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Program National Film Preservation Board

Redefining Film Preservation: A National Plan

Recommendations of the Librarian of Congress in consultation with the National Film Preservation Board

Library of Congress Washington, D.C. August 1994

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Redefining film preservation : a national plan ; recommendations of the Librarian of Congress in consultation with the National Film Preservation Board / [coordinated by Annette Melville and Scott Simmon].

           p.    cm.
        ISBN 0-8444-0819-0
     -----   Z663.36 .R43  1994
     1. Motion picture film--Preservation and storage--United States.  
     I. Melville, Annette.  II. Simmon, Scott.  III. Library of Congress.   
     IV. National Film Preservation Board (U.S.)
     TR886.3.R43  1994
     778.5 8 0973--dc20                                                      
     CIP: 94-29345

This project was coordinated by Annette Melville and Scott Simmon under contract with the Library of Congress from October 1993 to July 1994.


  • Preface by James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress
  • Preface by Fay Kanin, Chair, National Film Preservation Board
  • Executive Summary
  1. Building a National Plan
  2. The Changing Context of Film Preservation
  3. Rethinking Physical Preservation Recommendations:
    • 3.1 Storage
    • 3.2 Saving Original Film
    • 3.3 Archival Laboratory Copying
    • 3.4 Technical Guidelines
    • 3.5 Substitutes for Harmful Chemicals
    • 3.6 Sharing Preservation Information
    • 3.7 Digital Preservation
    • 3.8 Television and Video Preservation Study
  4. Rethinking Access and Archives Recommendations:
    • 4.1 Repertory Exhibitors
    • 4.2 Studio Repertory Operations
    • 4.3 Fee-Sharing for Archival Loans
    • 4.4 Print Banks
    • 4.5 16mm Film
    • 4.6 Archival Photoduplication Services
    • 4.7 Rights Clearances
    • 4.8 Updating Donor Agreements
    • 4.9 Public Domain Films in Archives
    • 4.10 The Future of Archival Access
    • 4.11 Educating Film Preservationists
    • 4.12 Film Resource Guides
    • 4.13 Public Outreach
    • 4.14 National Film Registry Tour
  5. Rethinking Partnerships and Funding Recommendations:
    • 5.1 Restoration Partnerships
    • 5.2 Repatriating "Lost" Films
    • 5.3 Archival Gifts and Deposits
    • 5.4 IRS Valuations
    • 5.5 Sharing Storage Costs
    • 5.6 Studio-Archive Communication
    • 5.7 Public Responsibility for Orphan Films
    • 5.8 Federal Grants
    • 5.9 Federally Chartered Foundation
  6. Toward Implementation
  7. Supporting Task Force Documents (located separately on Home Page)
    1. Keeping Cool and Dry: A New Emphasis in Film Preservation (Redefining Preservation Task Force)
    2. Handling and Projecting 35mm Archive and Studio Prints: Voluntary Guidelines (Public Access and Educational Use Task Force)
    3. Voluntary Guidelines for Joint Studio-Archive Restoration Projects (Public-Private Cooperation Task Force)
    4. Depositing Films with Archives: A Guide to the Legal Issues (Public-Private Cooperation Task Force) [not yet included online]
  8. Acknowledgements

July 25, 1994

by James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress

This year, film is one hundred years old. Throughout its history, film has been a powerful force in American culture and national life, often shaping our very notion of contemporary events. Our challenge now is to appreciate its fullness and diversity and to protect our rich heritage for the study and enjoyment of future generations.

With the passage of the 1992 National Film Preservation Act, Congress recognized the strong national interest in preserving motion pictures as an art form and a record of our times. This landmark legislation directed the Library in consultation with my advisory group, the National Film Preservation Board, to conduct a national study on the state of American film preservation and to design an effective program to improve current practices and to coordinate preservation efforts among studios and archives.

The report, submitted to Congress in June 1993, documented a film heritage at-risk. Of America's feature films of the 1920s fewer than 20% survive; and for the 1910s, the survival rate falls to half that. But what is even more alarming is that motion pictures, both old and new, face inevitable destruction--old films from nitrate deterioration and newer films from color fading and the "vinegar syndrome." Only by storing films in low-temperature and low-humidity environments can nature's decay processes be slowed. The majority of American films, from newsreels to avant-garde works, do not receive this type of care and are in critical need of preservation.

While it is difficult to diagnose problems, it is even more difficult to solve them. In the field of film preservation, there has not been a history of coordination: Archives and studios have too often worked in isolation, duplicating one another's efforts.

The Library and National Film Preservation Board saw the importance of bringing a fresh approach to these problems. We called upon the field to set aside old differences, share ideas, and work together in developing a coordinated national strategy. Film preservationists rose to the challenge. Over the past six months, representatives across the film community--from the motion picture studios, nonprofit and public archives, repertory theaters, laboratories, universities, and the creative community--have participated in the planning process.

The tangible product of their work is this document. Redefining Film Preservation: A National Plan outlines basic steps that must be taken to save American films and make them more accessible to the public. Greater public-private partnership is the central theme of the plan. In this age of shrinking federal resources, we need private support to achieve broad public goals and a national framework in which partnerships can be encouraged. I urge Congress to act upon our proposal for a new federally chartered foundation dedicated to the cause of film preservation and access. Federal matching funds are a vital part of the funding structure; they act as an incentive to corporate, foundation, and individual donors to provide seed money for public preservation investment. We need these combined public-private funds to put new ideas into action. To redefine film preservation, we must redefine relationships among archives, the entertainment industry, the educational community and the general public and find ways to forge a broadly beneficial program.

The less tangible, but equally important, product of the planning process is the spirit of cooperation that has developed within the film community. In this spirit we must move ahead. The Library and the National Film Preservation Board look forward to continuing our role as facilitators and to guiding implementation of the national film preservation plan.

By Fay Kanin
Chair, National Film Preservation Board

The National Film Preservation Board, the advisory group to the Librarian of Congress, brings together representatives of major organizations in the film community. Created by Congress in 1988, the Board has as its initial mission the recommendation of motion pictures for inclusion in the National Film Registry. Each year we advise the Librarian on titles exemplifying the diversity and richness of American film production. Our purpose is not to single out the "best" or the "most popular" films but to honor those of lasting cultural, historical or artistic distinction. In recent years the additions to the National Film Registry have showcased cartoons, documentaries, newsreels, and the avant garde as well as Hollywood and independent features. By publicizing these films and acquiring copies for study at the Library of Congress, the Librarian draws attention to historically significant films and to the public importance of film preservation.

Over the last two years, the Board has become prominent in national efforts to coordinate and improve American film preservation. In 1993 we conducted public hearings, gave interviews, contributed written statements, and recruited colleagues to participate in the Librarian's fact- finding study. This year we have taken an even more active role. We chaired the planning groups and formed a special committee to investigate ways to increase funding for the preservation work of public archives. We advised the Librarian on the final plan.

Solving America's film preservation problems is beyond the resources of any single institution. While many of us have furthered the cause of film preservation within our own organizations, it is through the Board that we have a structure for collaborative action. By harnessing the support of the entire film community--writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, craftspeople, theater owners, archivists, educators, broadcasters, and studio executives--we can make a lasting contribution to film preservation.

The Board has been honored to advise the Librarian of Congress on promoting interest in film and its preservation. We will continue our support as we assist the Librarian in putting the national film preservation plan into practice.

July 25, 1994

The National Film Preservation Board


  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Fay Kanin, Robert Wise (Alternate)
  • Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers: J. Nicholas Counter III, Carol Lombardini (Alternate)
  • American Film Institute: John Ptak, Jill Sackler (Alternate)
  • American Society of Cinematographers and International Photographers Guild: Allen Daviau, William A. Fraker (Alternate)
  • Directors Guild of America: Arthur Hiller, Martin Scorsese (Alternate)
  • International Federation of Film Archives, United States: Mary Lea Bandy, Museum of Modern Art; Jonas Mekas, Anthology Film Archives (Alternate)
  • Motion Picture Association of America: Jack Valenti, Matthew Gerson (Alternate)
  • National Association of Broadcasters: Edward O. Fritts, Stephen Jacobs (Alternate)
  • National Association of Theater Owners: Theodore Pedas, William F. Kartozian (Alternate)
  • National Society of Film Critics: David Kehr, Julie Salamon (Alternate)
  • New York University, Department of Film and Television: William Everson, William Paul (Alternate)
  • Screen Actors Guild of America: Roddy McDowall, Barry Gordon (Alternate)
  • Society for Cinema Studies: John Belton, Lucy Fischer (Alternate)
  • University Film and Video Association: Ben Levin, Peter Rainer (Alternate)
  • University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Theater, Film and Television: Robert Rosen, Teshome Gabriel (Alternate)
  • Writers Guild of America: Jay Presson Allen, EAST; Del Reisman, WEST (Alternate)
  • At-Large Member: Roger Mayer, Turner Entertainment; Milt Shefter, Miljoy Enterprises (Alternate)
  • At-Large Member: John Singleton, New Deal Productions; Janet Staiger, University of Texas, Austin (Alternate)

July 25, 1994

Executive Summary

Redefining Film Preservation is an action plan to save America's motion picture heritage. Concluding a two-part process mandated by the National Film Preservation Act of 1992, it builds from the study Film Preservation 1993, submitted to Congress last year, and presents recommendations by the Librarian of Congress and his advisory National Film Preservation Board. The plan integrates agreements by five working groups of archivists, educators, filmmakers, industry executives, and other participants in the earlier fact-finding study.

