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Preserving Wonderland

March 3, 2010

When we toured the LAC preservation centre in Ottawa last week (which was awesome)  it was pretty clear, if not expressly stated,  that their priorities these days have shifted away from working on books,  to dealing with AV materials.  Firm fan of the book though I am,  I entirely understand why.  The book is a relatively stable medium: treat it properly and you can store it away for centuries without worry.  Sound and film, by contrast, are not only subject to age-related deterioration,  but obsolescence.  I am constantly amazed at the miracles film preservationists are able to work with film.  Take for example the very first movie version of Alice in Wonderland,  which was shot in 1903,  and recently posted online by the BFI.  The sole, seriously water-damaged copy of it was found in a cinema in Hove.  It’s still pretty beat up, but considering how badly it’s been cared for, and how old it is,  you realize the amazing amount of work that must have gone in to making it watchable.   All I can say is thank goodness that we have places like the LAC and BFI with such talented restorers to ensure that gems like these will still be around in another hundred years.

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