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.

More about the film collection
In beeld: still uit één van de films uit de collectie

In beeld: still uit één van de films uit de collectie

These titles consist of multiple versions of various (working) copies, including shorter montages, different language versions, and image and audio reels.

Urgent restoration

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.

Delicate digitisation

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.

Use

The audiovisual content is not yet in the public domain because it’s still less than 70 years since the filmmakers passed away, but its metadata is already freely available. Our expert colleagues from KADOC have added this metadata and made it accessible in 2022, including through our own platform, The Archive.

Tip! You can look up the metadata at hetarchief.be by searching for “Witte paters + kadoc”, and this produces 128 search results. If you want to consult the content in person on site, you can make a request to KADOC via The Archive for them to contact you.

This collection is worth its weight in gold from an educational perspective. Teachers can find all the content, with its necessary contextualisation, at The Archive for Education. The experts from KADOC have joined forces with our educational colleague Jelle for this, and together they created collections that can be used in the classroom straight away. The White Fathers’ audiovisual content is available to our content partners on Catalogus Pro.

The film collection is also serving as inspiration for an exhibition organised by KADOC in collaboration with three artists in residence: Michèle Magema, Daddy Tshikaya and Yves Sambu instigated a new discourse about the films in the spring of 2022. You can see ANGLES – which explores new perspectives and viewpoints – from 17 June until 16 August 2022.

Do you have a question?
Contact Céline Vermeire
Project Leader Digitisation & Account Manager government and heritage institutions
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