New Home for NZ's Oldest Films
Nitrate films stored in the new vault.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Home for NZ's Oldest Films
The New Zealand Film Archive and Archives New Zealand officially opened New Zealand’s first specialised nitrate film vault on Friday, February 28th. The new 100 square metre vault will be shared by the two organisations, which will store their nitrocellulose film there under optimum preservation conditions.
Representatives from Ngāti Toa, along with Staff and Board members from both archives, gathered on the site overlooking Porirua Harbour for a pre-dawn opening ceremony.
“The partnership between the Film Archive and Archives New Zealand makes perfect sense,” said Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Hon Christopher Finlayson. “Between them, the two organisations have amassed extensive collections of historic films, including both public and private film records. Sharing nitrate film preservation resources will be beneficial to the longevity of both organisations’ collections."
It is important that New Zealand’s earliest films be safely stored in the digital era, as the rapid disappearance of film labs makes the repair and copying of physical film stock more difficult. Nitrate film is fragile and needs a high level of care.
Film Archive Chief Executive Frank Stark said, “Films allow us to relive history crystallised as moving images - they are the past in motion. The new vault will keep these taonga alive and breathing in their original form."
Marilyn Little, Chief Archivist and General Manager Archives New Zealand, said, "As New Zealand’s guardian of the government record we are delighted to have invested in this new purpose-built facility, which will ensure our precious nitrate films are in safe keeping for future generations to enjoy and cherish."
Nitrocellulose film was the most commonly used film stock in New Zealand from the birth of film, until the end of the 1940s. Many of our nation’s most important film treasures were created on this format, including: the earliest surviving New Zealand film footage, The Departure of the Second Contingent for the Boer War (1900); government publicity films from the 1910s; dozens of our earliest kiwi home movies; groundbreaking New Zealand feature films such as Rudall Hayward’s My Lady of the Cave (1922) and Rewi’s Last Stand (1925); pioneering sound film experiments by kiwi Jack Welsh; the Weekly Review series of newsreels produced by the National Film Unit during the 1940s; and many more.
One characteristic of this type of film is that it is flammable and prone to deterioration over time. The new vault has been designed to prolong the life of nitrate films by slowing deterioration in a controlled environment. As well as having built-in safety mechanisms, the environment inside the vault is the optimal recommended for nitrate film storage: a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, and approximately 40% relative humidity.
In addition to Archive New Zealand’s funding contribution, the Film Archive is appreciative of the philanthropic support of the following organisations and individuals in building this facility: Pub Charity, Wellington Community Trust, Four Winds Foundation Limited, Infinity Foundation Limited, Mana Community Grants Foundation, Lion Foundation, Eastern and Central Community Trust, Stout Trust, Scientia Trust, New Zealand Community Trust, The Trusts Community Foundation and Jane Kominik.
The New Zealand Film Archive Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua is an independent charitable trust, which aims to collect, protect and connect New Zealand’s audiovisual heritage with the widest possible audience. The organisation cares for a collection of over 160,000 titles - spanning feature films, home movies, documentaries, short films, music videos, newsreels, TV programmes, advertisements, and more. The organisation has 32 years of experience caring for nitrate films and a team of dedicated staff. Regular wind-throughs of the film reels have helped keep the films in good condition. The Film Archive’s nitrate film collection is continually growing as the organisation works with other countries to repatriate New Zealand films from overseas.
Archives New Zealand, Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga is a division of the Department of Internal Affairs, and the official guardian of New Zealand’s public archives. They gather, store and protect an extremely wide range of material. Their holdings include the originals of the Treaty of Waitangi, government documents, maps, paintings, photographs and film. Archives New Zealand works with government agencies to administer the Public Records Act 2005 which sets the framework for contemporary recordkeeping across government. The organisation works to ensure records of long-term value are kept permanently and people have access to these records. The materials held at Archives New Zealand document rights and entitlements and provide evidence of government activity, as well as documenting the relationship between Māori and the Crown.