This week, I found an interesting article about Chew Tee Pao, an archivist for the Asian Film Archive (AFA) in Singapore. The AFA serves to acquire, protect, and showcase regional and local films dating as far back as the 1930s. Chew is part of a team that examines and cleans these films, and determines whether they require restoration overseas.
In class this week, we discussed one role of the archive being to maintain and restore materials within collections as much as possible. If Pao or his colleagues determine that a film reel is particularly degraded, and thus beyond their ability to clean it, they send it to film restoration professionals elsewhere. During my time interning with the Elwyn School Archives in the Spring of 2016, I was tasked with looking over some of the old film reels in their collections, some of which date back comparably to those Pao mentions in this article. Many in the Elwyn Archives were significantly degraded, and part of my job was to seek out estimates from film restoration professionals nearby. In this article, Pao mentions "vinegar syndrome decay," the same phenomenon that plagued many of the reels at Elwyn.
I was an undergrad during my time in the Elwyn Archives, and reading about Pao's work with the AFA in Singapore, I more clearly see the value of that experience. Not only did I work to further develop the Elwyn Archives’ finding aid, but I also aided in maintaining films that could hold untold value for those researching the history of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I would be interested, going forward, to read more about archives that deal with collections of old film reels, and those professionals who restore reels that are damaged or degraded.
Hariz Baharudin, “Confessions of a Film Archivist,” The New Paper Singapore, August 14, 2017: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/confessions-film-archivist