Bruce Museum receives grant for preservation and restoration of historic educational films

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Bruce Museum receives grant for preservation and restoration of historic educational films
Paul Griswold Howes.

GREENWICH, CONN.- The Bruce Museum announced that it has received a grant for $18,290 from the National Film Preservation Foundation. The funding will be used for the preservation and restoration of four 16 mm films from its collection created by the Bruce Museum’s former curator, Paul Griswold Howes (1892-1984).

Produced in the 1940s and 1950s, these films were central to the educational mission of the Museum for decades, says Timothy J. Walsh, Collections Manager. The films, ranging in length from 10 to 25 minutes, were shown at the Museum to generations of local students and special groups. They include:

· Canyons in the Making (circa 1948-50). A 10-minute long color film with sound that uses the Grand Canyon to teach the story of geologic processes.

· Let the Birds Tell it All (1957-1958). A 25-minute long color film with sound in which many familiar species explain life from their point of view.

· Four Seasons Part II, Winter (Undated). A silent, black-and-white film, presumably part of a series chronicling seasonal variations.

· Observing as You Go. (1957). A 25-minute long color film with sound on keeping your eyes open to the endless interesting things that are all around you.

“These films represent a wonderful historical view of educational storytelling before natural history was eclipsed by more science-based teaching,” says Walsh. “In addition, these films represent point-in-time snapshots of numerous localities, which offer unique views through a historical perspective.”

Once restored and digitized, the films will be shown publicly and then stored for posterity in the Museum’s collection.

“These are one-of-a-kind artifacts, which is one reason why the NFPF agreed that it was important to preserve them. It’s a critical project for the Museum, as the films also add a substantial amount of unrepresented material to the archive of Paul Howes’ productive life,” says Walsh.

A native of Stamford, CT, Howes was one of the leading naturalists of his day. In 1918, Howes was commissioned by Dr. Edward F. Bigelow, the Museum’s first curator, to build the collections. Howes spent nearly 48 years at the Bruce, creating exhibits, collecting specimens, traveling widely, and teaching visitors about the wonders of the natural world. In addition to his cinematic endeavors, Howes authored eight books and dozens of popular and scientific articles.

Along with these four films to be preserved, Walsh adds, the Museum collection includes four additional films by Howes, as well as 16 magnetic reel-to-reel audio tapes that also will be preserved and digitized when funding is secured.

The NFPF is an independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress that helps archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and universities preserve and make available American films that are not likely to survive without public support.

Bruce Museum Managing Director, Suzanne Lio, commented, “Tim Walsh is to be commended for his diligence in conserving and caring for all of the Museum’s collections, these films in particular. This NFPF grant award is testament to the value of these films, and we can’t wait to show them to our members, some of whom may remember them from original screenings!”

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