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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation


Hunt Institute receives National Film Preservation Foundation grant

27 September 2012

Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation has been awarded preservation project funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) to preserve Walter Hodge's film of Peru in the 1940s. The award will be used to clean, conserve and make both a film copy for preservation and a digital copy for access.

Walter Henricks Hodge began his botanical career in 1934 as a graduate teaching assistant at Massachusetts State College. Eventually his resume included time on the faculties of the University of Massachusetts, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Harvard University and service in governmental and scientific organizations, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. Hodge traveled extensively, including periods in the West Indies, Peru, Colombia and Japan, which provided him with ample opportunities to indulge his interest in photography. His photographic work illustrates practical and economic uses of plants throughout the world and records not only a large variety of plant species but also informal portraits of botanists he encountered in his travels. Hodge's still photographs have been published in various United States Department of Agriculture bulletins, National Geographic and the Christian Science Monitor. From 1943 to 1945 he was a botanist for the United States Office of Economic Warfare's Cinchona Mission in Lima, Peru, and the film we will preserve is a result of this assignment.

The purpose of the Cinchona Mission was to find reliable alternate sources of cinchona bark for the wartime production of quinine. The footage is a unique collection of material relating not only to Hodge's botanical mission but also to his interests in the local culture and customs of Peru. Sequences include shots of local scenery (including Macchu Picchu) and anthropologically interesting material relating to native lives and customs (including sequences in local street markets and at a bullfight). Hodge's wife Barbara (1913–2009) traveled with him and can frequently be seen in the footage, occasionally acting as a model for close studies of textiles and jewelry. Finally, Hodge did not neglect his central work assignment; he included a sequence covering the entire process of the harvesting and preparation of cinchona bark. The film quality and color are excellent, and it is our feeling that this material will interest botanists, anthropologists and historians.

Hunt Institute has had a long relationship with Hodge, which began when Founding Director George H. M. Lawrence (1910–1978) proposed that Hodge take informal portraits of botanists. Over the years Hodge has sold or donated thousands of photographs to the Hunt Institute Archives. We also hold 27 linear feet of Hodge's professional and personal correspondence and research.

The NFPF grant application process was undertaken by Hunt Institute Archivist Angela L. Todd with the assistance of Jeffrey A. Hinkelman, video collection manager and course instructor at Carnegie Mellon's University Libraries, and Hannah Rosen, preservation programs specialist at Preservation Technologies in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America's film heritage. The NFPF is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. For the complete list of projects supported by the NFPF, visit the NFPF Web site.

About the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, a research division of Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in the history of botany and all aspects of plant science and serves the international scientific community through research and documentation. To this end, the Institute acquires and maintains authoritative collections of books, plant images, manuscripts, portraits and data files, and provides publications and other modes of information service. The Institute meets the reference needs of botanists, biologists, historians, conservationists, librarians, bibliographers and the public at large, especially those concerned with any aspect of the North American flora.

Media Contact:
Scarlett T. Townsend