Reel Rescue

The Queensland Library Foundation’s 2018 Reel Rescue campaign sought support for the digitisation of vulnerable films in State Library of Queensland’s collection of more than 4000 films and videos, some dating from the early twentieth century.

Through the generosity of donors, State Library has now digitised a total of 113 (8mm and 16mm) films.

The reels were individually assessed before beginning the intricate process of identifying he content of each film strip by turning them through a hand reel and light box, or winding them through a flatbed Steenbeck film editor.

Audio Visual Conservator, Swee Cheng Wong assessing films for digitisation
Audio Visual Conservator, Swee Cheng Wong assessing films for digitisation

The painstaking task of converting the fragile analogue film into digital files involves creating a series of digital images (one for each frame), which are then reconstructed into the original film. Derivative (video and jpg) files are created, with masters stored on State Library’s server and ingested into Digitool, State Library’s digital management system. The content is then described for our catalogue, One Search, and made available for discovery by researchers, students, historians and anyone with an interest in Queensland history, no matter where they may be in the world.

The Reel Rescue program has already uncovered some fascinating events in our state’s history.

Recently digitised and now available online are the Podmore family home movies – a collection of five films of domestic scenes from the Esk area, and the Torrens family collection – taken on Badu Island in the late 1970s by young school teacher Wayne Torrens, who along with his wife Gayle ran the Badu School in 1977 and 1978.

Other films digitised thanks to Reel Rescue donations, and currently in the process of being prepared for our digital management system, include the Bill Rahmann Films 1948-ca1987 and Paul F. Ruckert collection 1930 – 1980.

Rahmann was a very capable hobbyist who made high quality films on Brisbane and South East Queensland, including films relating to Maryborough, Brisbane trams and trains, Story Bridge and Peter’s Slip.

Paul Ruckert (1913-2006) was an Australian film producer and cinematographer. Between 1930 and 1980 he produced a wide variety of short films and documentaries under the banner of Invincible Pictures, including comedies, travelogues, natural history documentaries and commercials. His nature documentaries were pioneering for their macro and time lapse photographic methods.

Stills from films restored with support from the Reel Rescue appeal. 31161 Podmore family home movies, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Stills from films restored with support from the Reel Rescue appeal. 31661 Torrens family photographs, photographic slides and film footage of Badu Island and Wujal Wujal , John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Digitisation of our motion picture collection enables increased discoverability across the globe, via State Library’s website and One Search catalogue and on multiple platforms – YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook – as part of our commitment to take our content available where people go.

This film, narrated by The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO – Patron of the Queensland Library Foundation, introduces the Reel Rescue campaign, and the importance of preserving our heritage for future generations.

Digitisation is an ongoing priority for State Library, and donations towards this vital program are always welcome.

For more information about the Queensland Library Foundation, and how you can help contribute, contact us at foundation@slq.qld.gov.au or 3840 7767.