Library staff processed more than 500,000 promotional items (Is that David Hasselhoff?!) in the Just Film Stills Collection.
December 3, 2013—In 2008, approximately 200 densely packed boxes arrived at Harvard from Germany—the contents of which had been crammed into Lothar and Eva Just’s apartment in Munich. After almost five years, staff from across many Harvard libraries have finished processing the more than 500,000 film stills, pressbooks, posters and other ephemera originally amassed by film publicist Lothar Just. All of the items have now been rehoused in 932 archival boxes and sent to the Harvard Depository. The collection is searchable through HOLLIS and OASIS, and all the materials are available for research use.
The Just Collection contains holdings from the 1920s through the early 2000s. There are many publicity materials for post-WWII German cinema as a result of Just’s connections to players in the New German Cinema. The collection also includes images and publicity materials representing American and European cinema and the work of internationally known Chinese, Japanese and Latin American filmmakers. Most of the materials are in German. It is the Harvard Film Archive’s (HFA) largest non-film collection, and more than 7,500 directors from around the world are represented.
Linda Takata managed the cataloging workflows and said that one of the most interesting and challenging aspects of working on the Just Collection was translating some of the German film titles—frequently direct translations did not accurately reflect their English equivalents. “Even though I speak German, we spent a lot of time on the Internet Movie Database [IMBD] website and its German counterpart in order to identify the movies based on actors, directors and genre.”
For Liz Coffey, who supervised the project, discovering late-20th-century hand-colored black-and-white photos was particularly exciting. Amy Sloper, who developed the finding aid for the collection, enjoyed working with the posters, “many of which were very funny,” she said.
Although many of the films referenced in the collection were quite obscure, Sloper said she enjoyed the investigative research aspect of it. “It definitely made us want to track down and watch some of the movies,” she said.
Key contributors in processing the Lothar and Eva Just Film Stills Collection at the Harvard Film Archive were Liz Coffey, film conservator in Media Preservation Services; Linda Takata, associate head of metadata and cataloging; Amy Sloper, assistant film conservator for Media Preservation Services; Haden Guest, director of the Harvard Film Archive; Amanda Bowen, head of collections for the Fine Arts Library; Matthew Gamber, who oversaw Harvard work study students working on the collection; Steffen Pierce, technical services film specialist for the Harvard Library; and Lee Fenn, physical collections and logistics librarian.
Finding aids for the collection are split into five separate documents: A-B, C-F, G-L, M-R, S-Z. The collection is searchable by director’s name—and some film titles—through HOLLIS and OASIS. Material may be requested through HOLLIS and will be made available at the Fine Arts Library reading room at Littauer.