As we continue to work through department records, we often stumble upon some interesting materials that have somehow ended up placed in a box with unrelated materials. Today, while cataloging some records from the AMNH VP’s office from the 1970s, we discovered a folder containing scripts for motion picture title cards from the early 1920s. These scripts contain scene descriptions, also known as title cards, to be inserted into silent films as text between images. You can see an example here on a negative that was found in this folder along with the papers:

Example of a title card on film

One conservation issue to consider is that this negative is showing signs of yellowing. It could possibly be nitrate film, so our next steps are to consult with the conservator to see if it needs to be removed and properly stored.

For some of these documents, it was not evident what the direct relationship was between the film and the museum, though the subject matter mostly covered New York City history and science. One could speculate that, perhaps, the museum contributed descriptions for the films or the film itself. However, one very interesting item in the folder was a document listing title cards for a film of the AMNH’s Crocker Land Expedition titled “Life in the Frozen North.”

As indicated by the initials in the upper right corner, the document contains notations made by Edmund Otis Hovey, the leader of the relief expedition sent to rescue the stranded explorers. His notations provide numbering, spelling corrections, and additional titles. The information found here could be a valuable reference to someone working with the Crocker Land photographic collection.

Unfortunately, it is unclear whether this film on the Crocker Land Expedition exists today. However, it is likely that many of the images from the expedition can be found in the AMNH Library Special Collections.


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