Bucksport film preservation organization awarded grant to preserve historic Maine television footage

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 6:02 PM EDT
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BUCKSPORT, Maine (WABI) - In the same spot that folks can take in a film, the history of Maine television is also being preserved.

Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport is located in the building of the Alamo Theatre, and stores, preserves, and shares content from home movies to amateur film.

For decades, the non-profit has collected and preserved over 10 million feet of film and 8,000 hours of video.

Thanks to a grant for over $340,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, they’re working on their Maine television news film.

David Weiss said, “This grant is kind of the culmination of 35 years of collecting. It’s hard to believe, but W-A-B-I was the first television collection that we ever got. 1987 was when we got the first piece of it. In those days, even when we got a big grant, you couldn’t digitize it. What you could do is organize it, put it in cans, clean it, repair it, maybe make a videotape, like some of these, those are collector’s items almost already. We kept on getting more and more footage from different stations, but it wasn’t until recently that we’ve been able to like digitize all of this stuff. And this grant is a huge step in that direction for us,” said David Weiss, NHF executive director.

This three-year project will catalog, digitize, and publish over 300,000 feet of film and 7,800 videotapes containing over 27,000 stories and programs dating from 1953 to 2008, including W-A-B-I’s coverage of Maine Day at the University of Maine in the 1960s.

NHF’s vault manager, Karin Carlson-Snyder, also manages the licensing and has provided materials such as sports footage and past news footage for Netflix documentaries.

She says these news recordings can even teach us a little about current events.

“When you watch like 1970s news film, you’re just kind of struck on how, I mean, it’s the exact same stuff that is happening today. And I mean, 50 years ago, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same stuff is still happening. And it’s really important, I think, for people to see that,” said Carlson-Snyder.

From fishing and lumbering footage to films of presidential visits to the state, Weiss says it’s important to keep these images alive.

“History helps ground people, I think, into their community, their region, what it was like and what’s different now, what’s the same. So, I think it’s really important to have that accessible,” said Weiss.