Restored Donald MacMillan Film Premieres on Campus April 3

Story posted March 22, 2004

A restored film shot by Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan (Bowdoin Class of 1898) will be premiered at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 3, in Sills Hall, Smith Auditorium, on the Bowdoin College campus.

The screening of The Far North, sponsored by the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, is free and open to the public.

The original film was presented by MacMillan to a Boothbay Harbor audience on August 8, 1959.

MacMillan's career spanned five decades, from 1908 to the late 1950s. He sought to learn about the people and wildlife of the Arctic regions of Labrador, Baffin Island, and Greenland. He often documented what he found with a movie camera, and used the footage to educate the public. The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum holds an extensive collection of his film dating from the early 1920s to the explorer's last Arctic voyage in 1954.

MacMillan's lectures usually consisted of an hour to two hours of film that he narrated, describing the customs of the people, the wildlife he encountered, and experiences of his crew.

The restoration of The Far North began when the Arctic Museum digitized the reels of 16mm silent color film that MacMillan used specifically for his film lectures after 1938.

Audrey Amidon '03, curatorial assistant for film at the Museum, re-edited the film to correspond to a transcript of a MacMillan film lecture. After documenting the subject matter of every shot, and using the Museum's photo collections to identify people and places, Amidon matched individual shots to the transcript and edited them together using a digital video-editing program.

After grappling with the question of who would play the part of MacMillan and narrate the film, Amidon discovered that she could use MacMillan himself. In a box of unpreserved recordings made by MacMillan in the late 1950s, Amidon found one labeled "Mac's lecture."

The Museum sent the recording to an audio restoration expert, who transferred the 45-year-old tape. Amidon re-edited the film to match the restored audio track, and the resulting film is as close as one can come to experiencing a Donald MacMillan lecture.

Amidon hopes that people who may have seen MacMillan give a film lecture will attend this first public screening so that she can learn from their recollections of the event and improve the film.

Since the soundtrack comes from a Maine performance, Amidon expects that there are people locally who would remember the 1959 Boothbay Harbor event.

For more information, e-mail aamidon@bowdoin.edu, or call the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at 725-3416.

The digitization of the restored film The Far North was funded by a grant from the Kane Lodge Foundation, Inc. The early work was completed while Amidon was a John Gibbons Fellow at the Arctic Museum.

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