In the latest episode of From the Archives, UAW Archivist Gavin Strassel – with some help from fellow archivist Mary Wallace – gives us a tour of the cold storage film fault at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.
In the video, Strassel asks Wallace why the films are kept in a cold storage freezer. “Most of these films are cellulose acetate base,” she says. “At room temperature, they start to degrade, and we get that smell of vinegar, which is called vinegar’s syndrome. So, we have to keep them nice and cold so that they don’t degrade.”
Wallace estimates that there are over 1,000 films in storage at the library. Most of the films were made by the UAW, but there are some from the AFL-CIO, and others as well.
“There’s a ton of hidden gems in here,” Wallace says. “Just recently, we were able to digitize one film, and it was so appropriate for the recent UAW negotiations. It was Walter Reuther talking tough about the 1961 GM strike, and it was just so appropriate for what was going on. Those are the kinds of things that are hidden within these little film canisters…”