by Benjamin Stein
Film archivist Amy Sloper is in the process of
inspecting a reel of super 8 film that was submitted for
viewing during a 2014 “Home Movie Day” in Madison,
like the one that will be in Brookfield on April 2.
yeoman’s job by a carload of professional and student
archivists will soon journey from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison to the Brookfield Public Library.
Led by Amy
Sloper, film archivist at the Wisconsin Center for Film &
Theater Research on the UW campus, the archivists are people
on a mission: to inspect, clean and repair library patrons’
home movies on April 2.
are welcome to bring 8 mm, 16 mm, Super 8, DVD and
videocassette films to the Community Room of the library at
1900 N. Calhoun Road - and to view the home movies of others -
that day. Check-in will begin at noon and the archivists will
work from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Although not required, it has been
recommended that persons wishing to avail themselves of the
free service register to do so, on or before March 25, by
“Home Movie Day” anticipates similar activity at locations
across the United States, much of it scheduled for October.
The refurbishing program is a relatively new one, sponsored by
the Center for Home Movies - a national organization on whose
board Sloper serves. Home Movie Days occurred in Madison and
Green Bay last year and are slated for Bayfield, Eau Claire
and Hayward, this summer, said Polk County native Sloper.
a lot of little repairs,” noted the archivist. Sloper
additionally pointed out that, while “DVDs won’t last
forever, film (can) last for hundreds of years if you take
care of it right.”
are home movies important? Because, said Sloper, a home movie
“shows a way of life, the landscape” of our country and
“how people celebrated Christmas” and other special
occasions. Not exactly living history, perhaps, but something
of a facsimile.
are the archivists coming to Brookfield? “There was a piece
on ‘CBS News Sunday Morning’ about a year ago,” Sloper
said, with regard to the movie day phenomenon. Interested
viewers were directed to a website; there was interest among
Brookfield’s librarians; and the rest, as they say, is
history - or will be history at the completion of the local
movie day April 2.
As one who
“was always interested in film,” Sloper concentrated on
that area of communication as an undergraduate in the
communication arts department at the UW-Madison (an
institution and a city, she indicated, that has traditionally
had “a real strong film culture”). Her development of an
interest in the technical aspect of film led to a master’s
degree in moving image archiving from the University of
California, Los Angeles’s School of Theater, Film and
Television, which in turn led to Sloper’s current
“dream” job as film archivist based at her undergrad alma
mater. Sloper also is a lecturer in the UW’s School of
Library and Information Studies.
the archivist’s job, and that of the Wisconsin Center for
Film & Theater Research, as Sloper phrased it, “is
outreach for the state.” That’s why she and her team will
be traveling in the near future between Madison and Waukesha
film can survive a screening
Film archivist Amy Sloper explained what she and her
team look for:
to projecting any film, we inspect it by hand to ensure
that it will run through the projector without problems.
Basically, we are checking to make sure that the film,
which in most cases is at least 30 years old and at most
70-plus years old, has not degraded over time.
check that the film has not shrunk over time - it is
made of an organic material that goes through a number
of chemical reactions as it ages. If it has shrunk,
often a result of being stored at improper temperature
or humidity conditions, the perforations (or holes in
the side of the film strip) may not line up with the
sprockets, or the metal notches, in the projector. If
this is the case, running the shrunken film through a
projector with fixed metal sprockets will tear the film
also check the integrity of each splice, which is a spot
in the film where two pieces have been fixed together
with either tape or cement, to be sure that it will not
break in the projector. Often we need to re-splice
sections of a film before we can project it.
we add plastic leader to the head and tail of the film,
to protect it both while stored and while projected.
any film that we are unable to project, we can send
folks home with information about having their film
transferred and for proper storage of both the original
film elements as well as the digital files or DVDs they
might get back from a lab.”