Category Archives: educational films

Attention – film inspector!

A sticker on the lid of a red film canister reads: help! each foot of scratched film costs 35 cents. Please wind carefully.

We recently found the following urgent calls for help while processing a 16mm film collection. The collection contains many educational and instructional films. One can only hope the cards reached sympathetic librarians and classroom teachers, and not distracted AV kids (you know who you are!)

Based on the good condition of these films, it looks like the caretakers heeded the advice and treated each print with the TLC they deserved.


A form for alerting film distributors if a film needs extra care.

This was by far the most frequent form uncovered in this collection.


A form for providing information on a specific film print.

Many of the forms contained blank fields for both librarians and film inspectors. Often, the tasks of collection development, care, and screenings, were performed by one person, who may or may not have been trained to handle film.



An inspection form for the Heartland Film Library

Collective “weeding” and collection management.


A notice requesting borrowers to rewind film.

We must admit: not all the films arrived without a fair share of tape splices.


A form provided for documentation of film damage.

Sometimes, you have to be explicit!


A card giving instructions on what to do if film breaks.

Note the enthusiastic question marks!!!! Below: the pink card in question.


A hand designed note card with blank lines for indicating film damage.

Yes — the film “reels” do look just like hamburgers.


A printed card with blank lines to indicate film damage.

Check out the progression from hand-penned to sleek computer graphics on this form.


A form for removing unwanted or unusable films from a collection.

More on collective management of the film collections.

The value of educational shorts: artifacts of the age


Technicolor ad from 1967 Business Screen Magazine courtesy of the Media History Digital Library

We are currently working on a collection which includes many educational and classroom shorts. These films came from a collector, who is said to have watched one film, on film, every day (a collector after our own hearts.) Although often treated as humorous in today’s social context, short educational films from the mid-century and beyond hold great cultural value in what they reveal about shifting American social values and cultural norms.
Major distributors for educational films recently found in this collection include Coronet Films, known for their personal guidance shorts, which instructed youth on social practices. Coronet shorts from the Beginning Responsibility series encountered in this collection reveal the push for balance through behavior modification in post WWII America.


Courtesy A/V Geeks and…


Titles from Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corporation and Journal Films in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s reveal the growing values of science, technology and innovation in the classroom environment: Osmosis and Diffusion, Cavitation and Orbital Shapes and Paths.

The late 1960’s and 1970’s introduce a more relaxed viewpoint on behavior and social roles with films such as Naturally…a Girl (Association-Sterling Films) and Every Family is Special (Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corporation.)
Some of the most interesting (read: quirky) educational films in this collection come from the Moody Institute of Science. Part of the Moody Bible Institute, the Moody Institute of Science was founded in San Francisco by Irwin A. Moon (Dr. Moon) in 1938 to forward the Moody Institute’s evangelical message. The films, introduced as “A Sermon from Science,” present scientific concepts with a didactic Creationist spin. The films, which often starred Moon as a narrator or participant in experiments, range in titles from subtle (Blind as a Bat) to over the top (God of the Atom.)


Courtesy of…



collections update: Somerville High School Collection

Today we are pleased to announce that the finding aid for the Somerville High School Collection of 16mm educational films is now available online.

Somerville High School Collection, ca. 1939-1989: Guide

Consisting of 385 educational films produced for classroom use between 1939 and 1989, the Somerville High School Collection provides a representative sample of the subjects and genres of educational media used in classrooms during this period. Though collected by Somerville High School, the films are aimed at students from primary grades through high school and cover a variety of subjects including art, math, music, science, health, and social studies. A highlight of the collection is the Screen News Digest series, consisting of newsreels highlighting current and historically significant events between 1958 and 1979.

A number of the films are available online (see links in finding aid), but for everything else, prints can be viewed on-site at our conservation center.  See our research policies for more info.

Click here to watch and read about one of the gems of the collection, “Monkey Tale,” an unusual film from New Zealand containing amusing and effective illustrations of both the safe and dangerous ways to ride a bicycle. The demonstrations are performed by a family of monkeys!

Mongrels, Marsupials, and Morality: Lessons in Loving and Loss from the Somerville High School Collection

This is a guest post from our inimitable fall intern, Tricia Patterson!

As the fall intern at the HFA, I have been processing the Somerville High School Collection of educational films for the past two months. The themes range from career guidance to proper hygiene maintenance to current events (or, well, past events now), with many gems embedded throughout the collection. Some films are dry, others hokey and outmoded in their messages, and many are relevant and informative, if not modern. But I have been surprised to find a few pretty sophisticated and rather touching tales among them as well.


Filmmakers have a whole arsenal of tools they can employ to tug at their audience’s heartstrings. Where some use spousal demise as an anchor for their message, others tap out moral codes through stories of dashed hopes and dreams. But where only specific demographics may be able to relate closely to those circumstances, all ages and walks of life can relate to having affection for an animal and the potential tragedy of losing that creature. So it makes sense that it would be a most effective vehicle for an emotional education film that needs to be understood by children.


I was able to locate a quite a few of the films online and have chosen two particularly tear-jerky tales. This first one, Clown, had me in tears from just the synopsis in our record. Its French provenance has no bearing on its watchability because it’s silent, though scored, and you get lots of charming Parisian scenery. If you want to teach your student, child, friend – heck, anyone – about what it means to be truly altruistic and the significance of sacrifice, this is the film for you! The short was a very popular educational film distributed stateside by the prolific Learning Corporation of America. It is directed by Richard Balducci and stars a young (and oh so adorable) Gillou Petellier, who very sweetly and simply delivers the role of Clown’s adolescent caretaker and best friend.…


Me and You, Kangaroo had me a little stunned after I read the synopsis, thinking, “Uhhh… this seems like kinda rough material to show to a kid…” But it did win Australia’s Best Children’s Film Award (it’s an Australian short) and the American Film Festival’s “Cine Golden Eagle Award.” Like Clown, it is also about the nobility of sacrifice in the name of love, though to me it more strongly resembles the progeny of The Fox and the Hound and Wake in Fright. Me and You, Kangaroo is directed by Bert Salzman and stars John Latham, Brett Way… and a cute (unjustly uncredited) kanga!


Hope you enjoy the films – consider these your emotional vitamins for the day!