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USC honors Marine Corps veterans, dedicates new vault, scanning center for historic film collection


On Thursday, May 25, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides and Dean of Libraries Thomas McNally dedicated the new Lt. Col. James H. Davis Film Vault and John S. Davis Scanning Center at a ribbon cutting ceremony at University Libraries Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC).

Longtime University Libraries supporters Richard (’80) and Novelle Smith funded the film vault and scanning center, which were named to honor the legacy of Novelle’s cousins, James and John Davis, who were brothers, USC alumni, and served their country with distinction.

Lt. Col. James H. "Jim" Davis (’67) of Jamestown, South Carolina, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967, served two tours in Vietnam, and was awarded three Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars. After retiring, he joined the Dorchester County (S.C.) Sheriff's Department to spearhead its counter-narcotics initiative, and led the emergency response team during the Hurricane Hugo crisis and recovery. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1990, serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His last assignment prior to retiring was as an instructor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College.

John S. Davis (’71) of Kingstree, South Carolina, served seven years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, and was a member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal. He went on to serve as Associate Director at the Columbia Museum of Art, and retired as the Director of Grounds and Arboretum with the College of Charleston.

The vault and scanning center are the first large gifts MIRC has received in support of its U.S. Marine Corps Film Repository project, in which MIRC, in partnership with the History Division at Marine Corps University in Quantico, will steward, save and share a collection of 18,000 historic films documenting 20th century Corps operations.

The collection consists of 1,800 hours of 16 and 35mm film footage of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, as well as peacetime films of training, testing and public relations activities. Most of the films have never been seen by the public.

In 2015 the History Division at Marine Corps University approached MIRC to preserve, digitize and share the film collection that has been stored at Quantico for decades. MIRC is one of the largest and most respected academic film and video archives in the country. Its holdings of rare and historically relevant film are used by well-known documentary filmmakers, historians and scholars worldwide.

“We are doing this because we want to extend our expertise to the Marine Corps as our way of saying thank you for all the Marines do for every American, every day,” said Dean McNally. “We never had a doubt that there would be individuals and groups who would support what we are trying to do.”

Also in attendance at the event were representatives from the U.S. Marine Corps Film Repository Blue Ribbon Committee, including its newest member, Medal of Honor recipient Major General James Livingston, Marine Corps University History Division, Parris Island Historical and Museum Society, South Carolina Marine Corps League H.E. “Speedy” Wilson Detachment, South Carolina Military Museum, South Carolina National Guard, Columbia Chamber, and multiple USC colleges, schools and organizations, who are all working with USC Libraries to raise awareness and support for the project.

MIRC will ultimately develop a freely accessible, online digital film library that students, researchers, historians, veterans and their families can not only watch, but also contribute information to, forming a permanent, crowdsourced repository of Marine Corps history.

MIRC is seeking to raise $2 million to fund the purchase of additional technology, hire staff and provide ongoing support to meet the project goals. The collection will be scanned, digitized and made available online as donations are received.

“We will keep moving forward until every reel of film has been digitized and is on the web, free available for every American, every Marine and every family member of every Marine,” McNally concluded.

To date, MIRC has received from Quantico 3,059 of the anticipated 18,000 film reels, and has inspected, inventoried, rehoused and prepared 1,100 of those reels for digital scanning.

Visit to learn more about or contribute to the project.