson films are available for loan.  Here is the list!

shorts:
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) – 17 min.
My Cat, My Garden, 9/11 (2001) – 6 min.

FIVE YEAR DIARY (approx. 27 min per reel):
Reel 1 The Beginning – Thanksgiving, Nov. 3 – Dec. 13, 1981
Reel 2 Definitions of Fat and Thin, Dec. 13 – 22, 1981
Reel 9 April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, 1982
Reel 22 A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 1982 – 27 min.
Reel 23 A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, Sept. 1 – Dec. 13, 1982 – 26 min.
Reel 31 Niagara Falls, Aug. 19 – 28, 1983 – 25 min.
Reel 80 Emily Died, 1994 – 27 min.
Reel 81 Mourning Emily, 1995 – 25 min.

Please contact our Loan Officer for more information.  Titles are available digitally or on tape.

Maybe we will make a box set available at some point.  If this is something you would be interested in purchasing, please let us know in the comments so we may gauge interest.

Work, meanwhile, on the collection soldiers on.  We have many more DIARY episodes to digitize and show.  Work on the collection continues.  Stay tuned…

Here is our working list of the FIVE YEAR DIARY reels, titles by ACR:
Five Year Diary – reel 1: The beginning – Thanksgiving
Five Year Diary – reel 2: Definitions of fat and thin
Five Year Diary – reel 3: Christmas and New Year ‘82
Five Year Diary – reel 4: My Father Died
Five Year Diary – reel 5: Mourning
Five Year Diary – reel 6: The Lights of the Bardo
Five Year Diary – reel 7: Home Alone
Five Year Diary – reel 8: Leaving My Father’s Office
Five Year Diary – reel 9: April fool / Happy Birthday 33
Five Year Diary – reel 10: Easter
Five Year Diary – reel 11: Data Entry
Five Year Diary – reel 12: Reunion
Five Year Diary – reel 13: Visiting North Carolina
Five Year Diary – reel 14: North Carolina & More Data Entry
Five Year Diary – reel 15: Even More Data Entry
Five Year Diary – reel 16: Soon to be Unemployed
Five Year Diary – reel 17: End of the Job
Five Year Diary – reel 18: Raspberry Season
Five Year Diary – reel 19: Heat of Summer
Five Year Diary – reel 20: Blackberry Season
Five Year Diary – reel 21: Still Berrypicking
Five Year Diary – reel 22: A short affair (and) going crazy
Five Year Diary – reel 23: A breakdown (and) after the mental hospital
Five Year Diary – reel 24: Christmas & New Year ‘83
Five Year Diary – reel 25: Getting Fat Again
Five Year Diary – reel 26: First Semester Grad School
Five Year Diary – reel 27: Visiting North Carolina Again
Five Year Diary – reel 28: Leaving the Apartment and Moving Home
Five Year Diary – reel 29: New York City & the Berry Season
Five Year Diary – reel 30: Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 31 – Niagara Falls
Five Year Diary – reel 32: Losing Weight
Five Year Diary – reel 33: A Crush on Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 34
Five Year Diary – reel 35: Christmas & New Year ‘84
Five Year Diary – reel 36: Another Nervous Breakdown
Five Year Diary – reel 37: After the Mental Hospital Again
Five Year Diary – reel 38
Five Year Diary – reel 39: Yet Another Breakdown
Five Year Diary – reel 40: Visiting My Grandmother, My Insanity, & Wyoming
Five Year Diary – reel 41: California, Home & Wyoming
Five Year Diary – reel 42: Christmas, New Year ‘85 & Gaining Weight
Five Year Diary – reel 43: Breaking Again & Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 44: Last Semester of Grad School
Five Year Diary – reel 45: Christmas, New Year ‘86, Then Employed Again
Five Year Diary – reel 46
Five Year Diary – reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End
Five Year Diary – reel 48: The Fifth Anniversary
Five Year Diary – reel 49: Lunar Phases
Five Year Diary – reel 50: Christmas & New Year ‘87
Five Year Diary – reel 51
Five Year Diary – reel 52: Preparing for a Big Show
Five Year Diary – reel 53: CinnamonAmy Cat Died
Five Year Diary – reel 54: Still Mourning
Five Year Diary – reel 55: Breakdown Wasn’t Filmed
Five Year Diary – reel 56: Christmas, New Year ‘88, Robin Hood
Five Year Diary – reel 57: Employment & Birthday 39
Five Year Diary – reel 58: California Show
Five Year Diary – reel 59: Big Religious / Political Letter
Five Year Diary – reel 60: NYC Peace March
Five Year Diary – reel 61: More Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 62: In a Performance
Five Year Diary – reel 63: Family & Gardens
Five Year Diary – reel 64: Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 65: Big Show in New York
Five Year Diary – reel 66: Hanukah – Christmas & New Year ‘89
Five Year Diary – reel 67: So Much Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 68: Plenty of Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 69: Guess Who & Breakdowns
Five Year Diary – reel 70: Christmas – New Year ‘90 Resolutions
Five Year Diary – reel 71 – On Probation
Five Year Diary – reel 72: Short Takes & Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 73: Off Probation & Tour of New York
Five Year Diary – reel 74
Five Year Diary – reel 75
Five Year Diary – reel 76 – Fall to Spring
Five Year Diary – reel 77
Five Year Diary – reel 78
Five Year Diary – reel 79
Five Year Diary – reel 80 – Emily Died “second edit”
Five Year Diary – reel 81 – Mourning Emily
Five Year Diary – reel 82
Five Year Diary – reel 83
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local camera shop film cans

