The National Film Registry and the Director’s Cut of “Take This Hammer”

In 1988, the National Film Preservation Board was established to identify films for preservation in the Library of Congress. Every year, the Board advises the Librarian of Congress on the selection of up to 25 “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films” for the National Film Registry (NFR) to increase awareness for preservation and protect America’s rich and diverse film heritage.

Over 600 films have been added to the Registry since its creation, including Hollywood classics, orphan films, newsreels, independent and experimental films, short subjects, serials, home movies, documentaries, and more. While the Film Preservation Board and the Librarian of Congress officially choose the films, they consider public nominations when deliberating. You can learn more about nominating films for the NFR here.

Two films from the MIRC collections have been added to the NFR to date. In 2003, Fox Movietone News outtakes of the Jenkins Orphanage Band was selected. Filmed in 1928, this newsreel footage is the earliest extant sound recording of one of the country’s most important jazz “incubators.” In 2012, the Board added Scott Nixon’s The Augustas, a Augustassignificant record of mid-century Americana. Filmed in the 1930s and 1940s by a traveling salesman from Georgia, this home movie features a variety of American cities and towns named Augusta. MIRC continues to advocate for valuable films in the collection that have not yet made it onto the Registry, including these Fox Movietone News outtakes of New York street scenes and noises.

The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress works with the studios, independent filmmakers, or institutions to find the best film elements of each chosen title and conserve them under optimal conditions. In some cases, the films have already been preserved. Inclusion in the Registry can also increase the chances for archives to acquire funding for physical preservation of the film. For this reason, a San Francisco archive is working to have a culturally important film in their holdings added to the Film Registry.

400px-TvarchiveThe San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive at San Francisco State University contains over 4000 hours of local newsfilm, documentaries, and other programs. Part of the J. Paul Leonard Library’s Department of Special Collections, the SFBATV maintains materials donated by broadcasters, production companies, and private individuals for preservation as academic resources.

You can learn more about the archive and its work to preserve the San Francisco Bay area’s audio-visual heritage in this short film.

Alex2SF State University’s film archivist Alex Cherian has spent the last few years diligently viewing, reviewing, cataloging, and digitizing the collections to make them freely available online for researchers, students, and film aficionados. He has uncovered many gems in his time as archivist, and is currently advocating for the addition of his most recent find to the NFR. This new discovery is the Director’s Cut TTHof the 1963 documentary film Take this Hammer, which follows writer James Baldwin as he investigates race relations in San Francisco. Thanks to Alex, you can watch the film here.

February 4th, 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of the first television broadcast of the film and an event is being organized in San Francisco to mark the occasion.

BaldwinThe film is currently being used by filmmakers in the Bayview Hunters Point community (one of the neighborhoods Baldwin visited) to produce oral histories. Modern audiences continue to find the film relevant to their experience today and it has even been used to teach college seminars in a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.

I asked Alex how he came across this film:

 “Take this Hammer was passed to us by KQED (local PBS affiliate) in the 1980s. It was in a can labeled ‘silent.’ When I checked this 16mm print in 2013, I saw it had an optical soundtrack and was 15 minutes longer than all the other prints we had of Take this Hammer. When we first remastered the print I got really excited because it contained scenes that weren’t in the TV broadcast edit.

In 2012 director Richard O. Moore was interviewed by a TV Archive production team. He explained that he was forced to cut 15 minutes from his original edit by the KQED Board of Directors, some of whom felt it was ‘inflammatory, distorted, sacrilegious.’ The rough n’ ready end credits on this 59 minute print confirmed our suspicion that this was the uncut, original version of his film.”

You can learn more about Take This Hammer in this making-of video, or read about it here.

Your voice can make a difference. Contact the National Film Preservation Board to nominate this film (or others) for addition to the National Film Registry. One email can help to preserve a significant part of our shared culture for future generations.

Written by Lydia Pappas, MIRC Assistant Director and Curator

10th Chinese Film Festival -The Monkey King on Film

MKUpdated with screening information for February 17th!

The 10th Chinese Film Festival is upon us, and this year’s theme is the Monkey King and the Chinese traditional literary story “Journey to the West.” The Nickelodeon Theatre will host the screenings every Monday evening in February. Come and join the Monkey King on his magical adventures!

