Under the Hamon Arts Library in the Owen Arts Center at SMU is a very cold vault that few people get to see. The film vault is kept at a constant low temperature and low humidity level year-round in order to protect its valuable assets – the holdings of The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
The film archive was established as the Southwest Film and Video Archives to support the Meadows School of the Arts film program at SMU.
Jeremy Spracklen is the moving image curator for the collection. “We have a wide range of materials. There’s probably about 50,000 total moving image assets.”
This 1938 RKO showcases Mae West, Randolph Scott, Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and Gene Autry. The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
In its 50-plus years, the collection has acquired three of the four local television news stations’ archives, the Gene Autry in Film Collection, the Tyler Black Film Collection, the Dallas Video Festival holdings, selections for Dallas Theater Center, and a large collection of cool local advertising, industrial, and educational films according to Spracklen.
Here’s one clip in the collection, we at KERA, enjoy watching. First day of operations at KERA in September 1960. The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
“Pretty much anything that had a heading of moving image made in the last 100 years, we overlap with somehow.”
The collection’s primary purpose is to support education through the study, preservation, and presentation of moving images. Although it is a non-circulating collection and they mainly work with institutions and researchers, Spracklen said they are able to handle some requests from the public.
You don’t have to be an ardent Dallas Cowboys fan to enjoy this sideline footage of the November 15, 1964, Dallas Cowboys vs the Philadelphia Eagles game at the Cotton Bowl with Dandy Don Meredith at quarterback. The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
“We get requests like ‘my mother was on the news in 1972,’ and they are able to give us a date and we’re able to pull that, digitize it, and then send them a copy of something like that.”
For the last couple of years, people have been able to go down to the vault and tour the facility as part of Dedman College’s World Languages and Literatures International Film Festival. They’re able to see the shelves stacked with film canisters and get a glimpse of what the collection holds. But this year due to COVID-19, the festival is virtual. Which turns out better for the film and video collection.
Spracklen said he was surprised to learn they had this clip in the collection. This color footage of a peace protest on October 15, 1969, at White Rock Lake includes a performance by the rock band the Velvet Underground. The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
“We think we found a really interesting way to do it so that we’re not just going to walk people through and see the materials just on a cold shelf,” said Spracklen. “We’re actually going to be able to intersperse a lot of clips that give examples and add a lot of color to what they’re looking at on the shelf.”
The Virtual Tour and Q&A: The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection takes place on Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. via Zoom. The event is free but you need to register for the virtual tour.
At this time, the collection is closed to the public due to COVID. So if you can’t make the virtual tour, the best way to see what the collection has to offer is to visit the SMU Jones Film page on YouTube. The collection puts up three clips per day. You can also follow @smujonesfilm on Facebook and on Twitter where you can get a heads up on what new material coming out and catch the 50 Years Ago Today clip.
Fourteen-year-old ventriloquist Jeff Dunham was interviewed in 1976 by then WFAA reporter Bill O’Reilly. The G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
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