If you work with small gauge film, you’ve no doubt seen these local camera shop film cans.

The can itself if kind of generic – blue or grey steel.  The name & address  of the photo/film place is stamped on the lid.

These cans are small monuments to a commercial culture that is pretty much dead in this country as of this writing.  Time was, small camera shops and photo processing places were everywhere.  If you had shot some movie film, you could bring it down to your local photo place for processing.  Sometimes they would process the B&W film in-house, and almost always sent the color film out to a larger vendor such as Kodak.  However, most people never considered who was doing the processing, since it was returned to them in a film can with the name of the store stamped on the cover.

Here at the HFA we are taking pictures of these lids and posting them here for your edification on our flickr page.

Some are local, some are not, but all contained Super 8, 8mm, or 16mm film when they arrived at the HFA.

Although our main goal is to preserve film, we like to preserve as much of the surrounding ephemera as possible because it can give us more information about the film, and is often just plain cool in its own right.  Local film lab cans can help us understand more about the film.  For instance, we are currently working on a collection of home movies from all over the country.  They are not always well labeled, and didn’t come to us from the person who shot them (the collector was buying them on ebay, etc.).   Knowing they were processed at Cheskis Photo Center in Philadelphia leads us to believe the filmmaker lived nearby.

I should point out here that not everyone took their film to a local concern.  Many were sent in small mailers directly to Kodak, and returned in Kodak yellow boxes with the address of the filmmaker hand written on the label.

Local film can lids are no longer being made (we assume) although local filmmakers carry on.  These days, just about everybody sends their film out through a website, and the film returns to them in more disposable packaging.  Nowadays packaging doesn’t tell us much about the filmmaker.

UPDATE: We’ve made a flickr group so you can add your own lids.

 

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unidentified artist identified!

Hello!  We are processing a collection that includes a lot of home movies, which is very exciting.  The person who collected these films bought home movies on ebay and other venues, so their point of origin is sometimes unknown.

The home movie in question today seems to have been shot in the vicinity of Keene, NH and points north, ca. 1931.

Do you recognize this sculptress or the bust she is working on?

(edited, 8/26/14 )

I wrote to the Saint-Gaudens national historic site, and they identified the artist.

The woman depicted is Frances Grimes (1869-1963) who was a long-time assistant first to Herbert Adams and then to Augustus Saint-Gaudens. She lived in New York City, but retained housing (usually rented) here in Cornish as well. She was a Trustee of the Saint-Gaudens Memorial founded by Mrs. Saint-Gaudens after her husband’s death in 1907. I believe she is working on one of the Platt daughters. ” ~ Henry J. Duffy, Ph.D.,Museum Curator

 

 

NE home movie sculptress

Leader Ladies!

