National Parks, Nitrate Film, and America's Memory of the Commons

by Jeff Lambert (National Film Preservation Foundation)

Abstract: In 1916, the National Park Service was created by the United States Congress. Today more than 400 National Parks face budget cuts and fare increases. Recently, the Secretary of the Interior reportedly chastised National Park staff for using Twitter to explain the impact of climate change on the South-western desert. As the landscape of America becomes increasingly politicized, early cinematic depiction of the parks can remind us that these lands and their natural beauty were meant for all citizens and visitors.

The National Film Preservation Foundation in collaboration with the EYE Filmmuseum, the Library of Congress and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have preserved two early films demonstrating the grandeur of the National Parks. Preserved from one-of-a-kind nitrate prints safeguarded at EYE, these films are now accessible online for the public and available to use for advocacy and educational purposes.

Jeff Lambert is the Executive Director of the National Film Preservation Foundation. From 1999 to 2004, as Assistant Director, he managed the NFPF grants, serving 284 cultural institutions. He produced the award-winning DVD set Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 and oversaw the expansion of the NFPF’s online film offerings.