Captured on Film

Captured on Film

Q. I recently received some old home movies dating back to the 1930s. How can I best preserve the film? Is there a way to have it transferred to video or DVD format for viewing?

A. Film becomes brittle and shrinks as it ages, so you’re wise to take preservation measures. Follow these pointers:

• Don’t run the film through a projector — that could destroy it. Avoid handling the film, but if you must, wear clean cotton gloves and hold it gently by the edges.

• Consult a professional film conservator about halting the deterioration. You can find one near you by using the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’ <aic.stanford.edu> online referral form (under Public Info, click Selecting a Conservator). The site also gives advice on caring for your videotapes, books, paintings and other heirlooms.

• Have the footage copied for viewing. The Northeast Historic Film Archives has a service that transfers film to video or DVD. Call (207) 469-0924 or visit <www.oldfilm.org/nhfweb/services/techservices.htm>. You also can check your yellow pages under Video Production Services.

• Film lasts longer than video or DVD formats, so always retain the original footage. According to the Library of Congress, you always should wind film evenly and not too tightly, with the emulsion (the nonshiny side) facing out. Then place the rolled film in a metal or plastic storage can — and don’t put any other material, such as paper, in the can. Store the can flat in an area with a stable temperature and humidity, ideally at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity.

You’ll find additional suggestions on caring for and storing motion picture film on the Library of Congress Web site <www.loc.gov/preserv/care/film.html>.
 
From the June 2005 Family Tree Magazine 

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