The Collections at Midway Village Museum includes items of various materials, from wood to porcelain, fabric to paper, and I (Regina Gorham, Curator of Collections & Exhibits) have the pleasure of caring for all of these fantastic objects. We also have a collection of films, most 16mm, some 8mm. Intrigued by these films in 2013, I began doing some research. Not having dug into the details of this media, I reached out to many archives nationwide to gain insight, as well as contacting local film collectors to compile as much information as possible. I found resources with the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) and curatorial colleagues, and also found that the NFPF offer grants for film preservation projects.
After examining all of the films in the collection, armed with the knowledge of film dating techniques and basic condition assessment, I chose four films to include in the grant. Between their content and their condition, these films were most in need of transfer. In 2013, the NFPF awarded a grant to preserve 2 of the films. Those chosen by the NFPF for the project are unique local history gems: footage of a Rockford Peaches game and interior views of J.L. Clark assembly lines.
The films were sent to Colorlab in December of 2013 to be cleaned and treated, as well as a film-to-film transfer process which takes the footage from the aging, brittle film to a new polyester reel, extending the life of the film in its original formatting.
The films were returned in early February 2015, newly examined and cleaned, along with polyester copies and DVD copies. Without the equipment to safely view the films in their former state, I had minimal information as to what the reels actually contained. I knew there was no sound on either film, and had brief looks at some of the film sections to see what might be there, but only glimpses.
The Peaches film shows parts of a game against the Chicago Colleens, a team that existed only from 1948-1950. Playing at Beyer Stadium, the Peaches and the Colleens battle back and forth, racing from base to base.
The J.L. Clark footage shows factory views, with employees working on assembly lines. The film dates to c. 1951 (based on film markings), and shows the packing of Ray-O-Vac battery cylinders, lids for Johnson & Johnson baby powder being assembled, and Cashmere talcum powder caps being readied for shipment.
The result of this project has been greater understanding of local industry and sport, showing the Peaches doing what they did best and the inner-workings of J.L. Clark, as well as further preservation of the past through conservation treatment of a fragile media. The Museum cannot thank the NFPF enough for funding this project. Plans now are to include the films in the museum’s exhibits, sharing this great gem with visitors.
*Shown here are a few screen shots from the films.