Howard Lamar Walls
   An American Cultural Hero
 
  • During the first 18 years after the invention of the cinema, from 1894 to 1912, there then being no such category,  in order to be copyrighted motion pictures could be printed on paper and registered as "photographs."  Due to this fortuitous circumstance, while most of the original negatives and projection copies, made of unstable and highly flammable cellulose nitrate, deteriorated and were lost forever, the paper prints, stored in a vault in the basement of The United States Library of Congress, remained in good condition.  Howard Lamar Walls, a young graduate of the University of Michigan , and an employee at the US Copyright Office, a division of The Library of Congress, discovered that these paper prints were being burned as scrap.   Recognizing their value, he saved them from destruction; thereby preserving these irreplacable cultural documents.
  • His efforts led to the creation of  the Motion Picture Division of The Library of Congress - the first new division of The Library in the 20th Century - and his being appointed as its first Curator; and also to making The Library of Congress the National Center For Film Preservation.
  • The following story and interview detail his contribution:
        Santa Barbara News-Press  March 6, 1997


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