Storage. The plan singles out low-temperature, low-humidity storage as key to a balanced preservation strategy. New electronic technol-ogies hold promise, particularly for access, but retaining film on film remains necessary for long-term preservation. To assure archival copying quality, the plan recommends creating a group to review laboratory preservation work and establishing technical guidelines.

Access. Film preservation also involves questions of private ownership and public access. To expand educational access, the plan recommends simplifying rights clearances, clarifying archival photo-duplication policies, creating resource guides, and experimenting with remote delivery systems for public domain films in archives. The plan also presents options to foster the theatrical film-viewing experience. The National Film Registry Tour, which will exhibit selected Registry titles across the country beginning in 1995, will be a step toward this goal and the centerpiece of an outreach campaign.

Partnerships. Public-private cooperation is critical to the plan. Major studios have primary responsibility for preserving their products but collaboration makes sense for many areas, including restoring key titles, pooling preservation information, discussing technical issues, sharing storage costs, and repatriating "lost" American films held in foreign archives. The principal public responsibility is for "orphan" films, works without clearly defined owners or immediate commercial potential. These include newsreels, documentaries, independent films, and significant amateur footage.

Funding. Federal preservation copying grant programs, although important, lack the scope and funding to address the current problem. The plan advocates a federally chartered foundation to raise funds for the preservation of orphan films and to encourage their storage, copying, cataloging, access, and exhibition. Affiliated with the Board, the foundation would secure private partners for broad-based initiatives and be eligible to match donations with federal funds.

The Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board are committed to furthering the national preservation program and invite written comment on implementation strategies.

1. Building a National Plan

This document is an action plan to save America's film heritage for future generations. Recognizing film as an important cultural resource, the National Film Preservation Act of 1992 directed the Librarian of Congress and his advisory panel, the National Film Preservation Board, to rethink how American film preservation is practiced. Over the following year, the Librarian and the Board conducted a nationwide study to document the current state of American film preservation. Over 100 experts from the film industry, public and nonprofit archives, and the educational community contributed information through public testimony, interviews and written comment. Film Preservation 1993, a four-volume study submitted to Congress that July, reports the findings.

The key conclusion of Film Preservation 1993 is that motion pictures of all types are deteriorating faster than archives can preserve them. Film is a fragile medium, intended for brief commercial life; preservation aims at slowing its inevitable decay through environmentally controlled storage and duplication onto newer filmstock. But film preservation involves more than extending the physical life of film. It also involves questions of ownership and access. Films made by American motion picture companies and independent filmmakers are privately owned but publicly experienced. Indeed, for most films in public collections, copyright remains with the donors, depositors or creators. A national plan must recognize, balance and integrate the interests of film owners and film users.

Redefining Film Preservation: A National Plan builds upon the earlier study. The plan outlines recommendations to improve the state of American film preservation over the next five years, especially by fostering better coordination among archives, the motion picture industry, independent filmmakers, the educational community, and others concerned with the survival and accessibility of American film.

This national plan is a collaborative work. It is constructed in the belief that only through the efforts of the entire film community and the support of the public can significant progress be made to save American film. In this spirit, the plan unites the ideas of four task forces and a special National Film Preservation Board committee appointed by the Librarian of Congress to develop solutions to the issues raised in Film Preservation 1993. Representing a cross-section of the participants in the earlier study, each planning group brought diverse points of view to a single issue area: physical preservation, access , public outreach, funding, and preservation partnerships among studios, filmmakers and archives. The recommendations reflect the collective agreements hammered out by each group. Some difficult points, of course, remain to be resolved but the parties h ave listened to each others' arguments and looked for common ground.

It is useful to describe how the task forces worked. With members scattered across the country, the groups exchanged ideas largely by conference call and collaborative papers. (Four of the more polished documents are included as part of this publication.) The task forces met face-to- face in late May and reached consensus on the issues discussed over the previous four months. In June each task force reviewed its final recommendations. A Board member chairing each group served throughout the process as the communication link with the National Film Preservation Board. In July 1994, the Librarian met with the Board to discuss and refine the final written plan. The overall process was coordinated by two outside consultants, who assembled the recommendations of the five groups into the following document.

2. The Changing Context of Film Preservation

Film Preservation 1993 concluded that American film preservation is at a crisis point, notwithstanding the strides made by public archives and the film industry. The reasons for this unsettling conclusion are complex and reflect three primary changes in the nature of the film preservation challenge: (1) new scientific understanding of film deterioration, (2) greater public and scholarly interest in diverse types of American films, and (3) declining public funding. Given these changes, continuing business as usual is no longer possible.

The goal of this national plan is to rethink film preservation practice and to suggest where the most promising opportunities lie. Each of these three broad changes has brought huge additional problems to preservationists, but the changes are not without certain opportunities. Recent scientific knowledge about film deterioration, for instance, brin gs disheartening evidence that extensive deterioration exists not simply in volatile pre-1950 nitrate-base film but in later acetate "safety" film as well. And yet, there is equally solid evidence that cool-and-dry storage conditions can significantly retard every variety of film deterioration. One challenge for the national plan, then, is to use this new technical knowledge to advantage.

Similarly discouraging is the sheer number of films needing preservation attention. One common thread in the public testimony and written submissions in Film Preservation 1993 is that, with the single exception of the Hollywood sound feature, large facets of American film production are seriously neglected by cur rent preservation efforts, notably the vast majority of newsreels, documentaries, independent features, and avant-garde works. The demands to study and use such records of America's cultural memory are bringing added costs and responsibilities to archives. Fortunately, there is increasing reason to believe that the preservation of the older Hollywood feature, long the central emphasis among large public archives, might be supported by commercial interests, allowing public funds to be directed to other film types. With new markets for "classic" features, major studios are investing in sophisticated storage facilities and in restorations of motion pictures for which they own rights. Public archives still have a role in ensuring that Hollywood films are available for study and enjoyment, but the implications of these broad shifts in responsibility need to be incorporated into a national plan.

The decline in public funding is perhaps the most discouraging finding of Film Preservation 1993. Federal support for the preservation copying program of the Library of Congress and for the National Endowment for the Arts film preservation grants, administered by the American Film Institute, has fallen to less than half of its 1980 level, when adjusted for inflation. Put in terms of the laboratory work that federal grant dollars can buy, the decline is even more striking: It falls to about one-sixth of the 1980 level. There is no easy fix to the funding crisis. And yet new funds to implement new ideas must be central to any national plan. In this era of reduced federal spending, it would be quixotic simply to recommend an increase in direct appropriations commensurate with the problem. Instead, this plan proposes a new type of funding strategy based on shared public and private responsibilities.

In the following pages, Redefining Film Preservation takes up each of these three broad issues in turn: physical preservation in Part 3, public and educational access in Part 4, and funding in Part 5. The problems explored here are large ones, but the cooperation displayed in the creation of this plan suggests that they need not be insoluble.

3. Rethinking Physical Preservation

Film preservation is necessary because of film's unstable chemical properties. Most obviously unstable is cellulose nitrate, the support base used in virtually all theatrical films produced before 1950. Nitrate's dangerous flammability at relatively low temperatures, along with its greater age, long made it the almost exclusive focus for preservation attention. Decisions have become less simple, however, with the growing realization that the cellulose acetate "safety" film that replaced nitrate has no greater permanence and degrades at essentially the same speed, if with less fire hazard. Further complicating the problem is the rapid fading of new "dye-coupler" color emulsions that became standard after 1953.

