Industrial and Institutional Films
A Collaborative Project Funded by
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Some segments of American motion picture production are still so poorly
documented that there are no reference publications to guide archivists
deciding which titles to save first. One of the most problematic areas
is the industrial and institutional film. Over 250,000 were sponsored
over the past century by corporations, trade associations, advocacy
groups, and charitable organizations to explain programs and to promote
products. Today these works are significant historical documents that
reveal as much about the culture that produced the films as about
the subjects themselves.
Thanks to a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National
Film Preservation Foundation is beginning work with industrial film
expert Rick Prelinger of the Internet Archive and Prelinger Archives
on a new guide to these relatively unknown motion pictures. The Industrial
and Institutional Films: A Field Guide will describe significant examples
and report whether copies exist at the Library of Congress and Smithsonian
Institution, the two major public collections of these moving-image
materials. Serving on the project team are representatives from the
Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of
Georgia, the University of South Carolina, the University of Notre
Dame, and the Council on Library and Information Resources.
The new reference work will be produced over a fourteen-month period
through a collaborative process integrating comment from scholars
and preservationists. Starting with a core list, Rick Prelinger will
invite subject experts to review the draft and add key titles in their
areas of specialty. In late 2005 the working draft will be made available
on the Internet for wider comment. The work-in-progress will be then
be presented at the Orphan Film Symposium , to be held at the University
of South Carolina from March 22 to 25, 2006, in Columbia, South Carolina,
for further discussion.
The final annotated filmography will distill information on 400 to
500 of the most significant American industrial and institutional
films and include an index and bibliographic citations. The NFPF plans
to publish The Industrial and Institutional Films: A Field Guide in
book form in August 2006 and also post the work on the NFPF Web site.
Both a preservation selection tool for archivists and a finding aid
for researchers, this reference tool will create a national road map
for saving and encouraging the use of historical documents whose value
is now becoming recognized.