Arts Campus News Society & Culture

UGA Libraries’ media archives receives earliest known home movies of Georgia

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Libraries’ Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, the only public institution in the state devoted entirely to preserving moving images, has received a varied film collection, including what are likely Georgia’s earliest surviving home movies.

Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Ga., was the winter home for the Howard Melville Hanna family of Cleveland, Ohio. Elizabeth “Pansy” Ireland Poe, granddaughter of Howard Melville Hanna, was the last family member to live in the plantation’s main house until her death in 1978. Earlier, she created a foundation to ensure the property become the historic house museum and environmental preserve it is today. Pebble Hill’s trustees donated the family’s films to the university in order to protect their unique scenes of the family and property.

“We are pleased to have forged this partnership with the University of Georgia Libraries Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection,” said Warren Bicknell III, on behalf of the Pebble Hill Foundation Trustees. “Pebble Hill is intertwined with the history of Southwest Georgia in so many ways, and these films are a part of that history. We are confident the library will preserve the Pebble Hill films and that they will be available for generations to come.”

Many of the home movies feature “Miss Pansy” and extended family members at home, as well as friends and plantation workers, a summer home in Maine, and the many animals that were part of life at Pebble Hill. The reels of 28mm, 16mm and 8mm films in the donation span from approximately 1917 into the 1960s.

“When you find surviving 28mm films, they usually come from a well-to-do family, as it was an early, but expensive, home movie format,” said Margaret Compton, film archivist for the libraries. “Sixteen-millimeter movie film did not come onto the home market until 1923, so anyone making home movies before that time was using 28mm equipment made by the French company Pathé Freres, its American counterpart Victor, or they were using 35mm film.”

In addition to the home movies, the collection also includes some early cartoons and 70 episodes of a syndicated hunting and fishing television show from the 1950s called “The Sportsman’s Club.” That program was created by and starred Renaissance man David Newell, who was an author/folklorist, newspaper reporter, editor of Field and Stream, hunter, explorer and photographer.

“We are extremely fortunate to have received these important early home movies from such a prominent South Georgia family,” said Ruta Abolins, head of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection. “These may be the earliest moving images shot in Georgia. We will be funding their preservation over the next couple of years so that they can be shared across the state and, of course, Pebble Hill will use the images to expand its story of the Hanna family in Thomasville. The addition of ‘The Sportsman’s Club’ television programs is a bonus since we house the third largest broadcasting archives in the country-the Peabody Awards Collection.”

Always on the lookout for films that depict Athens, UGA, Georgia and the Southeast region to add to the visual history of the South, the media archives will host one of the national Home Movie Day screening events on Oct. 20 from 2-4 p.m. at the Richard B. Russell Building. Another Home Movie Day will be held Nov. 3 from 1-3 p.m. at the White County Public Library in Cleveland. For more information, contact Ruta Abolins at 706/542-4757 or see www.homemovieday.org.

The Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection is one of the three special collections libraries housed in the new Richard B. Russell Building.

For more information on Pebble Hill Plantation, see http://www.pebblehill.com/.

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