In casual language and traditional practice, "preservation" has been synonymous with duplication. "Has the film been preserved?," a question still often asked of archivists, is understood to mean, "Has the film been copied onto newer film stock?" Preservation copying (during which "preprint" material is made, ideally with little visual or aural degradation) remains key for two reasons: Deteriorating older works need immediate copying if they are not to join the vast numbers of American films already permanently lost, and films need copying if they are to be publicly accessible, especially through theatrical exhibition.

Nevertheless, this narrow definition of preservation cannot be sustained if there is to be hope of saving more than a fraction of American film production. Costs for preserving a single color feature by copying can run to $40,000 or more, and the short lifespans once thought to be a problem only for nitrate now confront nearly all films. There is, however, an additional way to prolong the life of film: by storing the original film artifact in such a way that it can itself survive. Ongoing research and practical experience continue to demonstrate the capacity of low- temperature, low-humidity storage conditions to extend the useful life of films, including those in the early stages of deterioration.

These scientific findings come at a time when historians, students of American culture, ethnic communities, and the general public are demanding that a fuller range of film production be preserved and made available for exhibition and study. Only by redefining the approach to physical preservation--by integrating improved storage with selective duplication and restoration-- will it be possible to save these irreplaceable cultural artifacts. The two ways of understanding physical preservation are not so much opposing as balancing philosophies: Proper storage can buy time for a planned restoration program and help prevent the need for emergency copying.

Recommendation 3.1: Storage

Establish the improvement of storage conditions as the cornerstone of national film preservation policy and an integral part of federal funding programs. By improving storage conditions and copying selectively, we can extend the useful life of a greater number and variety of films. Costs for the construction of storage facilities and their operation are admittedly large, but such expenditures nevertheless can maximize each preservation dollar. State-of-the-art storage facilities now aim at maintaining films at temperatures ranging from 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit and at a relative humidity between 25% and 45% (depending on the type of film material and its intended use), but even small decreases in temperature and humidity have been shown to bring substantial extensions to film life. Because improving storage environments is a less visible and less dramatic solution than the project-oriented striking of new prints, it does call for greater foresight and longer-range planning among funders and archivists.

This balanced approach is used increasingly by motion picture companies in their asset protection strategy. Public archives too are investing in improved storage, but federal grant programs, for the most part, remain designed to fund duplication exclusively. Given the importance of proper environmental conditions in extending film life, the Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board recommend realigning federal grant programs. Current duplication grants should consider the quality of the institutional storage environment that will house new preservation copies. Similarly, grants to filmmakers should alert creators to the preservation needs of their works. Most importantly, federal dollars should be used to encourage the upgrading or building of cool-and-dry storage facilities.

The federal government is itself the largest single holder of American fiction and nonfiction films. Thus federal repositories should serve as exemplars of an approach that balances improved storage with selective duplication. Continued funding and support for storage, copying, and access in federal institutions will demonstrate the national importance of film preservation.

Recommendation 3.1 is the basis of many that follow, and its rationale is laid out more fully in the attached Supporting Document A, Keeping Cool and Dry: A New Approach in Film Preservation,drafted by task force members. The National Film Preservation Board plans to distribute this document widely.

Recommendation 3.2: Saving Original Film

Recognize the importance of saving the original film, even after copying, unless it has deteriorated beyond any use. Saving the original film artifact remains a basic principle, and one that needs underlining in this era of scarce preservation dollars and of new electronic technologies that can seem to offer a quick fix. The original film has maximum image resolution and sound quality and, if stored satisfactorily, can long remain the best source for copies in any future format.

For many years nitrate film was considered discardable after being copied onto safety stock, but archives and studios have rethought this policy. Even the best current safety-film copies have proven incapable of reproducing nitrate film's subtle visual qualities. Except when dangerously deteriorated, nitrate should be retained for reuse as duplication technology improves, as well as for the color-tinting records lost in the black-and-white copies of most silent films.

Improving the Quality of Preservation Copying

To save endangered films and to provide public access, selective copying and restoration remain an essential part of a national preservation effort. However, preservation copying must be measured not only in terms of the quantity of footage copied but also in terms of the quality of the laboratory work accomplished. As is evident from the testimony in Film Preservation 1993 (and from onscreen evidence), much early preservation copying needs to be redone, insofar as that is still possible. Laboratory equipment and techniques have improved, and knowledge about aging nitrate has deepened. Standards that slipped by when 16mm was the major television and educational format no longer apply. If films are to survive in copies true to the originals, the caliber of archival duplication must meet the highest standards. Recommendations 3.3 through 3.6 address this goal.

Recommendation 3.3: Archival Laboratory Copying

Under the auspices of the National Film Preservation Board, convene a working group to screen and discuss archival-quality laboratory duplication work. Currently there are no mechanisms to assure nationwide quality for archival duplication. A new working group, convened initially by the National Film Preservation Board, will answer this need. Producers and purchasers of archival services, including laboratory, studio, and archive representatives, should come together to review visual and sound duplication work in a non-confrontational setting. This might build from the annual preservation screening hosted by the Association of Moving Image Archivists and be arranged in association with other technical and archival organizations. The new group might view and discuss a blind, random sample of recent preservation work or of specifically printed test material. The goal would be to increase communication about archival-quality duplication toward making film copies as true as possible to the originals.

Recommendation 3.4: Technical Guidelines

Encourage development and acceptance of standardized technical guidelines for the laboratory duplication of black-and-white and color film of archival quality. It would useful to complement the subjective comparisons proposed in Recommendation 3.3 with agreed-upon technical guidelines and a common grading system for archival-quality copying. The National Film Preservation Board will help launch this effort through a survey of U.S. laboratories specializing in archival services in order to gather information on current practices in specific technical areas (for instance, frame-line stability or the exposure and processing of interpositives). Such data may point to the value of certain film stock improvements (for instance, YCM separations with improved panchromatic emulsions on a polyester base). The disputed question of whether archival copying onto acetate base should be abandoned in favor of polyester could also be productively discussed.

Recommendation 3.5: Substitutes for Harmful Chemicals

Encourage the development of substitutes for environmentally dangerous chemicals vital for film preservation. Archival-level laboratory work depends on quality methods and tools. At least two chemicals that may soon be banned in the United States appear essential to preservation copying as it is currently practiced. 1,1,1-trichloroethane, commonly employed for cleaning film, is scheduled for a federal environmental ban in 1995; perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen used in wetgate printing, may soon be added. No satisfactory substitutes have yet been identified and, without such chemicals, the quality of preservation copying of older American films will suffer. (Cleaning prevents dirt from being permanently printed into the copy; wetgate printing makes scratches and other flaws less visible in the copy.) Until alternatives are found, the National Film Preservation Board, working with national technical organizations, plans to seek an environmental exemption and to urge development of viable substitutes.

Recommendation 3.6: Sharing Preservation Information

Lay the groundwork for sharing information on the surviving preservation elements of American film titles. A cooperative national preservation effort requires the capacity to exchange information in all areas. In order to prevent costly and unnecessary replication of preservation copying and to assure that the best available source materials are used for each title, the film holdings in public and commercial archives should be made accessible to preservationists in an online environment. We recognize reasonable proprietary restraints in making private holdings public but also see potential benefits to all parties.

As a first step, the National Film Preservation Board plans to convene a working session for large archives and the appropriate studio rightsholders to explore sharing inventories for pre-1950 materials. Existing databases should be surveyed for their accessibility and usefulness as preservation tools.

Planning for Future Preservation Technologies

Electronic technologies are improving with astounding speed. With them come great opportunities but also a temptation to find preservation panaceas. It is impossible to predict the future, but we make the following general recommendation.

Recommendation 3.7: Digital Preservation

Encourage a "two-path" approach that (1) actively explores the preservation potential of digital and other copying technologies while also remembering that (2) it remains essential to save original films for as long as possible. The distinction between digital access and digital preservation is key to the archival role for new electronic technologies. These are already transforming film access but archives should insist that certain stringent criteria be met before new technologies are adopted as preservation media. These criteria include: (a) picture and sound quality equal to the original; (b) ability to support production of new film elements without significant picture or sound loss; (c) an archival longevity (ideally, 100 years) alongside assurance that playback equipment would be available for an extended time; (d) capability to be stored in reasonable temperature and humidity conditions; (e) capability to record data from the original film needed for restorations (e.g., splices, edge codes); and (f) a cost no greater than film-to-film copying.

