Film conservation center
A tiny part of me wants this to be a secret underground bunker. If you make the secret hand gestures when you visit the George Eastman Museum and hover near the offices, then eventually a film preservationist will step from the shadows and hand you a small pill and directions printed on edible paper. You need to memorize the directions. The pill is for after your visit because it will erase your geographic sense for the previous day so you can never pass along accurate directions.
In reality, the Mayer Conservation Center is located in Chili, New York. It rhymes with “bye-bye.” Come to think of it, that may be the ultimate way to disguise its location.
Of course, I also want to shout this location from the hilltops. This is one of those rare locations around the world where we preserve our culture before it disappears forever. The Mayer (or the Louis- I don’t really know if it has an affectionate nickname) is designed to house nitrate film, the dominant film stock in the movie industry until 1950. Unfortunately, nitrate film is volatile- it bursts into flame.
I watch old movies- some of which are a slog and some of which truly thrill me. This means that I have multiple times have had this conversation:
“That was great! You know, I never heard of that director/actor/series before. Where can I see more?”
“Well, you know all their other work has been lost in the great nitrate fire at… back in….”
Miraculously,we live near one of the few places that is designed to project nitrate films, the Dryden Theatre, such that they have an annual nitrate film festival every spring. It’s tremendous. a few hundred people fill the theater for three days straight of rare movies. People fly in from all over the world. You should come.
We also live near the aforementioned Chili and have been pronouncing correctly long enough that I can’t order properly in restaurants. Occasionally, they open the Mayer up for tours and we were lucky enough to get in on one.
I don’t know if I can adequately explain the absolute joy that comes over me when I say that I have been up close at the technicolor film that was in the cameras on the set of The Wizard of Oz. These were the prints used to create the DVD’s. Look, I could live without it, but I ain’t forgetting it.
That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about art. I didn’t have to have that moment to preserve my sanity or even make me a better person. All it did was remind me that somebody a long time ago had enough heart and brain and skill to reach through time and share those qualities with me. That can be a lot to absorb.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 57 more to go.
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