Projectionists and lab folk have long loved the ladies (and occasional gentlemen) who appear in most films, but are seldom seen onscreen.  Even when they are, they are only there for a split second, as usually they are printed in 4 frames (24 frames per second).

Nine Lives leader lady

Leader Ladies (more widely known as China Girls), have been used since at least the 1920s in color or density test frames made by labs to assure standardization of print quality.  In the image above, you’ll see the greyscale at the bottom of the frame.  Lab QC uses the greyscale to check the quality of their prints.

Most films used a standardized leader lady, Kodak’s LAD, but as you can see from our pictures and from others posted, there is quite a variety out there.

When I was a projectionist (ca. 1993-2003), my fellow projectionists and I collected these ladies, sometimes only one frame, from 35mm prints we showed.  We planned to make a film of them, but never quite got it together.  (We had never, by the way, heard the term China Girl, and when we did, assumed it was some Asian-lady fetishistic thing, which didn’t really add up considering the few Asian faces in these test frames.)

Back in 2005, the HFA’s former Film Conservators, Julie Buck and Karin Segal, made GIRLS ON FILM, an experimental film utilizing these lovely leader ladies.

You have perhaps seen them in the end credits (skip ahead to 2:25) of Tarentino’s brilliant GRINDHOUSE (leave it to Tarentino to put these faces on the BIG screen!).  After this film came out, we got a phone call from someone in the UK whose mother’s face appeared.  He was pretty thrilled!  There’s also a French film collage online, also using Chick Habit as the soundtrack!

Leader Ladies are all the rage these days among archivists.  Our friends at Northwest Chicago Film Society have been doing the best work with these gals, but others have delved into their world.

My favorites were always these weird 90s ones that look like Thunderbirds mannequins.

We are posting pix of Leader Ladies when we find good ones.  Keep your eyes on our flickr album!

 

 

 

 

Robert Flaherty’s lost Irish Gaelic film found at Harvard

Documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty directed the first film made in the Irish language, Oidhche Sheanchais (“A Night of Storytelling”) in 1935 during the production of his now classic film Man of Aran.

Cited in nearly every history of Irish cinema, this short (11 minute) film has been missing, believed lost, since a fire destroyed the only known copies in 1943. A nitrate print of the film, purchased by the Harvard College Library in 1935 at the request of Harvard’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures, was rediscovered by Houghton Library curators during a cataloging update in 2012.

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Oidhche Sheanchais, a fascinating distillation of Flaherty’s belief in cinema as a kind of folkloric art, depicts a typical Irish hearth, where the main cast members of Man of Aran sit, listening to an ancient tale told by famed Seanchaí (storyteller) Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin. Oidhche Sheanchais is Flaherty’s first work in direct sound and the first “talkie” in Irish Gaelic. It was filmed in the same London studio where the Man of Aran cast had already gathered for the recording of post-synch sound.

OIDCHE SHEANCHAUS fireside scene one frame with perfs

The Harvard Film Archive, in collaboration with Houghton Library, the Celtic department and Harvard’s Office of the Provost, has preserved Oidhche Sheanchais on 35mm film and digital formats.  The film had a short run in Ireland and was never subtitled in English. Harvard has had the film translated and both subtitled and non-subtitled versions will be available.

2 OIDCHE SHEANCHAUS title card one frame

Today (July 3), the new 35mm subtitled print has its premiere at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna—one of the most prestigious showcases for rediscovered and restored films—with introductions by Harvard Film Archive Director Haden Guest and Irish Film Institute Head of Irish Film Programming Sunniva O’Flynn.

We are grateful for everyone who helped make this exciting project possible, and hope you come see the film when we screen it on the big screen!  The film will be available for loan as 35mm or DCP once it has had its Harvard premiere.  Stay tuned!

OIDCHE SHEANCHAUS boy on floor one frame with perfs