Humanities Iowa Receives Grant for the Preservation of the Brinton Silent Film Collection

Fall 2013

Humanities Iowa has been awarded a $51,000 grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation to preserve, restore, catalog, format, digitally maintain and contextualize a vast collection of cinematic film, including pre-cinematic magic lantern slides and reels of film that include the earliest films ever made. The collection was assembled in the late 19th and early 20th century by Frank Brinton, of Washington, Iowa, who traveled the world collecting moving images to showcase in theaters and opera houses across the state.

The collection came into the possession of Michael Zahs, a retired high school teacher and member of Humanities Iowa’s speakers bureau. Zahs sought the assistance of Humanities Iowa to help preserve 16 surviving reels from Brinton’s collection, all cellulose nitrate-based, rapidly deteriorating, and explosive.

Humanities Iowa partnered with University of Iowa Special Collections to transport the reels to one of the nation’s premiere film preservation laboratories in Pittsburgh, where restoration efforts are ongoing.

According to Christopher Rossi, director of Humanities Iowa, “the specialists are gobsmacked and excited almost beyond belief at what the collection is revealing: films of daily life from Burma, the Middle East, the pier at Blackpool, England, street life in the 1890s in Philadelphia, film images of Teddy Roosevelt, and more.” According to Rossi, historians from UIowa, Harvard, New York University, and representatives from the Film Foundation in Los Angeles and the Julien International Film festival in Dubuque, have been consulted and attest to the historical significance of the collection.

“With the Special Collections Department at the UIowa, we’re going to make sure this trove of world history is recorded, preserved, and interpreted by the public for years to come,” said Rossi.

Image of MIddle East, Brinton Film


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David Plowden's Iowa

Plowden's Iowa

Humanities Iowa is proud to announce the release of David Plowden’s Iowa; a capstone collection of of Iowa photography from an American master. Proclaimed “an American treasure” by historian David McCullough, David Plowden has produced 20 books of photos and won many prestigious awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967. His latest collection is curated from over four decades photographing our state, and offers a view of Iowa that is nostalgic yet timeless. David Plowden’s Iowa contains over 70 pages of photographs, along with an introductory essay by Rima Girnius, PhD, that  masterfully interprets Plowden’s Iowa photos and places them firmly within the context of his illustrious career. This book also includes a short biography as well as a conversation with Plowden about his work.

Made in Iowa. $25 (includes S&H.) Call us at 319-335-4149 to order your copy today!

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