Welcome to our News Page, where regular updates will keep you informed about forthcoming events, recent developments, and other LFA news that may be of interest.
A CASE IN POINT
A voice on the phone, clearly somewhat aggrieved: ‘I donated a film to the Archive months ago, but it still isn’t listed on your website. Wasn’t it any good?’
Sorry, but there’s always a time lag between the arrival of a film and its reappearance on the screen. Perhaps the following case history will help to explain why.
We recently accessioned a collection of films that had been stored in a garden shed. Rust and corrosion from the spools and cans had contaminated the films themselves, which needed extensive cleaning. Many of the joins were weak and poorly made, with previous breaks crudely sellotaped together, so a good deal of time had to be spent on repairs. Worse still, when some of the cans were opened, the strong acetic smell alerted us to the type of decay known as vinegar syndrome, which can affect safety film, causing it to warp so severely that the image cannot be kept in focus. Eventually the film shrivels up and disintegrates, so this type of decay can be just as catastrophic as the more familiar problems affecting the old 35mm cellulose nitrate stock.
Sadly, one film was already so badly affected that it couldn’t be saved. The others were at an earlier stage, so it was still possible to copy them. But this was far from straightforward, because the decaying rolls had to be carefully isolated and all equipment used for handling them thoroughly cleaned to prevent any cross-contamination. It’s a bit like nursing a patient infected with plague.
Eventually, despite some focus problems, we were able to make the necessary telecine transfers. It’s always a relief when this stage has been accomplished, though a good deal of further work still remained to be done. Going through the transfers scene by scene, applying corrections, and deleting the blurred frames which older cameras often created at scene changes, was a time-consuming business involving many days of careful and detailed work. It was also necessary to reconstruct some missing or badly damaged titles. Coming at the start of the film, these often get broken off and lost, or wrecked by inexpert projectionists. The overall improvement achieved was certainly worth the trouble, the only drawback being that the better the result, the less aware the audience will be that the work was ever done.
Much the same can be said of sound tracks recorded on the old quarter inch magnetic tape. Some of the films had these, and although the tapes had survived, there was no longer any way of keeping them properly synchronised with the picture. So a good deal of juggling was required to achieve an acceptable match, with numerous small adjustments to be made, and then carefully disguised so that they passed unnoticed.
Taken together, the cleaning and repairs, the transfers and the post-transfer tidying up can take weeks or even months of work, so please be patient. By the way, our spies tell us that some other regional film archives have backlogs of from two to twenty years! So maybe we’re not doing too badly after all.
It’s been another good year, with some delightful new items already added to our catalogue and several more in the pipeline. Of particular interest is South Side Story about the building of the Humber Bridge and its official opening by the Queen in July 1981, a perfect counterpart for our existing film about the paddle steamer ferries which the bridge replaced. Two further films about the paddle steamers have also been accessioned, together with coverage of 1977 Jubilee celebrations in the Grimsby area.
Archaeologists have welcomed a recently discovered film about the excavations made at Templars’ Field near Scunthorpe in the winter of 1983-4. The work was supervised by local museum curators, but all the other participants were volunteers. Though the finds turned out to be of limited significance, the film well illustrates the techniques and general procedures in use at the time.
Five years ago, we accessioned a mixed roll of material showing the 3rd Cleethorpes Scouts, which in edited form has proved very popular at our shows. On one occasion a member of the audience revealed that not only was he an ex-member of the troop but he had in his possession a whole series of similar films by the same cameraman. Clearly the one we already had must somehow have been separated from the others. In due course, he brought us the rest of the original collection, which includes several items of particular interest, including the building of a swimming pool by the boys themselves at the troop’s headquarters in Scartho.
By the end of December 2010, the overall number of titles accessioned by LFA had reached the 700 mark. But several more items are in the pipeline, and the total seems likely to keep on increasing month by month. As explained elsewhere, there is generally some delay before newly accessioned titles appear in our website catalogue, but by all means contact the archivist for details of recent acquisitions that haven’t yet left our workshops.
LINCOLNSHIRE: A CENTURY ON FILM
A major new series of DVDs is now in production, showing life and work in the historic county throughout the 20th Century. Drawing on its extensive motion picture collection, much of it never before made available for home viewing, LFA has set out to present a wide-ranging picture of a hundred years of Lincolnshire life. Town and country, work and play, wealth and poverty, peace and war, youth and age. You’ll find them all in this new series, preserved on archive motion picture film.
Volume One, The New Century, is already available. Written and narrated by Alan Stennett, it covers the century’s early years, with film dating back to as early as 1901. Grimsby trawlermen bringing home their catch; hats and dresses to die for – 1904 style; vintage motor cars and horse-drawn traffic in Lincoln; quarrymen working entirely by hand but proud of their steam-driven lorry; industry that led the world with products designed and built in Lincolnshire, like the first caterpillar tracked vehicles and pioneering packaging machinery. There are royal visits, coronation and Empire Day celebrations; Great War recruitment , Isaac Newton’s bicentenary, early Lincolnshire Shows, all the fun of the fair and seaside holidays; a children’s party in the 1920s, and visible proof that policemen really were taller in the old days.
Later volumes are already in active preparation, and due for release during 2011. As soon as details are available, we’ll be posting them on this News Page.To order our DVDs, please call Primetime Video on 01205 750055 or visit www.primetimevideo.co.uk