Even when such a technology is attained, two fundamentals remain. A master always holds more information than any reproduction, and no matter how faithful, inexpensive, or durable an electronic copy, it must be refreshed and reconfigured for use with changing access systems. The only thing that seems certain about future electronic systems is their rapid obsolescence. Already a central problem in video preservation is constructing equipment to play recordings made only a few years ago. Notwithstanding unforeseen advances in electronic copying and access technologies, film remains the most reliable format for holding film information. As noted in Recommendation 3.2, saving the original film artifact remains a basic archival principle.

New preservation technologies offer opportunities to break through the current impasse, but they need to be approached cautiously. The very speed of technological evolution reinforces the apparently old-fashioned importance of saving film as film.

Television and Video Preservation

Motion pictures represent, as testimony and written comments last year pointed out, only a portion of America's moving image heritage. Since the advent of television broadcasting, archives have moved rapidly into collecting 16mm newsfilm, kinescopes of early broadcasts, and videotape--often rescuing material thrown away by television stations. As video has become more portable and inexpensive, many organizations, including most U.S. government agencies, have switched from film to video for internal documentation and educational outreach. These organizations are now sending videotapes, many in obsolete formats, to archives.

There is little up-to-date information on the problems facing American television and video preservation. Merely documenting the size of national collections is a formidable task. The most recent survey, completed eight years ago by the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute, counted among 28 responding archives over 125,000 hours of video in a range of formats--1/2-inch and 3/4-inch cassette; 1/2-inch, one-inch, and two-inch open reel--as well as millions of feet of newsfilm and filmed television programs. To judge from the popularity of video and the evolution of digital-tape formats, holdings are undoubtedly much larger today.

Recommendation 3.8:Television and Video Preservation Study

Conduct a national study on the state of preservation of American television and video materials. The Library of Congress will seek Congressional authorization for a national study of television and video preservation, similar to that completed in 1993 for American film. This study will cover technical problems, current practices in public and commercial archives, the concerns of copyright owners, and the access needs of educators. The Library will request funding for both the study and development of a national television and video preservation plan under the framework of the American Television and Radio Archive (ATRA) legislation.

4. Rethinking Access and Archives

Less clear-cut than the issues of physical preservation are those surrounding the changing needs of film users. Increasingly, "preservation" is understood by users and archivists alike to be incomplete without access to the preserved film. But as was evident from the hearings and testimony for Film Preservation 1993, "access" encompasses a wide variety of film uses, including educational study, public exhibition, and commercial distribution.

The principle of wider access to films is one to which everyone can subscribe. In practice, however, there are reasons why access will continue to be selective. Among studios, concerns over piracy remain, and cycles of access and withdrawal are used to promote interest in a given title. Among public archives--which typically hold physical copies of many films to which they possess only certain limited rights--there can be four broad restraints on access to any single work: copyright status; donor and depositor contracts; staffing and funding constraints; and concerns about physical fragility. Public archives must balance access with protecting master film copies.

In rethinking access, the distinction between educational use and commercial exploitation is central. As the enabling legislation for this national plan directs, the recommendations below are intended to promote either wider educational access or public availability for films that, for one reason or another, remain undistributed through commercial markets. These recommendations look, in a sense, both backward and forward: attempting to save what is best in traditional film viewing at the same time that they encourage new delivery possibilities for archives and their users. It is not just nostalgia to believe that the theatrical film-viewing experience promotes, as does little else, an excitement and passion for saving older film. As things stand now, such exhibition is generally confined to a few large cities, and the number of available titles with satisfactory prints is limited. Recommendations 4.1 through 4.4 (as well as the tour mentioned in 4.14) respond to this situation. There are also opportunities to reshape the relationships among archives, scholars, educational users, and rightsholders in light of evolving digital access technologies. Increasingly, such technologies hold the promise of opening archives to off-site use. Recommendations 4.6 through 4.10 look toward this future.

Preserving the Theatrical Experience for Older Films

One key to promoting repertory exhibition is increasing the availability of good-quality 35mm prints of older U.S. films. Currently these prints are screened in a handful of commercial theaters, nonprofit museums and archives, and film festivals. The commercial repertory market is small compared to first-run exhibition, but such screenings are important in continuing public education about American culture and film art.

Repertory programmers, in informal interviews this spring, believed that availability of titles in good-quality 35mm prints has declined over the past five years, although no national statistics have been kept. They identified as unavailable many relatively recent independently produced narrative features as well as older "classic" titles, with the availability of the latter varying significantly among the major studios. The range of 35mm prints available to an exhibitor currently depends on personal contacts, the theater's reputation, and its nonprofit or commercial status. A few difficulties merely involve communication and logistics. Tracking down exhibition prints of older American films is probably the most time-consuming challenge of repertory work and can require contacting any number of studios, exhibitors, archives, or collectors.

The following four recommendations suggest various options to expand access to American films as they were originally experienced.

Recommendation 4.1: Repertory Exhibitors

Urge exhibitors of older American films to work as a group to increase 35mm print availability. Representatives of several major studios have expressed general willingness to strike new 35mm exhibition prints if preprint is available and if assured of a sufficient number of exhibition engagements. However, it is currently difficult to get collective feedback from exhibitors of older American films. Many such exhibitors--the commercial theaters, nonprofit museums and archives, and film festivals--exchange information informally, but they lack a means of pooling preferences for print suppliers.

As a first step, the National Film Preservation Board plans to convene a working session of studio, distributor, archive, and exhibitor representatives to review the current interrelationships of market demand, preservation work, and exhibition print production for older American fiction films and look for ways to integrate exhibitor input. Ideally, after meeting informally, specialized repertory exhibitors would choose to form an organization of their own to work with print suppliers.

One promising approach for expanding the number of circulating titles, explored by task force members, is to solicit exhibitor booking preferences when new preservation materials are about to be prepared by studios and archives; thus additional theatrical prints could be produced at the most cost-effective point in the preservation cycle. This approach should be tested in a pilot project involving a single studio and a group of exhibitors.

Exhibitors should also be allowed to pay the cost of striking new prints when studio preprint is available, with those costs credited against rentals, not charged separately.

There is no simple way to increase the number of theaters where audiences can experience older films. One useful step would be to address lenders' concerns about sending archival and studio prints to unfamiliar venues. Increased circulation of rare prints rests to a large extent on an assurance that they will be returned in good condition or replaced if damaged. Task force members did not see formal certification of theaters for rare print exhibition as a practical alternative at this time, although they did see value in sharing information among archives, distributors and studios about theaters capable of showing such prints correctly and without damage. Task force members have also developed Supporting Document B, Handling and Projecting 35mm Archive and Studio Prints, to encourage proper care of rare prints. The National Film Preservation Board will make these voluntary guidelines available to lenders, exhibitors and projectionists.

Recommendation 4.2: Studio Repertory Operations

Encourage each major studio to designate and publicize the name of a contact person for repertory matters and, where possible, to establish a regular repertory distribution service. In terms of ease-of-access, exhibitors distinguish between studios with repertory (or "classics") divisions and those without. Repertory divisions generally carry an inventory of circulating 35mm prints of well-known back titles and will negotiate internally for the striking of new prints, should there be sufficient exhibitor interest, good-quality preprint material, and no rights restrictions. Some studios also license their back titles through distributors, who may not have physical custody of the 35mm prints. The step proposed in this recommendation would begin to simplify communications.

Recommendation 4.3: Fee-Sharing for Archival Loans

Compensate public and nonprofit archives for the loan of prints of commercially owned titles that are unavailable from other sources. Large U.S. public archives are regularly called upon to lend prints of titles that are (a) commercially owned but (b) unavailable from studios or their distributors. As now configured, these loans are a source of discontent to both borrowers and lenders. The borrower usually pays a handling fee to the archive but also pays the standard rental fee to the studio (or distributor), notwithstanding the source of the print. Archivists are wary of approving many such loans (and those to only well-established nonprofit exhibitors and festivals), primarily because they have insufficient funds to replace film materials, should damage occur. Public archives would prefer that commercially owned films be available through commercial distributors but are willing to fill the gap in special circumstances.

Task force members have endorsed the principle that archives should charge a handling fee for the loan of prints of commercially owned titles that are unavailable from other sources. In these cases, the handling fee is paid to the archive to help offset print maintenance, loan and replacement costs. Fee-sharing for commercially out-of-print titles has been pioneered by the Universal City Studios in loans from the UCLA Film and Television Archive to the Stanford Theatre. The National Film Preservation Board will work to promote this fee-sharing approach for rare, commercially unavailable prints and stimulate discussions to extend the Universal- UCLA-Stanford Theatre model.

