Why We Need to Pull These Films off the Shelf: Educational Films In The United States (Part III)

12.08.2011 |

If you ignore educational films, you're missing out on some hidden treasures.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Skip Elsheimer, also known as the A/V Geek, a graduate of NC State who has an archive of over 24,000 educational films, many of which he has digitized and made available on DVD or for free viewing at the Internet Archive. He is also a contributor to “Learning With The Lights Off: Educational Film In The United States.” This is the third of three posts in a series on educational films.

I’m Skip Elsheimer. I collect old 16mm educational films. I’ve got over 24,000 which are stored in my house (a former boarding house) in Raleigh, NC. I’ve only seen around 5,000 of the films in my collection and new films show up all the time. So it’s a challenge to keep up with what films I’ve already got, and I’m always acquiring more.

Occasionally, I run across a film that reminds me of the fact that I and others with film archives need to actively pull films off the shelves and make them available for people to watch them. Those of us in  possession of these films need to watch them ourselves – even if we think we know what the film is about.

In particular, I’ve had this film “The Story” for many years and I’ve never felt the need to watch it. There are so many other films that grab my attention with catchy or amusing titles, like “Sudden Birth” or “One Got Fat” or “Drugs Are Like That.”  Sure, I want to watch those right away.

When looking at worldcat.org, even the description of the film doesn’t jump out at you as anything special:

The Story, ACI Productions, 1969. Presents a story told by a young boy to his younger sister. Records the spontaneous tale with all the interruptions, comments and reactions of the sister.

But, when I finally forced myself to watch this seemingly unpromising film, I found something amazing. Have a look at it to see for yourself:

Moral of the story: We need to watch these films. At the time, the subject of “The Story” was just a little kid telling a story to his little sister. Little did we know who that kid would become, and that Lisa and Maggie (the sisters) and Homer (the director of “The Story”) would be characters familiar to millions of people around the world.

To the makers of these films and the schools that got rid of them, these films are obsolete. They served their purpose and now can be disposed of. I argue that these films are important artifacts  and are significant in telling us about our recent cultural history. And, ultimately, that is why I have 24,000 films.

Note: additional films, and information about “Learning With The Lights Off: Educational Film In The United States”, are available here.

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One Response to “Why We Need to Pull These Films off the Shelf: Educational Films In The United States (Part III)”

  1. [...] Marsha Orgeron’s post and Devin Orgeron’s post in The Abstract. And don’t miss reading the third guest post by NC State alum Skip Elsheimer and watching the fascinating short film he [...]

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