Far in the stacks of University Archives is a cache of over 600 films relating to the history of the university, its programs, facilities, and student life. Because of preservation concerns, much of the collection has not been viewed in almost two decades. This winter, Archives embarked on a pilot project to have three films digitized not only for preservation, but most importantly, to provide access to these little seen treasures.
Choosing which films to digitize was a challenging process, complicated by the thin documentation available for most of the films. The majority have brief label titles on the film cans, such as “Perspectives,” “Untitled,” or even “Camp film, misc. outtakes, and junk”! Questionable label titles, along with the degradation expected of 50+ year old magnetic film, can make the digitization process a matter of faith. About half of the films have no labeled date, but of those that do, the earliest is from the 1930s and titled “Campus Scenes.” This film, along with one recording the events of the 1964 Moving Up Day/Spring Weekend activities, and a circa 1964 film of the reactor on South Campus (recently decommissioned) were digitized. All our black and white, silent, 16 mm films.
Although just shy of two and half minutes, “Scenes of Main Street campus and downtown buildings” offers a glimpse of Hayes Hall and its surrounds, students, and the Medical School building at Washington and High streets. Samuel Capen himself even makes an appearance. “1964 Spring Weekend (Moving Up Day)” is the longest film at 8 minutes. It includes the Moving Up Day fashion Show, voting for Spring Weekend Queen (and winner, Mary Lou Thompson), float construction and parade (including a fire breathing dragon, Don Quixote, and the Garden of Eden), and a concert featuring the Serendipity Singers. For the curious, the third film shows interior views of the Western New York Nuclear Research Center just a few years after it began operating.
Digitizing film for use, accessibility, and preservation is an expensive undertaking, and University Archives welcomes alumni and community support in partnering in this worthy effort to save, protect, and share university history. Donations can be made online and are integral in our ability to continue and expand this project.
Digitized films are part of the University Libraries Digital Collections and can be viewed here: http://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/LIB-UA020