The Chinese Film Festival is sponsored by the Confucius Institute and co-sponsored by the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections and the Nickelodeon Theatre. This event, now in its tenth installment, celebrates the Chinese New Year and aims to introduce classic and modern Chinese films to the South Carolina community.

Schedule of films:

Monkey King Conquers the Demon — 5:30pm Monday, February 3rd                                                                                                                                        

MK-Conquers_DemonThis animation is the story of the “Journey to the West” (Xi You Ji) from the second part, which tells the tale of Monkey King Sun Wu-Kong, holy Monk Tang, pigsy monk Zhu Ba-Jie and faithful monk Sha Wu-Jing, who must retrieve the Buddhist sutras. The Female White Bone Devil, who wants to eat Monk Tang, appears to them three times under human form but Wu-Kong unmasks her and kills the human forms. However Monk Tang misunderstands the monkey and punishes him driving him away to his birthplace, the Hua Guo Mountain. Meanwhile, Tang and his disciples are cheated again by the Devil in the false Tian Wang Temple. View the trailer.

This is a FREE archive screening that will show a film from MIRC’s Chinese Film Collection

Studio:  Shanghai Animated Film Studio; Director: TE Wei, YAN Dingxian; Language: Chinese with English subtitles; Genre: Animated Film; Release Date: 1985

The Forbidden Kingdom — 5:30pm Monday, February 10th                                                                              

Forbidden_KingdomThis Chinese-American martial arts film stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The film is loosely based on the novel Journey to the West and is the first film to star two of the best-known names in the martial arts film genre. The film features a discovery made by a kung fu obsessed American teen, which sends him on an adventure to China, where he joins up with a band of martial arts warriors in order to free the imprisoned Monkey King. View the trailer.

Studio: Casey Silver Productions, Lions Gate, Huayi Brothers; Director: Rob Minkoff; Cast: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano; Language: Chinese with English subtitles; Genre: Martial Arts/Action; Release Date: 2008

Journey to the West-Conquering the Demons — 5:30pm Monday February 17th                                                                                                                                  

journey_to_westThe film is a loose comedic re-interpretation of the novel by director Stephen Chow, well known for his film, Kung-Fu Hustle. It is made as a prequel to the story, Journey to the West, and imagines what happened to the Monk before he gains his disciples and embarks on his journey. This story centers on Tang Sanzang, a Buddhist trying to protect a village from three demons, and his emerging feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who helps him repeatedly.  Sanzang asks the Monkey King for help to conquer the demons. View the trailer.

Studio: Bingo Movie Development, Huayi Brothers, China Film Group; Director: Stephen Chow, Chi-kin Kwok; Cast: SHU Qi, WEN Zhang, HUANG Bo; Language: Chinese with English subtitles; Genre: Action/Comedy; Release Date: 2013

Birth of Monkey King — 5:30pm Monday, February 24th (Q&A with the director)

Birth_of_MKThis is a story about courage and power, which shows the birth of Monkey King and his later adventures. Born from a stone on Spring Mountain and given the title of Handsome Monkey King, Monkey King seeks to learn the secret of eternal life. Under the tutelage of the Buddhist Master Puti, Monkey King becomes incredibly powerful, but his hubris grows until he runs afoul of the gods, who dispatch an army to Spring Mountain to subdue the Monkey King, who has declared himself the “Emperor of Heaven.”

This FREE film screening will conclude with a Q&A session with director Hansen Liang.

Studio: Yuan Cheng Video Broadcast Company; Director: Hansen Liang; Language: Chinese with English subtitles; Genre: Animated Film; Release Date: 2009

Prohibition Era Footage at MIRC

This year is the 94th anniversary of the start of Prohibition in the United States. This imposed national ban on alcohol remained in effect until 1933. The illegal activity that resulted, paired with the music, culture, decadence, and new technology of the raucous era known as the “Roaring Twenties,” make this an unforgettable period in American history. The 18th Amendment outlawed the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors,” as well the importation and exportation of booze to or from the country. The amendment was carried out under the National Prohibition Act (commonly known as the Volstead Act), which defined “intoxicating liquors” as any drink that contained more than .5% alcohol by volume.

Moving Image Research Collections contains a wealth of Prohibition era footage, including newsreels and outtakes from the Fox Movietone News Collection, as well as home movies. Several pieces from MIRC were featured in Ken Burns’ popular documentary series, Prohibition, and a variety of our materials from this remarkable period are available to view online at MIRC’s Digital Video Repository.

