Northeast Historic Film
Moving Images In Context

A model for using open source tools to contextualize archival moving images for the benefit of teachers, students, and the public. Practices are scaled to small and medium-size units (special collections, historical societies, topical audiovisual archives, and educational centers). As a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Start-Up product, the site is a public assessment of new standards and practices. We invite you to comment on your experience viewing the moving images and their context. The footer on this page contains links to the tools we used. For background, visit the project blog,

In Context:   Joan Branch Collection
Shanghai and environs shot by Joseph Swan, an American, who had married in Shanghai in 1923, then raised his family there. He founded the Shanghai investment banking and brokerage firm Swan, Culbertson & Fritz. 

In Context:   Charles Gilbert Collection
Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai in 1928 shot by a traveling businessman. Mr and Mrs Gilbert traveled the world by steamship; this film is part of a record of their trip and incorporates footage shot by Gilbert and purchased film.

We are dedicated to providing public access and serving scholarly interest in moving images, emphasizing their evidentiary value. From this page you can go to selections from two collections containing film of China made between 1928 and 1936, the Branch and Gilbert Collections.

These are unedited primary source materials accompanied by curatorial background from the archives and our partners. The seven clips provide a medium for developing our metadata structure and testing open source digital library tools, many of which are in development.

All video clips are available for viewing as MPEG-4 (.mp4) and WebM (.webm) files.

As funds allow we will move our in-house 28,000 record database, describing 800 collections, to a Web-based hierarchical system online to help scholars and the public find and use materials. XML will support new forms of searching, integrating interpretive text with the moving images for the first time.

The Branch and Gilbert China videos are presented for noncommercial use, including sharing and adapting the work. We include information on how to cite a clip when you show it in the tab marked "Credits".

To refer to the project overall, cite:
Northeast Historic Film
Finding and Using Moving Images in Context

For hard copies of the China clips to use in teaching or research, or if you are interested in footage for any commercial or remunerative purpose, high quality copies are available. Please contact our technical services and stock footage staff at (207) 469-0924 for service.

We are pleased to announce a 2008 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to support film-to-film preservation of the Branch Collection 16mm original film of China.

Enjoy digital access.

Support film and video preservation.

Northeast Historic Film is an independent archives formed in 1986. We preserve and provide access to all genres of film and videotape of the northeastern United States, from 1901 to the present day. While we are dedicated to preserving original materials relating to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, our collections encompass a much broader geography. Moving image creators from the region traveled widely.

NEH Office of Digital Humanities: Project White Paper