National film grant boosts Florida history center here
By Marilyn Bowden
A grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center brings the archive's total in recent grants to almost $50,000, said Director Steven Davidson.
The funds will be used to restore home movies and amateur films of Florida predating the advent of television in 1949, Mr. Davidson said.
Among them, he said, are "everything from 35mm nitrate film of the hurricane of 1926 to rare home movies from African-American families."
The center, in the Miami-Dade Main Library, 101 W Flagler St., preserves and stores filmed, televised and videotaped images of Florida spanning the past century.
The federal grant, is earmarked for "orphan films not protected by commercial interests" such as home movies, industrial films and silent movies "that are of historical and national importance," Jeff Lambert, program manager for the San Francisco-based foundation, said this week.
"The money goes toward preservation of the original film," he said, "plus creation of a second viewing copy on video that people can come and use."
This is the third grant the foundation has awarded the Wolfson in the past two years, he said. The national grant caps a series of awards given the Wolfson in recent weeks, he said.
New York Women in Film & Television selected the Florida archive as one of six in the country to receive a grant from its Women's Film Preservation Board.
The 25-year-old organization, based in New York, started giving grants for preservation five years ago, said Lois Bianchi, a judge for the awards.
"We look for works that are significant in terms of women's history," she said, "or on which women were principal creators films that are physically in danger of deteriorating."
The Wolfson received an in-kind grant, she said. A specialized lab in New York City will donate its services to restore some amateur films shot by women documenting aspects of South Florida history and culture.
"While it becomes apparent watching most home movies that Dad was behind the camera," Mr. Davidson said, "in a couple of instances that was obviously not the case.
"So this was a perfect grant for us to apply for. They should be available for viewing in a couple of months."
The Wolfson's year-round schedule of screenings, video-enhanced bus tours and other educational programs got a boost from a grant from the Florida Department of State's Division of Cultural Affairs.
The events, long held in library and on university campuses, is spreading to other locations across South Florida, he said, including Fort Lauderdale in conjunction with its annual film festival.
A $5,000 grant from Dade Human Rights Foundation underwrites a comparative study of TV coverage of gay and lesbian populations in San Francisco and Miami.
Also participating in the study are Helene Whitson, archivist at San Francisco State University's Film & TV Archive, and John Lynch, news archivist at Vanderbilt University, which has the oldest TV network archive in the US.
Ms. Whitson said she is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Davidson on the project.
"Steve has made himself a national model and an international figure among archivists," she said. "He co-edited a curatorial manual when there was nothing like that in existence. It's now sold all over the world.
"In 1996 he testified in Senate hearings about the preservation of television archives. Nineteen states don't have any.
"He's unique in the way he has documented the history of an entire community and gives the rest of us great hope. I hope people in South Florida realize how lucky they are to have an archive of the caliber of the Wolfson Center."
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