The University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections has been awarded a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The $39,175 grant supports the project, "Preserving the Films of Andrew Ellicott Douglass, Astronomer, Archaeologist, and Father of Tree-Ring Dating," and will involve the digitization of 90 motion picture films from the Andrew Ellicott Douglass papers. Douglass was a University of Arizona professor, founder of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR) and an early adopter of amateur moviemaking technology. His recordings document his research in astronomy, climate science and the tree-ring record.
"I am most excited that these unique primary source materials will finally be available to researchers from all disciplines via a globally accessible digital exhibit," said Assistant Librarian and Archivist Trent Purdy, one of the project's principal investigators. "Many of these films suffer from advanced decay, and digitizing them will ensure that the invaluable content therein will be preserved for future generations to access and use in their scholarship."
LTRR, in collaboration with University Libraries, will celebrate the launch of the digital exhibit with a film screening and presentations. Special Collections archivists will speak on the digitization project, and LTRR faculty members and notable dendrochronologists will discuss the films and Douglass’ research legacy.
"The Douglass films impact numerous fields of study, from astronomy to archaeology to climate science and film history itself," explained Amanda Howard, a project principal investigator and library information associate. "It's exciting to imagine the potential for future research and interdisciplinary collaborations they could inspire. As some of the footage documents groundbreaking scientific research as it actually happened, in the earliest days of amateur filmmaking, its continuing value cannot be overestimated."
The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. It administers the Recordings at Risk grant program, which supports the preservation of rare and unique audio, audiovisual and other time-based media of high scholarly value through digital reformatting. The program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.