Recommendation 4.4: Print Banks

Expand nonprofit distribution of archival exhibition prints, particularly of public domain titles, through centralized "print banks." In addition to the commercially owned titles discussed above, there is need to improve the print availability of public domain films, especially those older than 75 years (generally the maximum term of U.S. copyright). Many older public domain titles are distributed in poor duplicate prints that do little justice to their originals. Nonprofit print banks can serve as an expanded distribution node for good-quality 35mm prints of public domain films preserved in public archives. Print banks might also handle selected copyrighted films designated by rightsholders.

The National Film Preservation Board will explore a range of implementation options, including the creation of a new service with the cooperation of U.S. archives and the expansion of 35mm loans through the Museum of Modern Art's Circulating Film Library.

Recommendation 4.5: 16mm Film

Promote the continued availability of certain categories of unique 16mm film. Although there is a widespread sense that 16mm film is a dying format--replaced in the classroom and elsewhere by videotape and videodisc--the 16mm gauge deserves continued support in certain cases. One important distinction is between 16mm reduction copies of 35mm films and works created on 16mm, including most postwar documentaries, home-movies from the 1920s through the 1940s, and many independent shorts and features. These original 16mm works deserve the principal preservation and access support, but an unknown number of titles created on 35mm survive only as 16mm reduction prints and also require attention.

Because original works or best surviving copies are sometimes buried within 16mm collections, the National Film Preservation Board urges those institutions that are shifting to video to consult with archives before disposing of their 16mm film.

The Archival Role in the Information Age

Now that visual information can be transmitted through a combination of new communications and digital technologies, many roles are opening to film archives. But for all the hopes and promises, their exact future is not at all clear. Will archives become museums of film? Will they become nodes on the information highway? Will they try to offer a range of options? Proponents of new technologies predict that public archives will be able to deliver services to more users and to remote locations, although the costs associated with digitization of visual material suggest that private partners will be necessary. With such partnerships can come a blurring of the boundary between educational and commercial uses. The challenge is to craft new access technologies and entrepreneurial opportunities so as to respect the concerns of copyright holders while furthering the two historical missions of archives: to support scholarship and education at minimal cost to users, and to preserve film artifacts.

The next five recommendations seek to improve archival access, beginning with current issues.

Recommendation 4.6: Archival Photoduplication Services

Urge individual archives to clarify their policies for photoduplication services, particularly for obtaining "frame enlargements" and copies of titles for which no copyright or donor restrictions exist. In testimony and submissions for Film Preservation 1993, two archival photoduplication policies were the subject of particular contention: those for "frame enlargements" and those for copies of public domain films.

Among scholars, frame enlargements--still photographs made directly from the motion picture film--have become important in publication and to a lesser degree in classroom teaching. They reproduce the exact on-screen image, unlike "production stills," which are crisper and more easily obtainable publicity images preferred for commercial illustrations.

Of more interest to collectors, distributors and filmmakers is another archival service allowing for the purchase of copies of films for which there are no copyright or donor restrictions.

Making copies from archival material often involves questions of rights clearances (see Recommendation 4.7 below) or of donor restrictions (see 4.8). Archives are additionally concerned about possible physical damage to prints used in making frame enlargements and to preprint used to strike purchase copies of public domain films. There is no universal solution to these essentially local problems. The National Film Preservation Board, however, recommends that archives clarify their policies and procedures in both areas.

Recommendation 4.7: Rights Clearances

Begin discussions on simplifying rights clearances for the reuse of film images and sequences in educational and scholarly applications. Film reproduction in scholarship is beginning to move from frame enlargements in print publications to frames, sounds and sequences in educational multimedia. Meanwhile, the legal framework for rights clearances is still embedded in the past. To obtain permission to reproduce copyrighted material from a studio-produced film, an educator must now negotiate with the studio, and, in some cases, the rights owners of the underlying materials, such as the music or story. Such clearances are currently so complex and expensive that, in practice, the "fair use" permitted by U.S. copyright law is often stretched past the breaking point and proper permissions evaded.

The National Film Preservation Board recognizes the value to all parties of exploring a centralized, "one-stop" approach to rights clearances for film materials. Under the auspices of the U.S. Copyright Office, the Board will begin discussions among educators and rightsholders on mechanisms to simplify rights clearances for the reuse of film materials in educational and scholarly applications. As an intermediate measure, the Board will ask studios to publicize the name of contact persons handling educational and scholarly requests to publish film-related images and sequences.

Recommendation 4.8: Updating Donor Agreements

Encourage film donors and public archives to discuss, on a case-by-case basis, increased access to public domain films older than 75 years. Another obstacle to greater educational and public access to film lies in the gift agreements negotiated years ago by donors and public archives. Under the terms of some older contracts, donors have the right to control access to their collections in perpetuity. As critics pointed out at the 1993 hearings, these arrangements can restrict the archive's ability to screen films in public programs and can limit types of access even after the 75 years permitted by U.S. copyright law.

The Board, recognizing that circumstances surrounding gifts vary widely, recommends that increasing access to donor-controlled public domain materials be approached on a case-by-case basis. In particular, the Board encourages individual archives and donors to reexamine access provisions for public domain titles older than 75 years.

Recommendation 4.9: Public Domain Films in Archives

Explore delivery methods for making public domain titles held in archives more widely available to remote users through video and online access technologies. Archives have traditionally made films available for study and exhibition on their own premises. Increasingly, it is technically possible for archives to make parts of their holdings--older films unrestricted by copyright or donors--available to users off-site. Several archives, including the Library of Congress and the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House, have experimented with releasing on videotape a handful of such unrestricted silent films. The films released have great cultural significance but a small commercial market.

The Board encourages archives to explore ways of releasing such unrestricted films on videotape, possibly through a consortium of archives. They should also begin investigating online access technologies for disseminating this public domain material.

Recommendation 4.10: The Future of Archival Access

Support conferences and goal-oriented working groups among archivists, users, rights holders, and technological innovators to redefine archival access in light of emerging technologies. Although it is impossible to make precise recommendations about the future, archives can work to shape it and take an active part in redefining archival access. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has begun planning a Fall 1995 conference to explore innovative educational use of archival film materials and the application of new technologies in archival access. The National Film Preservation Board supports continuing such dialogue among archivists, educators, studio representatives, and technological innovators on changing access opportunities, especially in relation to new technologies.

Recommendation 4.11: Educating Film Preservationists.

Create a systematic graduate program for educating new film preservation professionals and continuing education opportunities for those already in the field. Because film preservation is rapidly changing, so too are the educational needs of film preservation professionals. Traditionally, film archivists have learned their skills on the job. As preservation has matured and technology grown more complex, ad hoc instruction is no longer adequate. New professionals require background in a broader range of subjects--from chemistry to information systems--as well as exposure to different types of nonprofit and commercial facilities specializing in preservation work. Recognizing these changing workplace demands, the United Kingdom has established a graduate program for film archivists. No similar program is now available in the United States.

The National Film Preservation Board will work toward the creation of a master's degree program in film preservation at an American university and invite curriculum discussions with pertinent professional organizations. The Board will urge that this new program integrate within the academic curriculum internships providing hands-on experience and that the program make special effort to recruit students among women and from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds.

In addition, the Board will encourage those already active in the field to expand their expertise by participating in continuing education conferences and workshops and by on-site training.

Recommendation 4.12: Film Resource Guides

Develop guides to facilitate educational and public access to film resources. A step in increasing access to film is increasing access to film information. Educators, exhibitors, scholars, and the general public need guidance in navigating the sea of rapidly changing data on film availability and archival services.

Task force members advise creating three new informational tools: (1) a directory of commercial and nonprofit organizations lending 35mm and 16mm exhibition prints, (2) a guide describing the general holdings and educational services of film archives, and (3) a guide to automated sources about film available to the public on CD-ROM, through commercial database vendors, and through the Internet.

The Board will work with scholars and archivists to explore currently available related tools, to develop the new guides to film resources, and to explore their publication through hardcopy and online distribution.

Recommendation 4.13: Public Outreach

Make public education an on-going part of the national film preservation program. Film preservation is not a household topic. Indeed, with the burgeoning availability of videotapes and laserdiscs of Hollywood features, it is easy to assume that any preservation problem that once existed is now "solved." Increasing the public awareness of film preservation is a key part of a national program. Only with public interest will there be public support for rescuing documentaries, educational films, historical footage and other noncommercial works whose survival is now threatened.

