By Ethan Duran
The vaults of the Milwaukee County Historical Society are packed with reels of old eight-millimeter film, sixteen-millimeter film and VHS tapes containing footage of Milwaukee from decades ago. On Jan. 9, the Historical Society partnered with Oak Creek company Pixologie at Brew City MKE to answer questions on how people can preserve film in their own homes. MCHS Archivist Steve Schaffer and Pixologie’s co-founder Ann Matuszak showed footage from the old days and answered questions on film preservation.
Tap Into Your Family History: How To Preserve Family Film was the second part of a two-part series on how to preserve family film and photos. The first event was based on photographs, while this second event focused exclusively on film. The event started at 6 p.m. that night and was free to the public unless attendees wanted to order a drink while they watched. Schaffer and Matuszak gave the basics on film care in the beer museum Brew City MKE, located right next to Grand Avenue Mall.
The presentation showed how to identify eight-millimeter and sixteen-millimeter film and other basics on how to store film reels. They also played digital versions of old amateur footage recorded in the 1950’s and 60’s, showing off Milwaukee’s old street cars and some footage from the 1958 World Series. Ann Matuszak gave some basic advice for those who want to hold onto their old reels.
The first important piece of advice is to keep film in the same place you live. “That means out of your basement, out of your attic, out of anywhere that’s not temperature-controlled,” Matuszak said. “Heat and humidity are the enemy of all [film].” Her next piece of advice is to bring all stored film material in one place and organize it. “That sounds really overwhelming, but you don’t know what you’re dealing with once you have it all together.”
For those looking to preserve or digitize film of their own, Steve Schaffer said that people should go to professionals like Pixologie. “You don’t mess around with film, you don’t try to do it yourself,” Schaffer said.
Pixologie does restoration work on VHS and film, but because of copyright law, they can’t save old sports games, TV shows or commercials unless the owner or the owner’s family is involved in the recording. Matuszak said that if it has a family member in it, they’re willing to restore or digitize old tapes.
“Our goal is to help families preserve and celebrate and share their story,” Matuszak said.