Moonshine StillThe alcohol ban proved difficult to enforce, but raiding the facilities manufacturing the illegal substance was a common publicity tactic. Newsreel outtakes filmed on June 19, 1929 document the outcome of a raid on a particular moonshine still. Bottles and barrels of whiskey are destroyed in the street while a crowd gathers and broken glass piles up on the curb. One bystander tries to use his hands to drink the liquor flowing down the gutter toward the sewer, but is almost immediately stopped by the sheriff.

Road RaidIn these outtakes from a staged Fox Movietone News story filmed in 1929, federal prohibition agents stop a vehicle on the road to search it for alcohol. The agents tear the Model T apart while looking for hidden contraband. Note the multiple takes of the agents “testing” the contents of a bottle found in the vehicle. Their efforts drain the jug almost completely.

Rum Runner

An example of the maritime enforcement of Prohibition, these Fox News outtakes show the aftermath of the capture of a rum runner carrying scotch whiskey. Perhaps unexpectedly, there is a feeling of playfulness in this footage, as seen in the staged shot where a stevedore jokingly tries to drink from one of the confiscated bottles before an agent takes it away, smiling.

Adams, Nova ScotiaIn contrast to the newsreels, amateur films at MIRC illustrate some of the more personal experiences of Prohibition. In this home movie from the Frederick C. Adams collection, shot sometime around 1930, Mr. and Mrs. Adams take a trip to Nova Scotia with friends. As the ship leaves Boston, a Coast Guard vessel designated CG-17 can be seen. This was one of several vessels loaned by the US Navy for Rum Patrol duties during Prohibition. These ships sought to prevent alcoholic beverages from entering the country by sea. While in Canada, the four travelers gladly partake in some Baty’s Glencastle Brand Scotch Whisky.

Adams, bar partyAlso from the Adams collection, this home movie documents a private party from 1926, and was one of several MIRC pieces featured in Ken Burns’ Prohibition. In the footage (which starts at about 7:30 in the video), revelers drink, sing, and dance together. It is important to note that during prohibition the consumption of alcohol was not outlawed. It was legal to retain and privately drink any alcoholic beverage obtained prior to January 17, 1920, and many took advantage of this loophole. Especially in the upper classes, individuals stocked up on wine and liquors before the ban went into effect. In some cases, the stock was enough to last throughout the entire dry period.

These are just a few of the many examples at MIRC that illustrate the far-reaching effects of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act. For more information, or to view additional footage, email

*This post was written with input from several sources, including Last Call, by Daniel Okrent.

Donation Stories: Stephanie Wilds on the Phelps Sisters Collection

Phelps World Cruise

Decades later, it is difficult to know exactly how involved either sister was in the creation of each film, but in most cases it is assumed they worked together in close collaboration.

In 1992, Stephanie Wilds donated a collection of 35mm and 16mm home movies shot and edited by her great-aunt and grandmother, Claudia Lea Phelps and Eleanor Phelps Wilds, to the Moving Image Research Collections. Fixtures of Aiken, SC society, the sisters were avid travelers who circumnavigated the globe in the 1920s. Claudia Lea was a sportswoman and well known for breeding West Highland terriers. Eleanor was a dedicated philanthropist and active in local politics. These films document the sisters’ vibrant social lives both at home in South Carolina, and abroad in their world travels. More information about the history of the Phelps family can be found at the website created by Ellen Wilds, Stephanie Wilds’ sister.

In 2011, Ms. Wilds donated additional materials from the Phelps family, including slides, glass slides, photographic prints, photo equipment, manuscript materials, and more films. The photos, slides, and manuscripts are located at the University’s South Caroliniana Library, and the collection at MIRC now includes nearly 14,000 feet of film—approximately five hours worth of watchable material.

Sailboats, Dogs, Girl Scouts

Still from a Phelps home movie compilation from 1922-1923. Includes footage of vacations, Girls Scouts, outdoor recreation, dogs, and horses.

At the time of Ms. Wilds’ gift in 1992, USC and the Phelps family already had a relationship going back several decades. Claudia Lea Phelps donated a collection of books of botanical interest that belonged to her mother, Mrs. Sheffield Phelps, in 1959. The core of the collection is composed of virtually every significant book published on the camellia, Mrs. Phelps’ personal gardening interest. The materials are housed in in the Irvin Department of Rare Books in the Thomas Cooper Library.

