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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 13, 2003

Grant to Help UI Library Preserve 1960 Instructional Exercise Film

A 1960 film of Iowa school children demonstrating exercises will be restored and preserved, thanks to a grant recently awarded to the University of Iowa Libraries.

The film, "Iowa Test of Motor Fitness," is believed to be among the first instructional films of its type to be produced in the United States after the 1957 founding of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. David McCartney, UI archivist, said the film was intended for elementary school teachers and their students in the state to demonstrate proficiency in such exercises as sit-ups, pull-ups, the standing broad jump and the 50-yard dash.

The film will be preserved with a $2,588 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF). McCartney said the film currently exists only in components, such as a soundtrack and negative, and is not in a final state that makes it available for viewing. The grant will combine the components into a final print as part of the preservation work.

Children who auditioned successfully to appear in the 30-minute production were filmed in the Women's Gymnasium (now Halsey Hall) on March 18, 1960, according to the film's documents at the Iowa Women's Archives, which houses the film. A joint production of the UI department of physical education for women and the UI's motion picture office, the film was distributed to classrooms statewide beginning that fall. It is not known which schools the children attended at the time, but it is possible that the participants were from the Iowa City area.

The NFPF grant will be used to create copies of the film, as well as a new final print, so that the original film can be retired to environmentally controlled storage at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch. Completion is expected in 2004, McCartney said.

Restoration of the film is very timely, said Kären Mason, curator of the Iowa Women‚s Archives. "The heightened interest recently in health and fitness, coupled with concerns about obesity in children, make this project a relevant one to researchers," she said.

The film is one of 40 films transferred to the IWA in 2000 as part of the records of the UI Department of Physical Education for Women.

Nancy E. Kraft, head of preservation for UI Libraries, and McCartney wrote the grant and are overseeing the project. The film is being preserved by Film Technology, Inc., a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in preserving old films, McCartney said.

The grant is the second in two years that Special Collections has received for film preservation. Last year, two deteriorating films of dance performances made by graduate students as master's degree theses in 1939 were saved. One film is a set of original dance compositions, while the other is an instructional film illustrating types of dance movements and performed by local high school and university students. Also filmed in Halsey Hall, the two titles represent important early efforts to popularize dance through the medium of motion picture film. McCartney said the preservation of those films has been completed and they are available for viewing in the Media Services department in the Main Library.

"Because of the NFPF's grants, new organizations across the country are joining the movement to save America's moving image heritage. Through these efforts films that might have languished unseen and forgotten can now enrich the lives of all Americans," said Pamela Wintle of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, who represented the National Film Preservation Board on the grant panel.

The National Film Preservation Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving America's film heritage. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1996, the NFPF is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.