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April 2, 2014

Robert & Theresa Davis Collection Update

Oh, the glorious Kodachrome…

Last week (March 24-27), CFA hosted University of Alberta associate professor Liz Czach as she conducted research on our Robert & Theresa Davis Collection. Liz is currently researching a number of travelogue filmmakers, but her particular interest in the Davis Collection stems from its relative completeness – in many instances, archives only hold on to the travelogue films themselves and perhaps a few other relevant artefacts. In the case of the Davis Collection, the films are not limited to final prints, but also include outtakes and various other production elements. Additionally, large amounts of complementary presentation material, such as ¼ inch audio soundtracks, full narration scripts, and Robert Davis’ personal cue cards, are being preserved along with the films. The collection also includes over twenty boxes of other promotional and personal material. This additional ephemera provides insights not only into the working habits and biographies of Robert & Theresa Davis, but also helps to shed light on the history of the travelogue genre and circuit.

In order to fully understand the contexts in which these films were presented, the preservation of many different elements is essential. The footage from the Davis’ travels was used in several different iterations – besides the lecture films (which ran about an hour and twenty minutes and were presented with live narration by Robert Davis), the films were also re-edited and sold as shorter educational programs (which typically ran roughly twenty minutes). As an example, here is a selection of materials related to the Davis’ educational film, Incredible Iceland (one of their favorite travel destinations):

Title card to the film

Above: Promotional materials for Incredible Iceland – “Meticulous attention to detail guarantees an unusually pleasing travel tonic.” Click the thumbnails for full-size images.

A page from a narration script draft, with Robert Davis’ edits in pen

Cue cards featuring Robert Davis’ signature shorthand. We’re still trying to figure out how these were used…

Sound effects employed in the film. PUFFIN EFFECT!

Although the films have been inventoried, neither they nor the paper materials have been processed. Liz’s visit greatly helped to shine a light on what we have on our hands, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Updates on the Robert & Theresa Davis Collection, including digitized film transfers, biographical information on Bob & Terry, and more on the travelogue genre, will be appearing in the weeks to come.

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