April 7, 1999 Library of Congress Receives Grant to Preserve Films

Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

The Library of Congress today announced that it will receive support to join Treasures of American Film Archives, a project organized by the National Film Preservation Foundation in celebration of the year 2000. Through a $200,000 grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Library and four other federal archives will now join this landmark initiative to preserve rare American films.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington welcomed the grant: "The American people have entrusted our nation's film heritage to the Library of Congress, and other archives, and we take our stewardship seriously. Only by working together with this kind of support can we save this vital historical record."

Involving 17 archives throughout the United States, Treasures of American Film Archives marks the largest collaborative preservation and access initiative to be undertaken by the American archival community. It will preserve films intimately documenting American life and culture, in almost every category of filmmaking from cinema's first 100 years.

Preserving this important art form requires expensive, ongoing care to prevent loss by destruction. This ambitious project will preserve and showcase a wide range of American "orphan films," or works not protected by commercial interests, including newsreels, silent- era films, documentaries, home movies, avant-garde works and independent productions.

For its part of the initiative, the Library will save and restore many rare, important American films, including "The Emperor Jones," the renowned 1933 film starring Paul Robeson, along with films from two collections vital to American history and culture: the Thomas Edison and Margaret Mead collections.

Emperor Jones is perhaps Robeson's most famous film role. Based on the play by Eugene O'Neill, the film traces the rise of a railroad porter who rises to Caribbean king through murder, bravado, and sheer energy. The Library will restore "The Emperor Jones" from an original 35mm nitrate negative in its Motion Picture Conservation Center in Dayton, Ohio.

The Edison Laboratory Collection documents the experiments and operations of the famed inventor's laboratory in West Orange, N.J., from the turn of the century through the mid-1920s. Included is original 35mm nitrate footage of Edison's efforts to assist the War Department during World War I, educational films on the development of the electric light, as well as Edison celebrating his 75th birthday, talking on the radio, and meeting young protégées.

Pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead used film extensively as part of her research. The Library holds the full record of her ethnographic work -- field notes, manuscripts, photographs, and films -- and will now preserve the footage she and husband Gregory Bateson shot in Bali from 1936 to 1939.

The Pew Charitable Trusts support nonprofit activities in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy and religion. Based in Philadelphia, the Trusts make strategic investments to help organizations and citizens develop practical solutions to difficult problems. In 1998, with approximately $4.734 billion in assets, the Trusts granted more than $213 million to 298 nonprofit organizations.

The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), organizer of the Treasures of American Film Archives, is an independent nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to save America's film heritage. The NFPF supports film preservation activities nationwide that ensure the physical survival of film for future generations and improve access to film for study, education and exhibition. Information on the Foundation can be found at its Web site: www.filmpreservation.org.

The Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division provides public access to the most comprehensive collection of American and foreign-produced film and television in the world. Through the American Television and Radio Archive Act of 1976 and the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the Library has a congressional mandate to preserve the cultural record of American film and broadcast history, as well as lead the development of the country's moving-image preservation policies.

The backbone of the collection is the more than 500,000 motion pictures and television programs deposited for copyright. Special holdings include the Paper Print Collection of 3,000 pre-1915 films registered for copyright as rolls of still photographs, 20,000 kinescopes of NBC programming from the 1940s through the early '70s, the PBS Collection of 24,000 tapes and films, as well as separate collections of studio films from Warner Bros., Columbia, RKO, and Paramount.

The Library also has two moving-image preservation laboratories: the Magnetic Recording Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and the Motion Picture Conservation Center (MPCC) in Dayton, Ohio. Since 1970 the MPCC has preserved more than 15,000 feature films, television programs and short subjects, making the Library the largest publicly funded motion picture preservation organization in the United States.

The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division supports a public exhibition program through its Mary Pickford Theater and provides free access to qualified researchers in the Film and Television Reading Room. Its Web site is: www.loc.gov/rr/mopic.


PR 99-047
ISSN 0731-3527