Grant Awarded to Preserve Historic SUU Film Footage

Published: August 16, 2021 | Author: Lawrence Mbaki | Read Time: 3 minutes

SUU to digitize approximately ninety 16mm 100-foot film reels The Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) recently awarded Southern Utah University $4,627 to digitize events of the past. Along with six other Utah institutions, a total of $25,000 was awarded to preserve some of Utah’s state history.

USHRAB granted $4,627 to SUU to digitize approximately ninety 16mm 100-foot film reels containing an array of footage from circa 1947-1970 relating to the local community and its past—covering SUU, Iron County, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and Utah's national parks. This knowledge comes from some reels having labels that give clues to the content within. Some of the old labels indicate footage from class field trips to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Other reels contain footage of Louis Armstrong on campus in the 1960s, the old main building before the fire, ROTC training on campus during World War II, and various commencement ceremonies.

Beginning as a project for the Arts Administration program's Grant Writing Class, archives and special collections analyst Sally McDonald become the principal investigator (PI) on this grant submission. McDonald has worked in the university archives at SUU since 2015 in the Barbara A. Matheson Special Collections area (basement of the library)—named after a significant university donor who endowed SUU with her inheritance and a gift of some 30,000 books and artifacts upon her passing in October 2020. Special Collections contains rare books, maps, historical research materials, photographs, film reels, and more. McDonald’s passion and enthusiasm for this grant will allow her to continue finding what she calls gems and hidden treasures here at SUU.

"Securing funds for this project is also perfect timing,” said McDonald. “With the 60th anniversary of the Utah Shakespeare Festival this year and SUU’s 125th anniversary next year, this project will play an important part in that history. Our goal is to digitize the film reels and put the work in catalogs and new boxes. We look to finish and provide public access to this footage around April of 2022.”

“We will be working with local businesses to digitize these films," said Paula Mitchell, assistant professor of library media and director of special collections. "This way, we’re supporting our locals and we’re not at risk of losing or damaging any films due to travel.” 

The campus and community are encouraged to visit SUU's Special Collections area in the Gerald R.  Sherratt Library’s basement to more fully appreciate the work being done to preserve our unique history. This particular project mirrors others that provide a window to our past. This window to the past helps us reflect on how far we’ve come and provides guidance on where we hope to be in the future. We cannot wait to see the resulting film footage from this project that will be preserved for generations to come.

“We rely on grants,” says Mitchell, “and this one ties to the importance of what we are trying to do here.”

For more information on the university archives or Special Collections, visit the History of the Library page on SUU’s website.

Produced by the SPARC Office
SUU’s SPARC Office provides assistance to faculty, staff, and administrators seeking external funding for their projects and programs, from concept development and planning through implementation and management of funded projects.

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