Lauren Goss 2018-01-19 12:44:16
Athletic achievement is not always visible to the naked eye. Peering through my loupe (or magnifying lens), an image of a runner gradually comes into focus in the emulsion of the 16mm color film. Upon further examination, I confirm this is footage of a 1960 track and field meet between the University of Oregon and Stanford University at which Oregon runner Dyrol Burleson became the first to run a mile in under four minutes at Hayward Field. A swift feat, yet the existing description for this reel only identified the sport, so the amateur film and its riveting content had remained hidden for decades in the collection. The University of Oregon Department of Intercollegiate Athletics Films collection comprises nearly 4,000 films and videotapes, which include footage of the school’s football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, track and field, volleyball, soccer, and golf teams during their practices and games, as well as season highlights and recruitment films. The collection documents the development of the athletics programs and the campus from 1930 onward. Identifying and conserving the films in this collection became the focus of my internship as the film archives assistant for the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives. In addition to becoming familiar with moving images as an archival medium, I learned about the value of using these collections to connect with alumni and cultivate potential donors. The Identifying Game The existing inventory derived content information directly from film leader, film cans, or notes affixed to the film itself. Incomplete or inaccurate information resulted in laborious work to answer reference requests, which often centered on footage of a particular game, specific season, or individual athlete. My work began with comparing the inventory to the actual audiovisual content. In many instances, the existing information was either wrong or missing completely. My tools for film review included a pair of manual rewinds, a light box, and a loupe, all of which allowed me to identify film-specific attributes including stock, gauge, and type of sound. Examining the content of the film on a frame-by-frame basis provided additional clues for determining the sport, opponent, location, date, and notable athletes. I updated the existing inventory spreadsheet with this new information. Based on my knowledge as a University of Oregon alum, I also selected institutionally significant films for additional identification using various archival collections. Handling with Care While inspecting each film to determine its content, I performed basic conservation work and learned how to handle different film formats. I cleaned the film, added new leader, and repaired splices. The amount of time to conserve each film varied depending on its length, which ranged from 100 feet to 1,200 feet. I also conducted a preservation survey, in which I took notes on each film’s physical deterioration, such as whether it had vinegar syndrome, shrinkage, discoloration, or embrittlement. This information will provide a benchmark for evaluating the prolonged deterioration of the films and determine the priority and extent of future digitization work. Sharing the Past Footage from this collection doesn’t exist in other repositories because it was primarily intended as a coaching tool rather than for commercial distribution. During my internship, I identified footage of significant players, teams, and coaches in the history of the university and shared my findings with department staff and the library development team. We then informed our stakeholders about the collection by uploading digitized versions to YouTube, writing articles about them, and presenting curated personalized footage to former student-athletes, alumni, fans, and booster clubs. We also collaborated with library and university marketing teams to anticipate upcoming athletic events and shared relevant footage through social media platforms. Championship Work There is always more work to be done and more footage to be identified and conserved. Staff in the archives will explore options for a digital media platform and continue with targeted donor relations. It is a transformative experience to share this footage with alumni and witness their nostalgia. Transcending the athletic programs, these materials are a visual representation and record of the events, locations, and students that shaped this university’s history.
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