To reach a broad audience, preservationists need a variety of educational tools: a basic informational brochure explaining film preservation to the nonspecialist, short public service announcements for broadcast and cable transmission, and mini-documentaries, such as those produced by the American Film Institute, American Movie Classics, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. These outreach materials can vividly relate preservation to a range of films--from home movies to Hollywood features--and suggest sources for more information.

Brochures, public service announcements and mini-documentaries gain in power when orchestrated in a coordinated plan. The Board urges creation of these materials or, in cases where good models exist, adaptation and reuse for national purposes. The Board will strive to integrate these outreach tools into an on-going public education campaign, beginning with the tour noted below.

Recommendation 4.14: National Film Registry Tour

Use the National Film Registry Tour, now in the planning stage, as the backbone of a national public awareness campaign on film preservation. In 1995, the Library of Congress will launch a national tour to celebrate American filmmaking by showcasing a selection from the National Film Registry. The tour will enable audiences to experience historically, culturally and aesthetically significant American films as they were intended to be seen: as good-quality prints in public theaters. The tour, planned in cooperation with copyright owners and archives, will present the preservation work of many organizations.

The National Film Preservation Board will use the tour as the centerpiece in an outreach campaign to alert the public to the diversity of American film production and to draw attention to the national preservation plan. The Board will explore creating supporting brochures, public service announcements, and mini-documentaries that can continue to be used to promote preservation after the tour ends.

5. Rethinking Partnerships and Funding

Large and small alike, public archives agree that the defining preservation problem is money. As the sheer magnitude of film deterioration becomes evident and user demands multiply, where can archives raise the funds to improve storage and better serve the public?

The current system of film preservation funding, if indeed it can be called a system at all, is a patchwork of federal money, institutional outlays, foundation grants, and private donations. For over twenty years, federal funds have supported duplication of decaying film, largely nitrate fiction film, onto newer filmstock through the internal program of the Library of Congress and the grants awarded through the National Endowment for the Arts. These federal programs have not kept pace with rising costs. Allocations in 1992 plummeted to less than half of the 1980 level, when adjusted for inflation.

Local funding has not bridged the gap. Film archives, like most public organizations in the 1990s, are squeezed by shrinking budgets. Among the specialist archives surveyed for Film Preservation 1993, only half received funds the previous year from their own institutions for laboratory work. Most archives' preservation efforts depend largely on private gifts and grants. Grants, however, are difficult to secure, particularly with the small number of corporate and private foundations targeting film preservation as a primary funding area. While preservationists sense wide interest in preserving American films, there is currently no on-going mechanism for harnessing national support.


The Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board, recommend a different approach to funding: one that will recognize the distinct public and private responsibilities in preserving American film and build partnerships to support preservation activities in the public interest.

As so often noted in the 1993 hearings and comments, the major film companies now have ample financial reason to improve storage, automate inventories, restore key titles, and maintain their libraries. The preservation policies for commercially owned materials in public archives, designed in the 1960s and 1970s when studios valued older titles differently, can now be reconsidered. Public institutions still have a long-term role in ensuring that privately owned films that have shaped American culture are available for public study and enjoyment. What we propose here is more clearly defining public and private responsibilities: Profit-making entities have the primary responsibility to preserve their own product and should contribute to public institutions for work done on their behalf.

In what areas do public and commercial interests most closely intersect and warrant special cooperative ventures? Following the directive of the 1992 National Film Preservation Act, we have explored where greater collaboration can bring benefits to all and increase the number and variety of American films available to the public. Drawing upon the task force agreements, we have identified in Recommendations 5.1 through 5.6 several key initiatives.

Recommendation 5.1:Restoration Partnerships

Encourage partnerships between studios and archives to restore films of special cultural impact or historical value. Particularly for restoration projects requiring extensive research and planning, film owners and public archives can create a better preservation product by pooling resources and expertise. Over the last decade, significant American motion pictures restored through public- private ventures include The Guns of Navarone (1961), On the Waterfront (1954), Phantom of the Opera (1943), His Girl Friday (1940), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Holiday (1938), The Plainsman (1936), Shanghai Express (1932), early sound shorts by the Vitaphone Company (1927-29), Noah's Ark (1929), and Tess of the Storm Country (1914).

Although arrangements vary from case to case, typically partners work together to select titles and carry out the restoration. The studio pays the laboratory costs; the archive contributes the time and skills of its preservation staff and retains copies of the restored film for archival study, exhibition and safekeeping.

Task force members, drawing upon their own experience, have developed guidelines to assist interested studios and archives in developing constructive partnerships of this type. Voluntary Guidelines for Joint Studio-Archive Restoration Projects is included as Supporting Document C. The National Film Preservation Board plans to distribute these voluntary guidelines to the film community and promote the concept of collaborative restoration projects.

Recommendation 5.2: Repatriating"Lost" Films

Develop public-private ventures to repatriate American films in foreign archives. The vast majority of American silent films are lost. Roughly 90% of the U.S. features from the 1910s and 80% from the 1920s are thought to have been thrown away or allowed to deteriorate. Of the survivors, many owe their existence to the efforts of foreign archives, which saved internationally distributed prints long ago abandoned or forgotten by their American producers.

Through a repatriation effort begun in 1987, American audiences may get a second chance to study and enjoy these lost works. Public archives and the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, working through the International Federation of Film Archives, have negotiated for the return of some 460 American shorts and features, including the earliest surviving feature directed by an African American, Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates (1919); Capital Punishment (1925) with Clara Bow; the silent adventure picture The Sea Hawk (1924); and Maurice Tourneur's gangster film Alias Jimmy Valentine (1915). Similarly, U.S. archives have identified "lost" foreign films in their collections and returned them to their national archives.

The underfunded effort to repatriate American films is, however, proceeding slowly. The opening of Eastern Europe, while providing an opportunity, also underscores the urgency; many Eastern European archives, faced with worsening economic conditions, do not have the funds to copy or store American nitrate films in low-temperature and low-humidity environments that will prolong their survival.

Repatriation could be expedited with the assistance of the private sector. Major American studios are interested not only in obtaining titles missing from their early libraries but also films with foreign-language soundtracks, an asset of renewed value in ancillary markets. As a first step, the National Film Preservation Board will facilitate discussions among U.S. nitrate archives and studios holding copyrights from the silent and early sound period regarding a framework and funding mechanism for a joint repatriation effort. The goal is to present a proposal to foreign archives by mid-1995.

Recommendation 5.3: Archival Gifts and Deposits

Alert independent filmmakers to the preservation needs of their work and encourage them to transfer to archives films of cultural or historical interest. A less obvious public-private partnership involves custodial agreements between archives and film owners. As noted in the 1993 hearings and interviews, avant-garde and independent films are today among the most in need of preservation attention--due to the conditions under which the films were made, the limited number of release prints, and the inability of filmmakers to pay for adequate storage. Transferring materials to archival custody in many cases benefits the filmmaker while serving the public interest. Filmmakers from D.W. Griffith to Andy Warhol are known today largely through films that have come into the safekeeping of public archives.

Some independent filmmakers interested in establishing archival relationships are put off by the complex custodial and copyright questions that accompany gifts or deposits. They fail to take the necessary steps to protect their work and run the risk of having films lost, destroyed or tied up in court battles after their death.

To explain the advantages of these arrangements and to assist filmmakers and archives in developing mutually beneficial agreements, task force members have prepared a checklist, Depositing Films With Archives: A Guide to the Legal Issues (Supporting Document D). The National Film Preservation Board plans to make the checklist widely available to the film community. Additionally, the Board will work with archivists and filmmakers' groups to alert independents to the preservation needs of their works.

Recommendation 5.4: IRS Valuations

Clarify U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) practices for valuing films, film copyrights and related materials donated to public archives. The tax environment can be a critical factor in the individual or corporate decision to give films, film copyrights and other film-related materials to archives. Some archivists argue that the valuations allowed by the IRS are too low, particularly in cases involving the gift of copyright as well as physical materials, and that these low valuations discourage donations. Without incentives to encourage archival gifts, many materials will remain in private hands and unavailable for public study and use. The National Film Preservation Board will request that the Internal Revenue Service elucidate its administrative guidelines and practices for valuing donations of films, film copyrights and related materials.

Recommendation 5.5: Sharing Storage Costs

Develop, with rightsholders and archives, cost-sharing arrangements for the storage of commercially controlled nitrate film in public institutions. Few will dispute that public archives performed an important cultural service when they opened their vaults to studio nitrate films in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, most major studios presumed that older works had limited commercial value and sold off their libraries or copied more valuable titles onto safety film, in some cases destroying the unstable nitrate. Transferring the films to public custody and retaining the copyrights offered studios another option. Now, of course, the market has changed but archives still pay for storing materials to which studios have continuing access for making new copies.

