Funding for audiovisual materials remain scarce while the abundance of home and amateur recordings continues to grow. The need for these works to be preserved is undoubtedly a race against time, but home and amateur movie preservation is often competing for assistance from the same sources as Hollywood classics.
Because many of these materials are stored in private homes and facilities that lack proper environment and climate controls, or understanding of care and maintenance, these elements are at a high risk of accelerated decay. Although funding for these kinds of materials exist, current available resources do not come close to covering the content in need of conservation or preservation.
The Al Larvick Conservation Fund will modestly assist in filling a gap in resources for these mediums, and more specifically, will be the only fund of its kind whose mission is to support the conservation, digital transfer and public accessibility of home and amateur audiovisual materials through grant giving, which is exclusively for this genre. The Fund is additionally unique in that it will offer individuals an opportunity to receive support and guidance, as well as institutions and organizations.
More so, however, the critical need lies within the histories and stories, which are conveyed through these media formats, and is distinct from still photography, writings and other forms of home and amateur works. Too often media collections of both individuals and organizations are held in make-shift storage areas and haven’t seen the light of day in many years. These stories should be shared.
Home and amateur audiovisual materials represent a particular glimpse into the history of family, community, culture and more. The moving image and/or sound recording encompasses details and points of views of every day Americans since the technology emerged and offers special insight into our collective life and times. Through these stories, we learn about ourselves, our heritage, society and culture, which in turn aids in our understanding of the past, present and future.
Conservation versus Preservation
The Al Larvick Conservation Fund will focus its efforts on conservation of source materials, creating digital transfers from those conserved source materials, and the public accessibility of content. The Fund is a small grant-making fund and realizes, due to its size, that it can make the most impact with these micro budgets by conserving, rather than preserving. The Fund defines conservation as the cleaning and repairing of original materials to the best of state-of-the-art film and video facilities’ abilities. The Fund defines preservation as a service, which creates film-to-film, or video-to-video masters. This is a greater expense and is one which other funders (i.e. National Film Preservation Foundation) require as part of their program. Because public accessibility is part of this Fund’s mandate, we require and include a digital master transfer file in high resolution (an option of Standard or High Definition) and another in a web friendly format for posting as part of our grant awards. While the Fund will consider full preservations, it will be on a case-by-case basis and will be looked at when a strong applicant’s source materials are thought to be in critical need of preservation.
Why digital transfers?
A simple Youtube “home movie footage” search produced 8,150,000 results. The Home Movie Collection on archive.org currently offers 1,207 videos for viewing and download and there are many works outside the collection on archive.org that would fill the home and amateur category. The public has a fascination and love for home recordings. Because of the abundance of these works, one might question why there is a need for more crowding of the Internet.
Unfortunately much of the audiovisual material available online is achieved through do-it-yourself methods, or businesses which offer inexpensive but low-end transfers onto highly compressed, and soon to be dated formats. These methods remove detail that creates a richer viewing experience and leaves important historical and cultural clues out of the picture, including potential loss of sound.
A do-it-yourself transfer project can present risks by threading fragile film and video through dated and unmaintained projectors or decks, where they can tear or get stuck. Additionally, originals, as well as their playback equipment, are often already damaged, or in need of cleaning, and transferring recordings in these states can cause further harm. Going through a business which offers great prices but lacks state-of-the-art, regularly maintained equipment, can be equally risky. The Fund seeks to contribute toward a broader public understanding of the value of producing quality and interesting programming around these works, and how to protect these precious audio/visual recordings.
The Fund’s Best Practices guide is intended to assist grantees with caring for original materials and includes resource options and practices for maintenance and storage of various analog and digital assets. The digital files are for grantees’ own use and archiving purposes, but also to make the works available for public viewing on the Internet, via archive.org (a requirement of the Fund's grants). The Community Sharing guide will give instruction on uploading digital files and logging appropriate meta-data, so the content is further understandable and put into context for a wider audience. It will also include information on how to share offline, with one’s local community. Additionally the Fund will include a reference sheet on Creative Commons licensing for managing and protecting one’s online content.
We know people and organizations care about their media and their audiences do too. They want to be able to see Peggy Lee’s face in a small town North Dakota parade, the detail on their grandmother’s dress, the ability to clearly read a sign, or identify individuals in the background. These particulars are what drive audience interest. The more people see the significance of this content, the Fund believes they will care more about conserving and transferring their materials in a way that protects and makes them available for generations to come. Providing quality digital transfers will contribute to achieving awareness.