The mission of the Academic Film Archive of North America is to acquire, preserve, document, and promote academic film by providing an archive, resource, and forum for continuing scholarly advancement and public exhibition. Most of the 20th century academic films were recorded on 16 mm film. As film format became obsolete, and the subject matter outdated, educational institutions disposed of their films in bulk. The Academic Film Archive has saved hundred of these films, which are now stored at History San José’s Collection Center. The Archive is slowly digitizing its catalog as resources become available: http://www.afana.org/watchfilms.htm.
A shared memory of watching these films in school, such as “The Red Balloon” or “Red Asphalt,” is the constant “clacking” as the film rotates through the projector’s sprockets. AFA’s president, Geoff Alexander, recently donated three Bell & Howell circa 1950 16 mm projectors. Two of the projectors’ speaker units are still intact, a rare find since speaker units were often damaged or became separated from their projector due to heavy use. By the mid-1950s. Bell & Howell solved this issue by offering projectors with built-in speakers.