Below, Ms. Wilds provides some insight into the reasons behind donating a home movie collection, and the importance of keeping her family mementoes in the same institution.

 Over the past several decades, various collections belonging to my family have been donated to USC, ranging from my great grandmother’s Camellia Folios to travel diaries belonging to my great aunt and grandmother [Claudia Lea Phelps and Eleanor Phelps Wilds].  I knew that the portion of the family archives that I had inherited (including films, diaries, glass slides, photographs, and other artifacts) was key to tying together all the collections. With these materials in place at USC, anyone researching almost any aspect of the Phelps family would have everything available in one, safe place. Reuniting the travel films with the travel diaries was especially important to me.

Crossing the Line

Still from home movie shot during the around the world cruise that depicts the ceremony performed when crossing the equator, 1923.

The travel diaries described by Ms. Wilds include two volumes compiled by Eleanor Phelps Wilds that document the sisters’ 1922-1923 world tour. Around the World by the S.S. Laconia Book 1 and Book 2 reside in the South Caroliniana Library. The diaries can be viewed online as part of a Digital Collection that makes diary entries, photographs, maps, and souvenirs searchable by type or location. The digital collection also links to a film from the trip available for viewing at MIRC’s video repository. By virtually uniting manuscript, photographic, and moving image collections—all of which demand different types of archival expertise for their care—the university can illuminate the historical practice of dedicated amateurs working in multiple media and connect the history of South Carolina to the world. As Ms. Wilds as puts it:

 For two decades I had been intending to ‘do something’ with these materials, and had, instead, let them languish in a cupboard. It was time to reunite them with the other Phelps materials, making them both publicly available, and safely and responsibly cared for.

The home movies are now stored in climate-controlled vaults that will extend the life of the films, protecting them from the damage caused by hot and humid South Carolina summers. Since the donation, 15 of the films have been digitized and placed in MIRC’s Digital Video Repository, facilitating access for scholars, as well as friends and family members.

 [Friends and family] are amused, delighted, and amazed to see the materials after all these years, and realize they would never have been able to see them without the incredible work that USC has done to make them available.  They have also been inspired to make their own donations.

According to Ms. Wilds, even she had not seen all of the films before gifting them to the university.

 Some I had seen before, and some I hadn’t.  I am pleased to be able to see the films and other materials of my family, and, more importantly I know these materials are in the right place, in the right hands. They are being cared for, and are also accessible to me if ever I want to work with them again. It was the right choice.

Scandinavia, Aiken

Still from a Phelps home movie shot during a trip to Scandinavia, and on a South Carolina plantation.

This is a remarkable collection that vividly details local South Carolina life alongside diverse global locales in the first half of the 20th century. Moving Image Research Collections would like to thank Ms. Wilds for the generous donation of her great-aunt and grandmother’s extraordinary films, and for taking the time to write about her donation experience.

“Always Coming Home” Project Gives Female Veterans a Voice

In honor of Veteran’s Day we are highlighting films from the Always Coming Home project collection, a series of oral history interviews with female veterans. Cathy Brookshire, creator of the project and the documentary Soldier Girl, tells us a bit about how the project got started.

In 2010 the USC Classics in Contemporary Perspectives, a multi-disciplinary group of faculty and graduate students of which I was a member, was looking at Homer’s The Odyssey, and discussing the eerie similarities between the emotional and mental issues soldiers returning to the US were facing and those of Homer’s Odysseus.  Out of that discussion was born the idea of the 4 day Nostos Conference, an international conference held at USC in March, 2011.

Interviewee Susan Cusson

Hunter Gardner of the English Dept. and I offered to put together a “theatrical experience” for the Conference. I spent hours researching the subject of returning soldiers; listening to interviews, reading articles, and watching news stories.  One day, as I was listening to a lengthy interview with a male veteran, it suddenly occurred to me that out of all those voices, all those stories, all those articles, not one mentioned women veterans. Out of that peculiar silence was born the idea of giving women veterans a chance to talk about their experiences, to tell their stories.

We were profoundly lucky early on when James Henderson of the Media Arts program agreed to be our cameraman.  He has spent countless hours of near invisibility behind his camera as he and I interviewed one female veteran after another in Columbia, Charleston, and Beaufort, SC.

