Campus News

MacMillan Film "Returns" to Boothbay Harbor for Screening

Story posted July 21, 2004

On the heels of two very successful screenings on the Bowdoin campus, a film shot by Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan (Class of 1898) and recently restored by the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum will make a return, of sorts, to Boothbay Harbor for an encore.

The Far North will be shown at 3 p.m., Saturday, August 7, at the Harbor Theater in Boothbay Harbor.

The film was originally shown by MacMillan himself to a Boothbay Harbor audience on August 8, 1959. It contains historic footage of MacMillan's schooner Bowdoin launching from Boothbay Harbor. The screening will also include film footage of a Boothbay Harbor parade given in honor of the schooner's 1954 launching.

The screening is free and open to the public.

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 with short films and lectures. The Arctic Museum holds an extensive collection of MacMillan's 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 the 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, a member of the Bowdoin Class of 2003 and currently 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 was delighted to discover 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 the August 7 screening so that she can learn from their recollections of the event and improve the film.

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

The restored film had its premiere showing April 3, 2004, on the Bowdoin College campus.

For more information, e-mail, 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. Amidon's initial work was funded while she was a John Gibbons Fellow at the Arctic Museum.

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