The New York Times looks at the confusing work of film preservation

Still from Decasia

Welcome back! The fall 2016 semester is underway now, and we’re happy to see students back. You can come to us to watch any films you need to watch for class… but as we’re often reminded, there are some things we just can’t get our hands on.

Last week, The New York Times ran a story about the challenges of preserving films from the silent era. There’s a lot of eye-popping statistics – especially that 70 percent of the films from that time are lost forever – but we were most amazed by the stories of alternative versions of movies. Evidently, studios used to produce pre-censored or re-written versions of movies to show overseas or in areas that could not yet play movies with sound, and their content and production vary significantly from the originals. Keeping these versions intact has been a nightmare for preservationists. If you ever need to watch something out-of-print for class, remember all these archivists toiling way to keep culture alive.

This is to say nothing of films that have never been available on a modern format, left behind on VHS. We’re taking care of these cases as we find them in our collection, so rest assured, we’re doing our part to prevent other films from being lost to time too.

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