Interviewee Mary Rock

With the help of Lee Ann Kornegay, our film editor, Hunter and I created Soldier Girl, a 29 minute documentary structured to suggest the diverse motives of women entering the service, the experiences that these women have while deployed, and the opportunities and setbacks they face upon return to civilian life. Short interviews are interspersed with archival photos and film.  The film débuted at the Nostos Conference, and has since been screened by veterans groups, military mental health organizations, at numerous conferences, and was chosen for several screenings during the 2012 Indie Grits Film Festival.  Soldier Girl is available for viewing through MIRC.

 Always Coming Home: The American Female Veteran Experience was created shortly after the Conference as more and more women veterans contacted us asking to be interviewed.  What was once meant to be a short film is now a long term documentary project designed to acknowledge and give a public voice to women veterans whose return to civilian life has been affected by diverse combat and service situations but who have had little opportunity to share their experiences with the public.

In 2010 our project won a major grant from the Humanities Council SC and a University of South Carolina Promising Investigators Award, and, in 2012, a grant from the University of South Carolina Center for Digital Humanities. 

Interviewee Myra Reichert

Always Coming Home continues to videotape interviews with women veterans from all over the United States, all branches of service, who have served from WWII through today. Interviews generally run about 30 minutes, although some run longer than two hours. The interviews offer women veterans a time and place to reflect on their reasons for entering service, what life was like for them while serving, and how things have gone for them as veterans. Participating veterans share their experiences with the knowledge that their stories will be archived, preserved, and made available to the general public, filmmakers, researchers, historians, and mental and physical health personnel.  We have already collected close to 50 hours of interviews with female veterans, their families, and military mental health personnel. Interview transcripts are available for free at our website.

 In collaboration with the Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) at the University of South Carolina, we are digitally preserving the project’s full length interviews as well as related private and professional footage donated to the archive by the public.

“In hindsight I probably should have spoken out long, long ago. In my day, I was a pioneer simply because I was female…Today’s military woman is fully integrated into every aspect of the military, no longer unusual and serving combat roles. Yet, they are as much pioneers as we were since they are the first to transition [to] combat experiences that men have always dealt with. And their peer group to draw support from is much, much more restricted. I am genuinely pleased your project gives them a voice and proud to have contributed in some way.” Susan Jarvie, US Air Force 1976-1982 (March 26, 2010)

Currently, MIRC has made several of these interviews available for online viewing at our Digital Video Repository. We at MIRC would like to thank all the female vets who shared their stories, and Cathy Brookshire for all her hard work on the project and for contributing to this blog. For more information or to view other interviews in the collection, contact us at

MIRC Newsreels Featured in The Roaring ’Twenties

For anyone who has ever wondered what the famous “roar” of the 1920s might have sounded like, The Roaring ’Twenties can help with the answer. Emily Thompson, a historian at Princeton, created the interactive project that documents the aural history of New York City in the vibrant 1920s and early 1930s. In the first few decades of the 20th century, the city was beginning to deal with the relatively new problem of excessive noise and the inevitable complaints that followed. The Roaring ’Twenties uses a variety of media, including documented noise complaints, contemporary newspaper articles, and Fox Movietone newsreels from MIRC to piece together the sounds of the city as it moved from the high life of the 1920s into the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In the introduction, Thompson describes the website as a “sonic time machine” that allows people to engage with “a place and time defined by its din.” Visitors to the site can browse using the Sound, Space, or Time buttons, which organize the various complaints, newsreels, and articles by type, geographic location, or date.

MIRC contributed fifty-four newsreels from the large archive of early sound footage in the Fox Movietone News collection. The first company to incorporate sound into its newsreels, Fox Movietone utilized an unusual recording system that created variable density optical sound tracks on the same strip of film that captured the corresponding images. This system ensured the original sound and images would remain paired together, over eight decades later.

Because image and audio in the Movietone footage are inherently linked, The Roaring ’Twenties offers not just the sounds of the decade, but the sights as well. One newsreel documents the streets of New York as the truck winds through Times Square, capturing not just noises, but the look of the people on the sidewalks, the cars in the road, and the theater marquees. Another video actually features the Noise Abatement Commission mentioned so often on the site. Toward the end of 1929, Movietone cameramen filmed a team from the commission measuring the “deafening effect” of the noise in Times Square. In yet another clip from 1928, visitors can watch a carnival barker at Coney Island “levitate” a woman as he yells to the passing crowd. The variety of footage, shot all over the city, represents the different aspects of life at the time. Sirens, music, early automobiles, construction sounds, and the bustle of the crowds are just some of the noises waiting to be discovered.