In 1993 public archives maintained over 131 million feet of nitrate preprint for which large motion picture studios maintained full commercial exploitation rights. Some companies have begun assisting archives in paying costs related to their own materials. To clarify the mutual responsibilities now appropriate for these arrangements, the National Film Preservation Board will encourage further negotiations between individual depositors and archives as well as discussions within a larger industry-archive forum.

Recommendation 5.6: Studio-Archive Communication

Create an informal group of studio and archival representatives to facilitate public-private cooperation. A key byproduct of the creation of the national plan has been increased communication between the film industry and public archives. Only by continuing to build public-private trust and cooperation will a national film preservation program be implemented.

The National Film Preservation Board will encourage studio and archival representatives to continue meeting on projects of mutual concern and will designate an informal coordinating group.

Orphan Films

The cooperative ventures described above, although critical to national collaboration, address a fraction of American films. The larger and more difficult concern is "orphan films," works without clearly defined owners or belonging to commercial interests unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their long-term care. Throughout the 1993 hearings, scholars and archivists underscored the historical and cultural importance of these works and their urgent preservation needs. Drawing upon task force discussions, the Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board recommend the following actions to encourage public investment in the survival of orphan films.

Recommendation 5.7: Public Responsibility for Orphan Films

Use federal preservation copying dollars for films of long-term cultural and historical value that are not being protected by commercial interests. In recent years orphan films have become the focus of federal copying grant programs and we affirm that emphasis.

These endangered films include a broad range of materials of artistic and documentary value:

(a) newsreel and actuality footage of social importance held in nonprofit and government organizations
(b) films that have fallen into the public domain
(c) independently produced avant-garde and experimental films
(d) socially significant home movies, particularly those documenting ethnic and minority communities
(e) political commercials, and advertising, educational and industrial films of historical and cultural interest
(f) independent fiction and documentary films made and distributed outside the commercial mainstream (Although copyrighted and privately owned, many of these films will not survive without public archive intervention.)
(g) commercially produced works whose owners are unwilling or unable to provide long-term preservation. Public archives preserving these films should expect financial compensation from the copyright owners to cover preservation costs, should these films later generate revenue.

In determining duplication priorities among these films, we recommend following the principles developed by North American members of the International Federation of Film Archives and making decisions on the basis of physical condition; rarity; interest of the educational community, film archives and museums, and other potential film users; and long-term cultural and historical importance.

Recommendation 5.8: Federal Grants

Improve the coordination among existing federal preservation copying grant programs and return their funding to former levels. Currently there are few federal grants directed toward film preservation and these address the copying of a narrow range of orphan films. There is concern among archivists that some works of historical and cultural interest do not fit the current funding criteria of existing federal programs.

A particularly gray area is the nonfiction film. The American Film Institute-National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants program, administratively linked with the NEA's Media Arts (a unit charged to support works of artistic excellence), must distinguish in its awards between films of "artistic" and of purely factual interest. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission is open to proposals involving newsfilm and unpublished documentary footage, but has supported few film projects. The National Endowment for the Humanities, in its first film copying grant in a decade, funded in 1993 the duplication of nitrate newsreels onto new filmstock.

The National Film Preservation Board will encourage these three agencies to ensure that a full range of motion picture subjects, genres and physical film types are eligible for grants. The Board also urges these agencies to articulate clearly the parameters of each program to potential grantees.

Additionally, we recommend returning funding for preservation copying to the former level of purchasing power. The well-established AFI-NEA program, the lifeline for archival copying in U.S. film archives over the past two decades, has been particularly hard hit. From 1980 to 1992, the program's annual allocation dropped from $514,215 to $355,600, while the cost of laboratory work more than doubled. Thus archives have been caught in a double bind: fewer grant dollars and higher laboratory costs.

Recommendation 5.9: Federally Chartered Foundation

Create a federally chartered foundation to redefine the scope of American film preservation through its grant programs and to recruit new financial partners into the effort. Even with additional support, existing federal copying programs are simply inadequate. They attack the effects of film deterioration, not the causes, and, as currently structured, look after only a small portion of America's diverse film production.

Given the magnitude of the preservation problem and the realities of the current federal budget, we must try a different approach. What is necessary is a broad-based structure to integrate storage, cataloging, restoration, educational access, and public exhibition into a coherent national plan and promote this more balanced program. Redefining film preservation requires a new funding strategy.

Among possible models the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is closest to the type of organization envisioned. Created by Congress in 1984, the NFWF was the first nonprofit foundation eligible to receive federal matching funds to support the conservation mission of a federal agency. It stimulates wider investment in conservation projects by creating public-private partnerships aimed at species habitat protection, environmental education, public policy development, natural resource development, habitat and ecosystem rehabilitation, and leadership training for conservation professionals. Its grants programs combine private and corporate contributions with federal dollars and are flexibly structured to encourage new ideas from the field. The NFWF is a lean, mission-driven organization. It secures all operating expenditures from private sources and spends less than 5% of its budget on administrative support and overhead. Between 1984 and 1993, the NFWF awarded 873 grants, contributing $37 million in federal funds toward a total of $108 million for conservation projects.

We recommend creating a similar federally chartered foundation dedicated solely to the preservation of American film. Affiliated with the Library of Congress and its National Film Preservation Board, this new foundation would secure private support for national preservation initiatives and be eligible to match these donations with federal funds. Federal money is a vital part of the funding partnership. The promise of a federal match acts as an incentive to corporate, foundation, and individual donors to view their gifts as seed money for public preservation investments. The foundation would work in cooperation, not competition, with existing organizations.

The Board believes that the creative community and the communications industries could become key partners in the initiative. A new federally created foundation has the potential to: (1) build preservation relationships among archives, the film community and the industry to reflect changing technologies and public needs, (2) match public initiatives with donor interests, (3) foster constructive working relationships with federal grants programs so that each public preservation dollar is maximized, (4) extend national preservation programs into improving film storage and access, and (5) have the national base to address problems beyond the scope of a single institution.

The National Film Preservation Board, working through the Library of Congress, will seek legislation to establish a new film preservation foundation. The foundation will be designed to forge public-private partnerships to attack film preservation problems and be eligible to receive federal funds to match corporate, foundation and individual donations. Members of the Board will enlist the support of their organizations for this initiative.

6. Toward Implementation

The Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board are committed to implementing the action plan outlined here, but we need your input and support. Only by continuing the collaboration among the film community and building a wide base of public interest can there be hope for genuine gains in American film preservation. To this end, we invite written comments on the plan.

It is worth restating that the recommendations in Redefining Film Preservation express agreements among the archivists, educators, filmmakers, industry executives, and others who participated in the five planning groups. To reach this point, groups achieved compromise on issues that individual representatives might have preferred to push harder or downplay. For some more controversial issues, this plan is the first attempt at open discussion and private-public sector consensus. It is hoped that written comments can build from this foundation, suggesting priorities, partners, and specific implementation approaches.

The National Film Preservation Board, currently authorized by Congress through June 1996, will discuss implementation at its Fall 1994 meeting and guide the overall process. Recognizing that a national funding structure is the critical factor for the plan's success, the Library of Congress will take steps to introduce the legislation for a new federally chartered foundation dedicated to film preservation. The Librarian will issue an implementation document, incorporating public comments and the Board's discussion, by the end of January 1995.


The Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board would like to thank all those who served on the four advisory task forces and the Board's Funding Committee over the past six months. This document is based on their discussions, working papers, and recommendations.

