Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program Receives Grant for Preservation of Byrd Film Series

The Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program (BPRCAP) has received a $32,160 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) for the preservation of a unique film series used by Antarctic explorer Richard Byrd.

Laura Kissel, Polar Curator for BPRCAP, said the grant provides an exciting opportunity to preserve and show unique footage shot in Antarctica during the early to mid-1930s.

“The grant enables us to preserve ten films from the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Collection,” Kissel said.  “Shown on Byrd’s lecture tour following the expedition in 1935, these films transported the audience to Antarctica – which was still quite unknown at the time.”

Byrd led his second expedition to Antarctica, commonly called BAE II, from 1933-35 following the success of his first expedition in 1928-1930.  Many “firsts” in the history of Antarctic exploration were achieved during BAEII, including the first radio broadcast from Antarctica to the rest of the world on February 1, 1934.

Byrd’s status as a national hero grew at the conclusion of BAE II, and he was highly sought on the public lecture tour circuit.  The films to be preserved are part of the series Byrd used on this lecture tour, called Discovery.  Byrd wrote that “This pictorial record will show better than any words of mine could, the sacrifices my men made and the credit they deserve.”

Byrd Discovery seriesThe Discovery Lecture Series was originally comprised of 28 reels of film.  Of these 28 reels, only ten films have survived.  These reels hold 8,875 feet of 35mm film.  Prior to the BRPCAP acquisition of the series, it was housed in a numerous locations, including several warehouses and a barn.  Despite the excellent storage conditions at the BPRCAP, the films’ condition made it impossible for researchers to use.

The film will be cleaned, repaired, and transferred to a stable medium by Cinema Arts Incorporated, in Pennsylvania.  In addition, access copies will be made in DVD formats, enabling scholars, students, polar enthusiasts, and the general public the opportunity to view the films, which have not been shown since 1935.

Work on the restoration and preservation process will begin in July 2013.

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