Breathing New Life into Old Films

We’ve recently been looking into digitizing some of our old 8mm movies, for a variety of reasons:

1. Increasing access and deliverability: Almost everyone has a way to watch DVDs and access video clips on the internet. It’s much harder to locate a working 8mm projector.

2. Preservation: Old film deteriorates over time. While digital materials can also degrade, the ability to store them in multiple physical formats (e.g., DVD, hard drives, etc.) is certainly better than having a single medium to rely on.

3. The capture of stills: Sometimes our photographic record of the Academy is incomplete. But with digitized “home” movies, we can easily grab, save, and print individual stills, greatly increasing our photographic collection.

The drawback to digitizing old films is that doing it well requires some very specialized equipment. The process must be outsourced and it’s not inexpensive.

We thought you might like to see a short, fairly low-resolution clip of a 48-minute film we recently had digitized thanks to the Richard W. Leopold Fund, Class of 1929. The approximately 50-second clip shows the build up to an Exeter/Andover baseball game  (while the exact date of the game is unknown, it probably dates from around 1940). Towards the end of the clip you can see 8th Principal Lewis Perry being directed to his seat in the stands by a student.

Audio from the Archives

The 1955 album cover
The 1955 album cover

Late spring is always a busy time in the library. Students are working on papers, end-of-the-school-year events take place in many of our larger spaces, and class reunion season begins. Alums often request materials that they and their classmates can use during the reunion celebrations. Most frequently, they’re looking for images, old yearbooks, and other published materials that date from the time that they attended Exeter. But occasionally they request audio, such as a recording of the student vocal ensemble known as the Peadquacs*. A couple of years ago we received a request for a CD copy of a 1955 split LP featuring both the Peadquacs and an instrumental group known as the Royal Exonians. Since we only had the  vinyl version of the album, and we had the equipment in-house to digitize the recording, we were happy to oblige.

To hear a track from that recording – it’s the 1955 Peadquacs singing the “Old Cherry Orchard” – please click the play button below.

*Peadquacs stands for Phillips Exeter Academy Double Quartet After Concert Society