George Eastman House – preserving film history

From the Democrat & Chronicle:

A behind-the-scenes look at how George Eastman House (in Rochester, NY) is doing all it can to preserve film treasures.

Photos and films are frail pieces of art, no stronger than the paper or celluloid they’re made of.

George Eastman House helps preserve and repair these tattered objects, often more than a century old. Its six film technicians restore up to 200 films annually. Their quiet rescue mission reaches Hollywood studios and film archives around the world.

“Last year, we could have circled the Earth with that footage,” says Edward Stratmann, associate curator of motion pictures.

The museum revives many films at their last gasp. An estimated 90 percent of silent-era movies already have vanished. Others are dying “the death of 1,000 cuts” with tears, stains and fading.

“It we don’t act, sometimes it might be too late,” says Caroline Frick Page, curator for the motion picture department.

When they do act — on rare screen tests for Gone With the Wind (1939), for example, or the first full-length movie of Huckleberry Finn (1920) — a part of film or art history is saved both for posterity and practical use. The Eastman House gets constant inquiries from studios looking to make DVDs from restored prints.

Read more here.