MIRC Newsfilm Curator Dr. Greg Wilsbacher was happy to work with Thompson on the project: “It’s rewarding to see the Fox collection used in such an innovative piece of scholarship.  I’m learning more about these early sound films by viewing them in this new context.”

Thompson partnered with Scott Mahoy to develop the website over several years, publishing it with the online journal Vectors at the University of Southern California. Unsurprisingly, The Roaring ’Twenties has already generated lots of buzz, with articles showing up on NPR and the New York Times websites. 

Home Movie Day a Smashing Success

Preservation table with examples of degraded film.

Columbia’s Home Movie Day event, hosted by Moving Image Research Collections and the Nickelodeon Theatre this past Saturday, was a great success. Over fifty people attended the screening, MIRC staff answered numerous questions about the proper care and storage of film and video, and there was even an onsite donation of 8mm films to the archive. The Nickelodeon supplied awards and door prizes.

During the morning screening, where guests were welcome to come and go at their leisure, home movies from the MIRC collections were shown. There was an assortment of films from multiple families, shot across the United States and abroad.

The afternoon brought a juried program of local submissions, with the winning film earning preservation in the MIRC vaults. The three jurors, University of South Carolina professor of Film and Media Studies Mark Cooper, PhD candidate in Public History Jen Taylor, and Nickelodeon programming director Janell Rohan selected a home movie depicting the 1962 forced integration of the University of Mississippi for its historical value. SLIS student Jennifer Gunter submitted the footage on behalf of family friends.

The Childers family won the audience favorite award for their submission of the VHS home movie, “Rhubarb Pie,” in which a young man questions his family about their dessert choices, and asks his sibling rather more existential questions such as, “why are you the way you are?” 

Post production specialist Brittany Braddock inspecting 8mm film.

MIRC staff inspected films in the theater lobby and answered questions about home movie preservation. One attendee brought in a small collection of her father’s 8mm home movies and donated the films to MIRC on the spot. The donor says she looks forward to receiving the transfer of the materials that MIRC offers in exchange for donation. A lack of necessary equipment has prevented her from viewing any of the films, at least one of which contains images of her as a child.

A table run by MIRC employees in the nearby Soda City Farmers Market hosted activities for children and informed people about the screenings, drawing in passersby with a sandwich board asking, “What’s Your Edge Code?” Visitors were then encouraged to identify their corresponding edge codes—the symbols on the margins of film that indicate when it was produced—based on their birth year.

Interim Director Heather Heckman demonstrating the use of a cement splicer.

Home Movie Day is popular across the nation because it offers people the opportunity to view and share the footage they have been holding onto, often unseen, for years. The audience filled the theater with laughter and commentary throughout the screenings, lending to the atmosphere the relaxed feeling of watching these films at home with family.

Susan Rathbun-Grubb, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science, was one of the participants who submitted a home movie. “It is hard to explain the sense of wonder you feel when looking at the lives of family members at a time before you were born—seeing them in motion and in color, especially when all you have seen of the time period has been in still, black and white photographs,” Rathbun-Grubb says. “In some ways, Home Movie Day rekindled in me that awe of technology, taking me back in time and giving me that feeling people must have had back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—as sound and image technologies emerged as mainstream entertainment.”

MIRC would like to thank the Nickelodeon Theatre for their generosity in hosting Home Movie Day and providing the prize packs. The Nickelodeon’s participation was an integral part in the success of this year’s event, and MIRC looks forward to continuing the tradition next year. 

Upcoming Screenings and Exhibits

MIRC footage may be coming to a town near you! Look for us this month in Florida, Arkansas, Washington DC, and of course, Columbia, SC. Here’s what you need to know about upcoming screenings and exhibits that highlight material from our collections:

At 5:30 pm on October 16th in the Hollings Library Program Room, Professor Bobby Donaldson, USC PhD candidate Ramon Jackson, and MIRC Newsfilm Curator Greg Wilsbacher will present “Bearing Witness: Documenting Columbia’s Civil Rights History,” a program of film clips drawn from Moving Image Research Collections’ rich Local Television Newsfilm Collections. These rarely-seen moving images bring to life Columbia’s important–but often neglected–role in Civil Rights history. Drawing connections between MIRC’s news footage and archival materials from the South Caroliniana Library, Richland Public Library, the State Newspaper Archives, and personal manuscripts from surviving Civil Rights activists, Donaldson, Jackson & Wilsbacher will tell a nuanced story of the quiet triumphs and sometimes troubling legacies of Columbia past.

