Films and their Quirky Descriptions

9 07 2014

Have you ever seen a label to something that made you want to know more?  While working with 16mm films until you can view the film to see the content you often have to rely on the descriptions on the films’ canisters to provide an initial summary of information. Currently the film canister description is the only known information about a film because the films have not been digitized. The information can be as simple as “MSU VS. UCLA” or “ON CAMPUS 1961-1962”; though there is some film canister description that is fascinating out of context. Below are three curious examples found so far in the film collections.

The first film is titled “DEER PEOPLE OF ATHENS”, which at first glance sounds like a B horror movie. As much as it would be fascinating for the film to be a quirky B horror movie,  a quick Google search leads one to assume that the film is most likely associated with Athens, Michigan. One cannot be sure of the film’s actual contents until it is actually viewed, but any preliminary information is critical.

Film canister text

Interesting label found on a film canister

Some film canisters also contain additional information about a film. This is usually information about how a film is fragile or if the film is part of a series of other films.  Sometimes though, films contain information that doesn’t really correspond with the film in the can. An example of this is “MSU VS INDIANA 31 OCT 81 11 ON 11 – KEEPA YOU HANDS OFF !!!!!!!!” or “MSU VS NOTRE DAME 3 OCT 81 11 ON 11 ORIGINAL KEEPA YOU HANDS OFF OR DIE”.  The films are both in much better condition than other materials in the film collections but whoever originally wrote the label information was adamant that people do not handle the film for some unknown reason. Safe to say, the intern did not die handling the films so far, though if there are any curses on the materials, it remains to be seen.


This is the first in a series of blogs about the film collections at the MSU Archives.  An intern was hired to work on the film collections with funds from the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund.




3 responses

9 07 2014
Chuck Julian

Although it makes sense to preserve the original films in their present form, it also would make sense to make copies of these digitally for future reference and to make these archives more available. At some point in the future, I would love to be able to go to the MSU Archives site and explore these old films as easily as calling up a YouTube video. I even have some old WKAR / WNET 16mm sound films of Dr. Gomer Jones’s series on music that I would love to see archived digitally.

10 07 2014

Thank you for your comment, Chuck. Rest assured, we are slowly digitizing films in our collection. Recently, we began a Film and Video Preservation Fund to raise money to assist in this endeavor ( For more information about the Preservation Fund, see this blog post: Digitization is a costly undertaking, even more so when the originals are in poor shape. Our film intern is assisting us in creating a prioritized list of our films for digitization, based on factors such as content and the physical state of the film.

If you would like to watch some of the films we have digitized, they can be viewed on our On the Banks of the Red Cedar website:

30 07 2014

Nice blog entry. I appreciate that they exist at all and the labeling is icing on the cake of archival joy.

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