Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reel Movie Collector

A while ago some bloggers on classic film gave us a glimpse into what their own collections looked like, posting photos of their shelves and boxes filled with videos and DVDs. A dentist from Springfield, Massachusetts amassed a pretty extensive film collection himself through the years, but not on DVD or video tape…on reels of film.

Howard E. “Doc” Burr collected around 2,500 films, including features, shorts, cartoons, newsreels, as well as posters and lobby cards and assorted move ephemera. Dr. Burr died last year at the age of 89, and his collection has been donated by his children to The Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, Mass.

Have a look here for the Springfield Republican article of May 3rd by Pat Cahill which describes Dr. Burr’s treasure trove and the grateful archivists who will give his thousands of reels of film a prestigious new home, thereby making his collection accessible to the public. According to the article, there are at least 300 films among Dr. Burr’s collection that even the enormous UCLA film archives in Los Angels does not have.

Here’s another link to The Harvard Film Archive with a photo of Dr. Burr. We have to marvel at how much effort went into collecting films in an age before video or DVD, before Amazon and eBay and other Internet sites, when every sale or barter had to be done in person or through the mail. Perhaps one of the best things about hobbies is they require patience, and give the delight of anticipation. Dr. Burr must have enjoyed a fair degree of both.


Raquelle said...

Ohh I really hope they become accessible at the HFA soon. I love the HFA and have seen many obscure films there.

Thanks for this informative post!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for stopping by, Raquelle. You'll have to be our HFA roving reporter and let us know if they show anything interesting from the Burr collection soon.

John Hayes said...

Fascinating story-- loved the part from the Springfield paper about two 26' trucks! Thanks-- great to hear about such an impressive collection.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, John. Once it's all catalogued, I'd love to hear what titles he got. I just marvel at how he did it back in the day.

Anonymous said...

I have a 1927 old news reel that has Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchhill, along with some other news. News reel is in canister. Is this worth anything?

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for stopping by. I should think it would be worth something, but I have no personal expertise in appraising the market value of film collectibles. However, Mr. Anthony Slide ( seems to have a lot of experience appraising film (and ephemera related to the film industry). You might consider contacting him.

Perhaps some of our readers know of other sources for appraising newsreel film. Good luck.

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