Processing the Cinecraft Collection: A Summer Internship Reflection

Friday, August 14, 2020

Annabel Pinkney is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she received her MS degree in Library and Information Science. She is an aspiring archivist and has spent the summer as the Audiovisual Processing Intern. Annabel recently finished processing a portion of the Cinecraft Productions film collection. This is her reflection on the experience:

During the past eight weeks, I have had the pleasure of working in the Archival Collections Department to process the Cinecraft Productions film collection. This collection documents the company history of Cinecraft Productions, Inc., a commercial producer of industrial motion pictures from Cleveland, Ohio. Cinecraft is, in fact, the longest-surviving producer of commercial films in the United States! The acquisition of the Cinecraft archives included thousands of film reels, scripts, photographs, and company records that document commercial film projects between approximately 1940 and 1980. 

Due to the disparate formats, the collection was immediately organized into two categories: film reels and paper-based record materials (including photographic negatives). Films require specialized knowledge for processing, namely knowledge of film digitization technology. For this reason, the Cinecraft film reels are currently being processed by an expert, Ona Coughlan, Hagley’s Audiovisual Digitization Archivist. I, however, was responsible for processing the paper and photographic materials of the collection. 

My portion of the collection was comprised primarily of film scripts. The scripts as a whole provide unique insight into the history of commercial advertising as well as film production. It was equally entertaining and intriguing to read the scripted dialogues filled with period-specific vernacular, allusions to world events such as the end of WWII, and early marketing for companies still around today such as General Electric, DuPont, Scott Seed Company, and Standard Oil of Ohio. I felt a particular attachment to some of the materials that featured the state of Ohio, my own home state. For example, in 1950 Cinecraft produced a series of films called “Let’s Explore Ohio” for Standard Oil. These films described prominent highway routes through the state and their respective attractions along the way. In addition, the collection included many photographs of Cinecraft's intricate production sets, handwritten notes about projects, storyboard sketches, administrative documents such as contracts and inventories, and more. 

This was my first experience processing an archival collection in totality, and I feel very fortunate that I worked with the Cinecraft materials for several reasons. First, the Cinecraft records are so interesting to engage with! Depending on your interests, this is not always true of a business archive. Second, the collection is a very manageable size. Beginning with only 15 storage cartons of material, it was relatively straightforward to become familiar with the content and to effectively arrange the records. Third and finally, working with the Cinecraft collection gave me the privilege to work directly with the descendants of Cinecraft’s founder, Ray Culley. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have their input and insights. Their involvement and connection with the collection provided a larger context for the materials and gave the project a deeper meaning for me. 

Processing the Cinecraft collection was a fantastic learning experience, and I am deeply grateful to have spent the summer working with the Cinecraft materials and the talented Archives staff at Hagley. I am looking forward to the next phase of the project – digitizing the materials for upload to Hagley’s digital archives! 

If you are interested in this collection, more information may be found in the Cinecraft Productions films finding aid. More information about the collection and Cinecraft can be found in these blog posts: A First Look at New Cinecraft Productions Collection; Cinecraft Film Archive Arrives at Hagley; and Significant Industrial Film Archive Comes to Hagley.