Evaluation of a Private Film Collection for the Vinegar Syndrome with Present and New TechniquesMorten Jacobsen , Dancan International Sales, Denmark
35 years is a long time for a human being. It is about half his life. Starting out at 22 making films as an amateur and idealist shooting films with friends and foe, going to festivals and sometimes winning that is fun. Turn it into a professional career and you begin to stack your tins. You continue to do that and it becomes part of your life that follows you as your luggage does when travelling.
You tend to forget you have a collection because a lot of what you have done has already become history a few moments after it was screened for the first time and then forgotten.
But you still drag your luggage with you as long as you live because you don't have the guts to throw it away and some of it is even worth seeing again after a few decades. Family stuff mainly and perhaps some that won prices.
Film as luggage is fragile and conditions of storage less than ideal. They are still in the same tin and sometime the tin is rusty outside, sometimes inside and you never have the guts or time to open the tins.
Then one day you pull yourself together and begin to open tins. You could say you were forced to do so because it is part of your next 35 years, and trust me 35 years is the onset point for the vinegar syndrome.
As my life slid towards new opportunities in the seventies the trend was to serve film libraries with film spools and cans; in the eighties with the introduction of video distribution I moved on to film storage; and the nineties towards preservation and observation of the problems that started more than 35 years ago. It seemed a unique opportunity to take your collection apart and see what the state of the art was.
70 rolls of film out of 200 were selected for the evaluation as being representative and with a destructive method 1 gram of film from each roll was dissolved in demineralized water. The pH value was ascertained and used for comparison with present and new methods of detecting the vinegar syndrome.
Is this small scale investigation indicative for large collections? What is the condition of your collection? Where is the auto catalytic point and what is it? When do you have to copy? When is the last chance?
The terms do not have to mean anything to you, all that matters is to know when to start copying the part of your collection affected with the vinegar syndrome. That can only be decided through monitoring and that is where I enter the scenario.