Currently on display in the Hollings Special Collections library is an incredible exhibit of materials from a new MIRC collection. “From Omaha to St. Lo: Bob Blair, Movietone and the Battle of Normandy,” reconnects select footage of World War II in the Fox Movietone News Collection with the papers and artifacts of Moving Image Research Collection’s recently acquired Bob Blair Collection. Following the path of Bob Blair from his assignment to the European Theater of Operation, through his arrival on the shores of Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day, to the fall of Cherbourg and the hedgerow battles around St. Lo, the exhibit defines, in space and time, the image-making events of one particular news cameraman during one of the most dramatic periods of the war.

The exhibit, displayed in the Brittain Gallery of the University Libraries’ Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, runs through October 31st.  Special Parents Weekend tours will be held on October 5th at 10:30, 11:30 and 1:30. Learn more about Bob Blair and the new collection here.

For those visiting the new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum, be sure to look for the Amelia Earhart exhibit. The program was created by Richard Lewis Media Group, and includes archival footage of Miss Earhart from the Fox Movietone News collection. Read more about the gallery here.

The golf documentary Before Babe: The Women Who Changed Golf, by Nancy Kapitanoff, also features archival footage from MIRC’s Fox Movietone News collection. The sixteen-minute documentary uses archival footage, photographs, and newspapers to highlight the female golfers of the 1920s who changed the way women played the sport and paved the way for Babe Didrikson Zaharias and the other women who would eventually establish the LPGA.

Before Babe will screen at the Hot Springs Film Festival, October 11-20, as part of the McKinnis Sports Documentary Series. It will also be showing at the Orlando Film Festival Sports Shorts program on October 17th and 18th. For more information, or to view the trailer, visit

Last, but certainly not least, a selection of home movies from the MIRC collections will screen at the Home Movie Day event at the Nickelodeon Theatre on October 19th. The free, family friendly event goes from 9am to 2pm, and will feature archival films from MIRC before a juried screening of local home movie submissions. Details about the event and how to submit a film can be found here.

Moving Image Research Collections at Orphans Midwest

The University of South Carolina will be well represented this month at the Orphans Midwest Film Symposium at Indiana University, September 26-28. Born in South Carolina in 1999 and now based at NYU, the Orphan Film Symposium is a gathering of scholars, archivists, and artists that celebrates moving images produced outside the commercial mainstream or forgotten by creators and copyright holders. Orphans Midwest is the perfect venue for Moving Image Research Collections to showcase its varied treasures, and this year there will be several presentations from MIRC and USC faculty and staff.

On Friday, the 27th, MIRC Newsfilm Curator Dr. Greg Wilsbacher will debut a new print of the never before released documentary, A Frontier Post, thought to be the only extant motion picture footage of American Buffalo Soldiers in the 1920s.

The film, shot in 1925 by the Fox Film Corporation as an installment of the news magazine Fox Varieties, documented the lives of the Buffalo Soldiers in the 10th Calvary. It was to be called “A Frontier Post,” and over 2700 feet of negative were exposed. The project went through the normal stages of development, resulting in a yellow tinted print ready for final review.  For reasons unknown, the project was cancelled, and the film never shown. Surviving examples of film magazines like Fox Varieties from the silent era are rare, and while never released, A Frontier Post is an excellent example of the news magazine genre.

The twelve-minute documentary is remarkable in its matter of fact portrayal of African Americans engaged in professional soldiering.  Troopers perform reveille, report for inspection, and demonstrate their equestrian skills.  At a time when racial stereotypes were a commonplace on the screen, Fox Varieties’ attempt to produce an honest portrayal of black soldiers is historically significant, even if it was never publicly screened.

A grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation helped to fund restoration work on the 35mm nitrate negative, which led to the creation of a preservation quality release print, tinted yellow to match the original. The new print will premier on Friday night, accompanied by a live performance of a musical score written by Gabriel Gutierrez Arellano.

Dr. Wilsbacher will also give a talk on Friday about the Fox Varieties series, highlighting Frogland, a stop motion animation from France, in addition to A Frontier Post. On Saturday, in a particular treat for Hoosiers, he will introduce a screening of the Fox Movietone footage of the Indiana University graduation from 1929.

