The images captured by the Canadian Army Film Unit (CAFU) are among the most requested audiovisual documents at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). CAFU was founded in 1941 by the Department of National Defence to create an official record of Canada's Army. The Conservation and Preservation Copying Division at LAC is currently working with mostly 16mm black and white release prints of this iconic series to restore that turning-point in history for Canadians. The films were reconstituted from private sources after the 1967 National Film Board nitrate fire in Beaconsfield, QC, destroyed the original 35mm negatives. The complete 106-part series is accounted for, with the material for each episode varying in quality from heavily deteriorated prints to a few pristine printing elements. LAC is working to convert all of the material to polyester-based 35mm film and where required new sound elements are also generated.
Long before the variety of video formats sparked debates over the preferred method for capturing and preserving moving images, filmmakers and distributors fought about the implications of setting a standard celluloid film size and composition. While 35mm nitrate film dominated the early development of motion pictures, there was a brief period in time when 28mm safety film was thought to have serious advantages. The non-flammable film was designed for projection in non-theatrical settings that would otherwise have been vulnerable to dangerous nitrate fires. Additionally, it was more affordable than 35mm film so this meant churches, schools and community centers could screen films in urban settings across the country.
The Ontario Motion Picture Bureau and the University of Alberta were two of the foremost users of 28mm in the world, creating and circulating thousands of 28mm films from 1917 until the early 1930s.Titles such as Saskatchewan's War on the Grasshopper, Making the Most of Manure and Where Does False Hair Come From? were among the informational and instructional films shown to Canadians.
Today, these same titles are being preserved by transferring them to 35mm polyester-based film by the Conservation and Preservation Copying Division at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The approximately 2,500 28mm film reels currently held by LAC represent one of the largest collections of this film gauge in the world. This 28mm film collection provides the most significant record of government-sponsored film production in Canada before the creation of the National Film Board in 1939.
The lithograph Canada Marine Works, Augustin Cantin, Montreal, C.E. (ca. 1865), (Mikan number 3020493), an item from the Peter Winkworth Collection (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20060118235958/http://www.lac-bac.gc.ca/art/050602_e.html) was conserved in Spring 2006 for the Library and Archives Canada exhibition entitled "The Peter Winkwork Collection of Canadiana: Early Impressions of Québec."
When acquired, the print was adhered solidly to poor-quality, acidic paperboard, which had contributed to its overall discolouration and to the deterioration of the paper. The image was disfigured by mottled stains, abrasions and dirt. The sheet was creased in places, either during the printing process or during the mounting phase. Its corners were crushed and it had several punctures and gouges.
After several treatment options were considered, the following steps were carried out to stabilize the condition of the item and to improve its appearance for exhibition.
The first step was to remove as much of the surface dirt as possible. The recto of the lithograph was dry cleaned using ground white vinyl eraser: the crumbs were rolled across the surface with a light pressure to avoid pushing the dirt into the paper fibres.
Then, the paperboard backing was removed. This task took several days, since the backing had to be scraped away cautiously, bit by bit.
Even after the sheet was immersed in several baths of alkaline water, controlled light bleaching was needed to further reduce the stains and discolouration.
For added support, the lithograph was then relined with a thin Japanese paper and dried on a karibari, a Japanese drying screen.
Next, the abrasions, small areas of puncture repair, and the relaxed creases were inpainted with watercolours.