  • Gray Ainsworth, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Public Awareness)
  • Mary Lea Bandy, Museum of Modern Art (Public-Private Cooperation)
  • John Belton, Society for Cinema Studies (Public Access & Educational Use)
  • Allen Daviau, American Society of Cinematographers (Redefining Preservation)
  • Raffaele Donato, Film Foundation Cooperation)
  • Jean Firstenberg, American Film Institute (Public Awareness)
  • Peter Gardiner, Warner Bros. (Redefining Preservation)
  • Douglas Gomery, University of Maryland (Public-Private Cooperation)
  • Stephen Gong, Pacific Film Archive (Redefining Preservation)
  • Tom Gunning, Northwestern University (Public Awareness)
  • Robert Heiber, Chace Productions (Redefining Preservation)
  • William Humphrey, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Public-Private Cooperation)
  • Karen Ishizuka, Japanese American National Museum (Public Awareness)
  • Fay Kanin, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Funding)
  • Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight (Public Awareness)
  • Scott Martin, Paramount Pictures (Public-Private Cooperation)
  • Roger Mayer, Turner Entertainment (Funding)
  • William Murphy, National Archives (Redefining Preservation)
  • Brian O'Doherty, National Endowment for the Arts (Public-Private Cooperation)
  • David W. Packard, Stanford Theatre Foundation (Public Access & Educational Use)
  • Richard Prelinger, Prelinger Associates and Home Box Office (Public Access & Educational Use)
  • John Ptak, National Center for Film and Video Preservation (Funding)
  • James Reilly, Image Permanence Institute (Redefining Preservation)
  • Edward Richmond, UCLA Film and Television Archive (Public-Private Cooperation, Public Access & Educational Use)
  • Robert Rosen, UCLA Department of Theater, Film and Television (Funding)
  • Milton Shefter, Miljoy Enterprises (Public Awareness)
  • Karan Sheldon, Northeast Historic Film (Public Access & Educational Use)
  • George Stevens, Jr. (Public Access & Educational Use)
  • Jayne Wallace, American Movie Classics (Public Awareness)
  • James Watters, Universal City Studios (Public Access & Educational Use)

The consultants for this two-year project--Annette Melville and Scott Simmon--would like to thank the many who testified in the 1993 hearings, submitted written comments, or provided information by phone or in person. Heading the list are David Francis, Steven Leggett and Eric Schwartz of the Library of Congress, all unfailing in their efforts and support.

  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Anne Coco, Michael Friend, Fay Kanin Kyle Adamczak
  • Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association: Mary Jennings
  • Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers: J. Nicholas Counter III, Carol Lombardini
  • John E. Allen
  • American Archives of the Factual Film, Iowa State University: Glenn McMullen
  • American Association for State and Local History: Jay Richiuso
  • American Film Institute: Jean Firstenberg
  • American Movie Classics: Josh Sapan, Jayne Wallace
  • American Zoetrope: Francis Coppola, Catherine Craig
  • Anthology Film Archives: Robert Haller, Jim Hubbard, Jonas Mekas
  • Archive Film Productions: Patrick Montgomery
  • Patricia Ard
  • Arrowhead Library System: Rose Mary Leaver
  • Association of Moving Image Archivists: Ernest Dick
  • Dennis Atkinson
  • Bay Area Video Coalition: Sally Jo Fifer
  • Bishop Museum Archives: DeSoto Brown
  • David Bordwell
  • British Film Institute: Clyde Jeavons
  • Canyon Cinema: Dominique Angerame
  • Castro Theater: Anita Monga
  • Chace Productions: Robert Heiber, Karen Kalish
  • David Chasman
  • Cine-Tech: Stanley Cohen
  • Cineric: Balazs Nyari
  • Committee for Film Preservation and Public Access: Joe Dante, Robert Harris, Bob King, Gregory Luce, Steven Newmark, Samuel Peeples, David Pierce, Fred Ray, Michael Rotello, Bonnie Rowan, Anthony Slide, Bill Warren, Matthew Weisman
  • Consolidated Film Industries: Jerry Virnig
  • Council on International Nontheatrical Events: John Mendenhall, Alan Rettig
  • Thomas Cripps
  • Dance Heritage Coalition: Catherine Johnson
  • Eastman Kodak: Alan Masson
  • Film Forum: Bruce Goldstein
  • The Film Foundation: Raffaele Donato, Martin Scorsese
  • Film-Makers' Cooperative: M.M. Serra
  • Film Preserve: Robert Harris
  • Film Technology: Ralph Sargent, Alan Stark
  • Films Incorporated: Mike Caisson
  • Fort Lee Film Storage: Larry Wehrhahn
  • Fulcrum Media Services: Kenn Rabin
  • Douglas Gomery
  • Sam Gowan
  • Grand Rapids Public Library: Gordon Olson
  • Guffanti Film Laboratories: Bernie Macklin
  • Stephanie Hartman
  • Hawk Film Laboratories: George Zacharia
  • Judi Hoffman
  • Hollywood Vaults: David Wexler
  • Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution: John Homiak
  • Image Permanence Institute: Douglas Nishimura, James Reilly
  • Independent-International Pictures: Samuel Sherman
  • International Documentary Association: Betsy McLane
  • International Film Music Society
  • International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House: Jan-Christopher Horak, Edward Stratmann
  • International Television Trading: Ellen Theg
  • Japanese American National Museum: Karen Ishizuka
  • Kino International: Jessica Rosner
  • Robert Kolker
  • Library of Congress: Gerald Gibson, Barbara Humphrys, Patrick Loughney, Madeline Matz, Patrick Sheehan, Paul Spehr, Winston Tabb
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Darlene Ramirez
  • Lucasfilm: Deborah Fine, George Lucas
  • Leonard Maltin
  • Louis B. Mayer Foundation: L. Jeffrey Selznick
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: Patricia Boero, Woodward Wickham
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: Gray Ainsworth
  • Miljoy Enterprises: Milton Shefter
  • Motion Picture Association of America: Matthew Gerson
  • Moviecraft: Larry Urbanski
  • Museum of Modern Art: Mary Lea Bandy, Eileen Bowser, John Johnson, Peter Williamson
  • National Air and Space Museum Film Archives: Mark Taylor
  • National Archives and Records Administration: Lewis Bellardo, Alan Lewis, Charles Mayn, William Murphy
  • National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute: Margaret Byrne, Susan Dalton, Alan Gevinson, Patricia King Hanson, Gregory Lukow, John Ptak
  • National Center for Jewish Film: Sharon Rivo
  • National Endowment for the Arts: Brian O'Doherty, Richard Teller
  • National Endowment for the Humanities: Jeffrey Field
  • National Gallery of Art: Margaret Parsons
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission: Laurie Baty
  • Nebraska State Historical Society: Paul Eisloeffel
  • New York Public Library: Mary Boone Bowling, Betty Corwin, Richard Hollinger, James Briggs Murray, Marie Nesthus, Madeleine Nichols
  • New York State Council on the Arts: Kitty Carlisle Hart, Deborah Silverfine
  • Northeast Historic Film: Karan Sheldon, David Weiss
  • Victor Nunez
  • Oregon Historical Society: Michele Kribs
  • Pacific Film Archive: Nancy Goldman, Stephen Gong, Edith Kramer
  • Paramount Pictures: Scott Martin, Philip Murphy, Sallie Seltzer
  • John Perry
  • Prelinger Associates: Richard Prelinger
  • Preservation Publishing Company: Henry Wilhelm
  • Railroad Square Cinema: Ken Eisen
  • Recording Industry of America: Hilary Rosen
  • Republic Pictures: Ernest Kirkpatrick
  • Sarah Richards
  • Screen Archives Entertainment: Craig Spaulding
  • Society for Cinema Studies: John Belton, Tom Gunning
  • Society of American Archives: Teresa Brinati
  • Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers: Sherwin Becker
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment: Grover Crisp, William Humphrey, Matt Rothman, Mike Schlesinger
  • Southwest Film/Video Archives: Rebecca Rice
  • Stanford Theatre Foundation: David W. Packard
  • George Stevens, Jr.
  • Swank Motion Pictures: Donna Perrin
  • Linda Tadic
  • Edwin Thanhouser
  • Television Center: Ana Ramirez
  • Toronto Film Society: Caren Feldman, Delores Feldman, Morris Feldman, Ronda Feldman, Calvin Hambrook, Elizabeth Magner, David Martin, Allen Shugar
  • Turner Entertainment: Richard May, Roger Mayer
  • Twentieth Century Fox: Alan Adler, Roger Bell, Mark Meyerson
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Library Programs: Linda Loeb
  • UCLA Film and Television Archive: Ronda Burrell, Jess Daily, Robert Gitt, Charles Hopkins, Edward Richmond, Steven Ricci, Robert Rosen
  • Universal City Studios: David Goldstein, Robert O'Neil, Daniel Slusser, James Watters
  • University Film and Video Association: Ben Levin
  • Walt Disney Company: Harrison Ellenshaw, Scott MacQueen
  • Warner Bros.: Leith Adams, Bernard Sorkin, Peter Gardiner, William Hartman
  • Western Cine
  • Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research: Maxine Fleckner-Ducey, Donald Crafton
  • Frederick Wiseman
  • YCM: Pete Comandini, Richard Dayton.
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