Exhibition Reel of Two Color Film (ca. 1929)

An experimental color short in Brewster Color, preserved by George Eastman House and presented on the More Treasures DVD set.

Largest Collaboration of its Kind to Save Orphan Films

Washington, D.C. (February 24, 1999)—The National Endowment for the Arts today announced $500,000 in Millennium funds for the Treasures of American Film Archives initiative as part of the nation's celebrations for the year 2000. Organized by the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) working together with twelve film archives from Alaska to West Virginia, Treasures will save and showcase "orphan films," or works not preserved by commercial interests. The largest collaboration of its kind, Treasures will save a valuable cross-section of American filmmaking for the coming century.

The Treasures initiative will preserve fragile newsreels, silent films, home movies, avant garde works, documentaries, and other unprotected independent productions. The project will make new preservation and access copies of films at participating archives, exhibit excerpts of these works at screenings during the year 2000, and produce a video set of rarely seen films for free distribution to state libraries and for sale to the public. Among the many works to be saved through Treasures will be outtakes of African American contralto Marian Anderson's 1939 outdoor concert at Washington's Lincoln Memorial, where she performed for a crowd of 75,000 and a radio audience of millions after being denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall because of her race.

Bill Ivey, Arts Endowment Chairman, said, "Film, like no other American art form, captures a compelling record of our nation's significant moments, artistic accomplishments, and historic events. The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support the crucial efforts of this groundbreaking national collaboration which ensures the survival of our country's cultural memories."

Film is fragile. Fewer than 20% of U.S. feature films from the 1920s survive in complete form. For films from the 1910s, the survival rate is only 10%, and only half of features produced before 1950 are still available. For films made outside the commercial mainstream, preservationists are unable to determine how much has been lost. Only coordinated efforts will save the treasures of American filmmaking.

"For over 100 years, Americans have used film to express their personal visions and capture the vitality of our nation's history. The NEA Millennium project recognizes the contributions of these filmmakers to our collective memory," says filmmaker Martin Scorsese, founder of the Film Foundation, the first organization to step forward with matching funds for the project.

"The Treasures Project, like filmmaking itself, is a collaborative effort," says Roger L. Mayer, NFPF Board Chair and President of Turner Entertainment Company. "We are involving archives—large and small—from across the country in our campaign to make film preservation a nationwide initiative. The NFPF is honored to help these organizations work together to save our film heritage and share films with the public."

America has been the leader in the 20th century art of filmmaking. The following participating archives represent collections of virtually every type of film made over the last 100 years:

  • Alaska Film Archives, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK
  • Anthology Film Archives, New York City, NY
  • George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
  • Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA
  • Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
  • National Center for Jewish Film, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
  • New York Public Library, New York City, NY
  • Northeast Historic Film, Bucksport, ME
  • Pacific Film Archive, UC Berkeley Art Museum, CA
  • UCLA Film and Television Archive, Los Angeles, CA
  • West Virginia State Archives, Charleston, WV

The National Film Preservation Foundation, the Treasures initiative organizer, is an independent nonprofit organization created by Congress to preserve America's film heritage. The NFPF is working with participant archives to raise matching funds for the project.

The Treasures of American Film Archives initiative will support preservation work for a broad spectrum of films. These include an extremely rare 1913 color motion picture of The Scarlet Letter which used the Kinemacolor process; the first feature shot entirely on location in the Alaska Territory in 1924; a 1936 American-produced Yiddish-language melodrama; a 1937 town portrait of Elkins, West Virginia—men in the lumber yard, women at the laundry, and segregated church congregations; home movies of life at Japanese-American detention camps during World War II; and three silent films from 1936-38 offering a valuable moving image record of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

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