In the Thursday session Un-Caging the Orphan: What Intersectionality Can Teach Us About the Educational Role of Orphan Works, MIRC Cataloging Manager Ashley Blewer and Cataloging Assistant Travis Wagner will discuss intersectionality in the context of orphan films.

Still image from The Black Cop

A theory that seeks to bring voice to individuals who are “othered” based on a combination of gender, race, class, and other non-normative identity signifiers, intersectionality can be applied to certain orphan films to uncover and understand the complex levels of oppression faced by disenfranchised groups. As an example, the presentation will highlight a piece from the Spartanburg Police collection, simply titled “The Black Cop.” The film focuses on the experiences of African-American police officers in 1970s New York, dealing with racist pressures from white colleagues on the one hand, and with distrust from peers in the black community on the other. Films from MIRC’s Fox Movietone and home movie collections will also be screened and discussed, creating a narrative of intersectionality as diverse as the very issues brought up with this important theoretical framework.

On Saturday, Dr. Craig Kridel, Professor of Educational Studies and Curator of the University of South Carolina’s Museum of Education, presents a very rare screening of a film from a Humans Relations Series of classroom films produced in the late 1930s. The print forms part of the rich collections of Indiana University Libraries Film Archive.

Given the Orphan Film Symposium’s SC roots, MIRC is especially thrilled with the generous exchange of research and resources between USC, NYU, and IU. This is shaping up to be a fantastic event, and Moving Image Research Collections is proud to be a part of it.

Home Movie Day at The Nick

USC Libraries’ Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) and Nickelodeon Theatre are teaming up to host Columbia’s National Home Movie Day 2013 event. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. October 19, members of the community are invited to attend the free, family-friendly screening at the Nickelodeon, located downtown at 1607 Main Street. Refreshments will be available and prizes will be awarded.

National Home Movie Day is a worldwide celebration of amateur films and filmmaking, held annually in October. The event provides an opportunity for attendees to bring in their own movies for inspection, learn how to care for films and videotapes, discuss how home movies capture history, and actually see films and videos from their local community.

“Home movies have immense cultural and historic value. This year we were very proud, for example, to see Scott Nixon’s amateur film The Augustas added to the National Film Registry,” said Heather Heckman, Interim Director at MIRC. “Even footage that seems mundane when it is originally made — like vacation or holiday films — becomes fascinating with the passage of time.

Their appeal goes beyond just historic value; they are fun, as well.

“Home movies can be utterly charming,” Heckman said. “Who doesn’t enjoy kittens, puppies and kids?”

And it seems only natural to be hosting this year’s event with Nickelodeon.

“We’ve had a number of partnerships with MIRC over the years, and they produce something for our Indie Grits event every year,” said Andy Smith, Nickelodeon’s Executive Director. “It’s always a real treat to work with them.

“With Home Movie Day being a national event, it is fun to bring the celebration to Columbia audiences,” he said. “It’s a free event, so the people who participate will be a real mix. Certainly you’ll have families that bring in their material that they want to watch together, but you’ll also get general film lovers. There aren’t too many events that can bring together lots of different people.”

During Columbia’s Home Movie Day, films from the MIRC collections will play from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and attendees are welcome to join the festivities at any point. An official juried program of films submitted by community members will begin at 12:15 p.m. Door prizes for attendees will be drawn during a brief intermission after the program, and juror and audience awards will be announced at 1:45 p.m. The grand prize-winning movie will be preserved at MIRC and screened in its entirety at next year’s event.

MIRC staff will be on hand throughout the day to inspect attendee films and discuss home movie preservation. Film cameras, projectors and equipment will also be on display. Visitors are encouraged to bring in items for inspection, but anyone wishing to have their movie presented in the program must submit it to MIRC no later than Friday, October 4. Accepted formats are limited to 16mm film and VHS tapes.

The first ten participants to submit will see their home movies on the big screen on October 19th, and will receive one free DVD transfer of their film or video. For longer submissions, MIRC staff may select brief clips for public screening. This year, MIRC also will be accepting up to ten digital submissions until the October 4 deadline. Maximum run time for digital videos is three minutes.

Email MIRC at for more information about electronic submissions.

For more information about Home Movie Day in Columbia, contact Lydia Pappas, MIRC Assistant Director, at or 803-777-3791.