VCU Libraries Receives Funds to Save Rare Films
A recent donation capturing the rarely seen lives and landscapes of 1920s and '30s Richmond earned Virginia Commonwealth University a film preservation grant.
VCU Libraries has been awarded a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve a selection of rare films depicting Richmond urban life from the Harris H. Stilson film collection.
The collection was one of 35 projects chosen for the grants. VCU is the first university in Virginia to receive a grant from the foundation.
Stilson was a Richmond streetcar conductor, a motorman and an amateur photographer and film documentarian. His films capture a rarely seen visual record of Richmond in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. Highlights of the collection are streetcars, buildings, Byrd Park and Shields Lake.
“He was the poor man’s photographer, selling pictures for 20 cents to pay for his cameras, film and developing material,” said Kitty Snow, Stilson’s great-granddaughter. Snow is donating the collection, which documents the everyday lives of Richmonders, including African-Americans, Jewish communities and streetcar patrons.
“The Stilson work is a unique treasure,” said Wesley J. Chenault, head of Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library. “Film footage of the city is rare, and our research suggests that these films are among the oldest … held by any local or regional cultural institution in the commonwealth.”