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Saving Our Films

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington was recently honored with the 2005 Hollywood Film Preservation Award at a star-studded gala in Los Angeles. The Ninth Annual Hollywood Film Festival honored Billington for his advocacy and leadership in the preservation of the nation’s film heritage.

Where the Boys Spend Their Money Young Men's Blaine Club of Cincinnati

The Librarian has been a strong supporter of efforts to save the nation’s film legacy. As Paula Wagner, producer of box-office hits such as “Mission Impossible,” and “War of the Worlds,” reminded the audience when she introduced Billington at this year’s event, “More than half the films made in America before 1950 are lost and gone forever. … Fortunately, James Billington and the Library of Congress are ensuring that what we create today will be available for generations to come, and for that, our industry owes a debt of gratitude.”

Every year since 1989, the Librarian has named 25 films to the National Film Registry. Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian names 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant motion pictures to the Registry. The list is designed to reflect the full breadth and diversity of America's film heritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness of American cinema and the need for its preservation.

Many of the films that the Library has preserved are available online in American Memory. If you go to this page you will see that there are 15 thematic collections that contain motion pictures. For example, in “Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements” you can view some of the soft drink’s most popular ads, such as 1979’s “Mean Joe Greene,” “Polar Bear” from 1993 or “Hilltop” from 1971.

The “Buckaroos in Paradise” presentation has footage of a Nevada cattle-ranching community, with a focus on the family-run Ninety-Six Ranch.

And the “Origins of American Animation” is a collection of 21 animated films and two fragments, which span the years 1900 to 1921.

A. Lewis Hine, photographer. “Where the Boys Spend Their Money. Location: St. Louis, Missouri,” 1910. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-nclc-04666 (color digital file from b&w original print) LC-USZ62-29157 (b&w film copy negative): Call No.: LOT 7483, v. 1, no. 1476-A[P&P]

B. “Young Men's Blaine Club of Cincinnati,” Thomas Edison, 1897. Motion picture film consists of a binder joining two key layers: Emulsions (containing the image) and a transparent support base. In this frame, nitrate deterioration has separated the emulsion from the base. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.