News Column

Libraries help make home movies history

July 13, 2013


July 13--An old image captures a bustling 1950s Odessa, with people lined along the street to watch a cream-colored Chevrolet pull the Jackson's Auto parade float, carrying little cowboys and a giant golden horseshoe.

Another image shows a paperboy with a crew-cut lugging the Odessa American on his bicycle as he makes his morning route. A third image, older and black-and-white, shows roughnecks scrambling around to a flaming surface well.

They are stills from old home movies, but to the Texas Archive of The Moving Image, they represent stories of the Permian Basin that must be preserved as old film decays in attics, garages and closets.

So the non-profit organization seeks to digitize as many as possible, and over the next few weeks, the Ector and Midland county libraries will help. Beginning Monday, people and institutions can drop off their old films, video tapes and old photographs to have them digitized for free.

Then they'll get their original movies back, along with a digital copy. The archive will keep a digital copy that could make it into elementary school classrooms, museums, library collections and other outlets .

"It's about preserving the public memory and cultural history," said Madeline Fendley, a research and cataloging manager for the archive. "And home movies are a part of that. Educational films are part of that."

The criteria: Films have to be either by a Texan, filmed in Texas or about Texas. The event, called the Texas Film Round-Up, ends July 28. People can submit up to 50 items but only 10 can be VHS or video.

The reason, Fendley explained, is to focus on the 8mm, Super 8 and 16 mm film that deteriorates and requires increasingly rare playback equipment.

It's a statewide initiative that's made stops in Abilene, Amarillo, Brownsville, Fort Worth, Houston and El Paso, among others.

But this is the first round-up in Midland and Odessa. That alone is exciting, said Randy Ham, the director of Ector County Library, but even more so because of the collaboration with Midland's library.

"We really want this to kind of take off, not just because of the participation between the two libraries, which is pretty exciting in itself," said Randy Ham, Ector County's library director. "It's a chance for people in the Permian Basin to be a part of Texas history."

The digitization process takes three to five months, depending on the total haul, and copies will be returned on a DVD or hard drive.

Here, there's a special interest in showing the areas of oil history, the rigs and derricks and people, Fendley said.

"It's such a big part of Texas history that that's always fun," she said. But so are the movies of cattle ranchers, parades and county fairs, she said, careful to resist being too prescriptive. "Just bring stuff!"

Contact Corey Paul on Twitter @OAcrime on Facebook at OA Corey Paul or call 432-333-7768.


(c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

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