We are seeing movie stars and singing sensations and great musicians all over TV lately with the Grammy Awards, the special tribute to Stevie Wonder and the 40th Anniversary Special of Saturday Night Live that aired recently on TV for us all to see. Americans are known for their Pop Culture. Our music is sung all over the world and our movies are taken seriously all over the world no matter how silly or stupid the creators are as seen in all the uproar with North Korea over our stupid movie. Americans aren’t even cultured enough to take notice of most movies or artists from other countries.
The Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians , even the Cave Men knew that in order to preserve some of their culture or at least communication with future generations, they carved their stories in stones. Our generation has everything we know buried in a device where we pray to the Gods that the power does not go out. We seriously have no lasting record of anything learned. Even the first twenty years of our history on film has already disintegrated into useless dust due to the lack of preservation of our films. It is good to know that our government is finally investing money into our history through preservation.
We now have our own brand of buried treasure. Movies like It’s A Wonderful Life and Ghostbusters are being saved and buried in an Archive maintained by The Library of Congress in a vault. Recently the National Film Registry added 25 more films to the collection. They include now classics like Titanic and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The original camera negative of Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff from 1931 is hidden behind closed doors as well as Thomas Edison’s first film made in 1881 being restored by the National Audio Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper Virginia. It may be the oldest piece of celluloid roll of motion picture available in the world.
The place has acquired 1.5 million films from TV and video recordings. They are being stored in what used to be underground secret cold war bunkers. It was a place where our government stored millions of dollars in coins and currency that just sat in the nuclear safe bunker for 25 years from 1968 to 1993 for the purpose of revamping the economy east of the Mississippi River in case of a Holocaust. At the end of the Cold War the bunker was decommissioned. In 1997 David Woodley Packard bought the place and transformed it and gave it to the Library of Congress. 70% of the 11,000 silent films made in the United States have been lost. Films like the 1917 Cleopatra, 1928 Ladies of the Mob or 1927 London After Midnight.
The old films that survive are often incomplete and in terrible condition. Until 1951 most motion picture film was made of nitrate which decayed, caught fire or exploded if not taken care of properly. Now even with the faintest of prints they are able to create brand new negatives of old images. The place even shows pieces of films and allows the audience to suggest where the piece came from. Sometimes it really does take a village to recreate a scene. Now with new technology all communication from radio, TV and film is being captured and saved. Decades of TV shows like I Love Lucy from 1952, The Twilight Zone from 1960, Oprah from 2004, The Simpsons from 1995, Super Mario Brothers from 1985 even You Tube posts are being digitized and archived.
Our kids have not been educated by old history books but rather by TV and pop culture and we only understand our language if we understand all that has influenced us throughout our lifetimes. It includes Dallas from 1978, to the 1977 porn film Debbie Does Dallas. It is all being saved and will be left up to future generations to decide what is or is not important. The annual budget is $15 Million dollars. A mere spit of the amount of bucks our military spends each year. It is a bargain price to spend on our true American history.