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Streaming vintage video is easy on new MIRC site

Jul 24, 2012 7:19 AM

Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) has unveiled a new digital repository at that lets the public stream MIRC film and video collections quickly, easily and at no cost to the user. The site is a rich resource for students, scholars, historians, filmmakers and anyone interested in viewing vintage film.

MIRC, which is part of the University of South Carolina Libraries, is home to several film collections, including the Fox Movietone News Collection, Chinese Film Collection, Roman Vishniac Science Film Collection, Science and Nature Films, and Regional Film Collections.

The new site was designed to fulfill the preservation and access functions that are central to any moving image archive, said Heather Heckman, MIRC assistant director.

“Ease of access for users was foremost,” she said. “Our primary goal for Phase I of the Digital Video Repository project was to give people access to more videos in a faster, easier and more rational way. Every film added to the site is accompanied by a revised and expanded catalog record, designed to improve findability.”

Ultimately, MIRC plans to make all of its collections available through the Digital Video Repository site. Several hundred film clips from the Fox Movietone Collection alone are already up on the new site and available to stream. Users can watch newsfilm footage that documents both major milestones and ordinary moments of the 20th century, from aviation milestones of the 1920s to early sound recordings of prominent writers like George Bernard Shaw, from World War II to Vietnam, and from the rising cost of candy after the Great War to folk music performances during the Great Depression. They can explore the home movie collections of the famous country music husband-and-wife team Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman, as well as those of famous South Carolinians like Anna and Archer Huntington. They can watch Roman Vishniac’s psychedelic recordings of microscope life, sample animation from the People’s Republic of China, or consult oral histories by female veterans.

Phase II of the project, which will kick off later this year, emphasizes preservation of the films.

“Digital video preservation is a challenge, but it’s an increasingly important one,” Heckman said. “The Digital Video Repository will store high-resolution digital surrogates for the films in MIRC’s care. This protects the fragile originals, which MIRC will continue to store in temperature- and humidity-controlled vaults. The surrogates will be stored according to best practices for digital preservation, ensuring that they will be available for decades to come.”

The highest priority collection for MIRC to digitize and make available to the public is the entire Fox Movietone News Collection. A fundraising effort to make that happen is underway now.