Sustainable preservation of unique White Fathers images
The ‘White Fathers’, as members of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa are known, started capturing moving images of their missions in Central Africa in 1948. This collection of film contains unique footage, in particular from the 1950s and 60s, which needs to be sustainably preserved.
Meemoo is ensuring this audiovisual cultural heritage is not lost, working together with KADOC - KU Leuven to preserve the collection and Cinematek, who were responsible for its registration and restoration.
The film collection
The White Fathers were active in various African mission areas, and had a particularly strong presence in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, where they made films and documentaries about their day-to-day activities and the local population. These images provide an insight into the mission and colonial history, with the collection comprising more than 750 pieces of film under 83 titles altogether.
These titles consist of multiple versions of various (working) copies, including shorter montages, different language versions, and image and audio reels.
Damage caused by vinegar syndrome, among other things, has made this restoration and preservation treatment necessary. All films have therefore been given new cores and new film cans under guidance from the Head of Restoration at Cinematek. To ensure proper and sustainable preservation, the start and end strips of the films have also been replaced, with old splices repaired and glue residues removed. Any previously repaired perforations have also been restored again.
Together with KADOC and Cinematek, we organised a tendering procedure to find a digitisation partner for this project. Following extensive research, we ultimately opted for R3store Studios, a British company with previous experience of delicate films affected by vinegar syndrome. The film objects left for London in October 2019 and will remain there until June 2020. Once digitised, the files flowed into our meemoo archive system for sustainable archiving.