Share your Texas: Archive of the Moving Image wants to save your home movies
- Send your smart phone videos to this sterling preserver of Texas images.
- Already, the archive has made available 50,000 films and videos that feature Texas.
- Spend some time at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image website for limitless nostalgia and serious history.
Your digital Texas home movies might be worth their weight in historical gold.
A video with a Texas theme that you took on your smart phone — or digitized from an existing film or video onto your computer or hard drive — are exactly what the esteemed Texas Archive of the Moving Image wants for the 2021 edition of its annual Round Up.
If you don’t already know about the archive, founded 20 years ago, it has preserved more than 50,000 legacy films and videotapes by translating them into digital files and offering them for free to the public.
I’m fond of “Austin the Friendly City,” a rather crude 1943 Chamber of Commerce promotional movie about the state capital that shows what people and their surroundings looked like almost 80 years ago. It is hopelessly sweet and positive in a nostalgic way.
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Yet it is priceless, not just because you see the city’s sites in a different context, but also for how the citizens viewed themselves, at least those that the business establishment chose to showcase.
It starts out with the upbeat music of a marching band and some crudely drawn images that purport to tell this city’s history, while introducing its 1943 modernity. Then the movie introduces a stereotypical family of four, the Smiths, newcomers who move into a suburban Austin house from out of town.
The governor warmly greets them to the state Capitol. Just that scene gives you a sense of the times.
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The film highlights the Highland Lakes, Governor’s Mansion, University of Texas Tower, Moonlight Towers, Zilker Park, Barton Springs, Treaty Oak, up-to-date state office buildings — these days lost in a forest of downtown towers — and a Longhorn football game.
Another of my favorites is “Target Austin,” a 1960 public-service TV drama about a future nuclear missile strike on the outskirts of Austin. Meant to terrify residents to retreat into the city’s public and private fallout shelters, it comes off as mainly hilarious today.
As I reported in 2013, late TV pioneers Gordon Wilkison and Cactus Pryor made the relatively well-produced short movie. It argues that a family fallout shelter stocked with the help of handy checklists was a simple and safe solution to a blast that could, in reality, level a city and leave the ruins caked in radiation for months if not years.
Once again, however, it demonstrates how the city looked to some and how some of its citizens viewed their lives here.
Among other gems are 2009’s “Austin: The Live Music Capital of the World,” a tourism film that shows many buildings and businesses that no longer exist, and 2011’s "Inside Out: Faces of the Fire," a short film that features the faces of the Bastrop community after the worst wildfires in the area. A student film about the rattlesnake roundup in Sweetwater, 2015’s “Spring Cleaning,” is not for the faint of heart. Yet you won’t want to look away.
These are but a few of the archive’s priceless historical treasures. While paid talent made longer films such as “Target Austin” and “Austin the Friendly City,” ordinary Texans made many of these now-digitized movies and videos.
Let’s say that, in the 1960s, grandma took a Super 8 film of her grandkids climbing around Big Bend, or scampering down the beach at Padre Island.
These images make for precious family memories, but they also can also give the rest of us a sense of how Texans used their leisure time, how they dressed, what cars they drove, and how they interacted with one another.
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After 12 years of converting film and video into digital files during its annual Round Up, the archive is this year seeking already digitized records of our lives. And these are likely to be more diverse than what has been collected, preserved and distributed before because the means of recording have been democratized.
“Not everyone had a film or video camera, but approximately 96 percent of Americans have a smart phone,” archive managing director Elizabeth Hansen said in a statement about the project. “I encourage Texans to open up their phones, take a look at their videos, and send us that one video that sums up their Texas experience. It could be a video of a festival, a family tradition, a sporting event, a short film or a commercial for your business. With the idea that ‘lots of copies keep things safe,’ share a copy with (the archive) so we can help to make sure those files exist for as long as possible while also bringing those videos into a larger conversation about Texas history and culture.”
With a call to “Show Us Your Texas,” the group is leaving it open to participants to decide what to contribute, but will be providing examples and prompts over the organization’s Facebook and Twitter accounts — both @TexasArchive — during the month of March. Materials can be contributed at TexasArchive.org/Digital through March 31. From the contributions, materials will be incorporated into the archive’s collection in a number of ways: video posts, edited videos, educational resources and more.
““The evolution of personal devices in recent years has made it easier than ever for Texans to capture meaningful moments,” said the archive director, Stephanie Whallon, “and we can’t wait to see what recent memories can now be preserved in the archival library of Texas history and culture.”
Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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