Collection Management & Preservation

Collectively, the films in the DER collection constitute an important visual record of cultures, traditions and identities around the world. For each film, we retain master materials, whether on film, tape or a digital file.  As part of the Collections Management and Preservation Program we work to ensure long-term access to the films in our collection.

Unless we can record with film and tape the sights and sounds of their life, the world loses – and loses forever – part of the rich repertoire of the past on which we must depend to understand the future.

— Margaret Mead, 1969, “Introduction” Gardens of War

This work ranges from inventorying and storage of the film masters, working with archives that can provide proper physical storage of materials, maintaining important information about the films in the collection, and fundraising for preservation and digitization projects.

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Yanomamö Films Preservation

In 2017, we received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation and also completed a crowd-funding campaign to cover the costs of preservation and remastering for 9 titles from the Yanomamö film series by Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon. As part of this campaign we debuted our Adopt-A-Film program through which donors were able to support a particular film and ensure its preservation. Under the terms of the grant, we will create new 16mm preservation prints which will go back into cold storage and high definition digital masters, available for use in distribution. There are 22 films in total in the collection, and our long-term goals is to complete this preservation work on the entire set.

Thanks to our loyal donors for their support.  For a complete list of donors or information on how to get involved, visit our page on the Yanomamö Preservation Campaign.


Faces of Change – Remastered

DER worked closely with producer Norman Miller to restore and remaster the groundbreaking Faces of Change series of films. These clips provide a comparison between the old film transfer and the new scans from the original CRI (Color Reversal Internegative). All films in the Afghanistan, Bolivia, China Coast, and Kenya series have been digitally remastered and are now available on new 2-disc DVD sets. View the Faces of Change Collection for more info.

N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman – Remastered

In 2009, John Marshall’s classic film N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman was restored and remastered from original film elements. The project was a joint effort between the DER staff and the Human Studies Film Archive at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where the film is archived as part of the John Marshall Ju/’hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000.

Upgrading Our Storage: The DER Vault

In 2015, we completed the process of transferring our film print materials from a storage warehouse in Cambridge to professional archives.  LEARN MORE HERE.

The DER Collection at the Harvard Film Archive

DER’s collection of 16mm film prints, including distribution prints and preprint masters, are held in a special collection at the Harvard Film Archive in their cold storage facilities. Titles include works by DER founders John Marshall and Timothy Asch, works currently and formerly distributed by DER, including films by Jean Rouch, and Allison and Marek Jablonko, and the complete works by Robert Gardner and other filmmakers associated with the Harvard Film Study Center. These 16 mm films are available for screenings. DER Collection at the Harvard Film Archive

Shared Collections at the Smithsonian Institution

DER shares over 25 film projects with the NAFC (National Anthropological Film Collection), for which DER is responsible for outreach and distribution. The NAFC, in turn, offers long-term storage and preservation of many classic titles. These projects include the !Kung and Yanomamo film series created by DER founders, John Marshall and Timothy Asch, as well as the Faces of Change Collection, Andalucian films by Jerome Mintz, Altar of Fire, Weaving the Future, and Himalayan Herders, among others. Visit the NAFC