The collections of the Vermont Historical Society contain numerous films, videos in several formats, and DVDs. Some of these moving images were commercially produced, some were produced in low quantities, and some are unique.
The Leahy Library of the Vermont Historical Society includes approximately 150 films in its archive collection. These films (largely 16mm) are being inspected for time-impacted damage, and if possible viewed & described for future cataloging and inclusion in the online catalog.
Preservation assessments are being conducted to determine fragility and actual shrinkage of films, some of which date back as early 1917, as well many in the 1920's & 1930's and later years.
The collection includes films that show farming, lumbering, skiing, parades, weddings, and all aspects of life from many parts of the state. Of particular interest are films from the Calvin Coolidge family, Charles Lindbergh arriving in Springfield, and the Vermont State Guard engaged in training exercises in 1941. None of the films in the Historical Society's collections are viewable until they have been transferred to a digital format.
Librarian Paul Carnahan and project leader Fred Pond made a presentation on the VHS's digitization efforts at the Center for Research on Vermont in January 2012. Click here to watch the presentation.
In January 2010, the VHS received generous support from the John M. Bissell Foundation of Stowe, Vermont, to transfer a dozen films into a digital format. These films are available to filmmakers and the general public for viewing and for use in future film projects. In mid-2015, the VHS received a second grant to digitize additional films; this work is underway.
Access to moving image collections
Many but not all of the films, videos, and DVDs in the historical society's collection are listed in the online catalog. Advanced search techniques can be used to limit searches to films and videos. Additional lists are available from the librarian in the library.
Films on the web
When possible, we hope to load our film transfers onto the web for better access. Click on a title below to view the film on the Internet Archive.
- Background For Living Vermont Development Commission promotional film depicts a visiting family interested in buying a home. The realtor & family explore Vermont's summer camps, fishing opportunities, horseback riding, skiing, foliage tours. Reference to town meeting is cited as a measure of a good place to live as well as visit to Norman Rockwell is included.
- Farm Work is War Work, ca. 1942 Promotional film for Volunteer Land Corp recruitment; follows the experiences of Dick Shaw, a young adult who learns to work on a Vermont farm as part of his contribution to the war effort. Summertime Barnard resident Dorothy Thompson wrote the story; Victor Stoloff is director. A production of the United States Department of Agriculture and State Land Grant Colleges.
- Miraculous Maple Tree, 1966 Promotion of Vermont's Maple Industry by Vermont Development Commission and Vermont Maple Industry Council. Provides historical perspective, including Native American images, collecting sap by horses, bulldozer and by tubing. Scenes of sugar house, including processing, canning, cooking, and sugar-on-snow party.
- Our Rutland Produced by the Lions Club of Rutland to be sent to men at Camp Blanding, Florida, this film features scenes of Rutland industries, friends of soldiers, town buildings, marching band, and the baseball team. There are also scenes of local churches, stores, the Esso gas station, the movie theater, hotels, and automobiles. There is a shot of the State House in Montpelier featured at the end of the film.
- Putney, Vermont, Bicentennial Film, 1953 Features Putney, Vermont, filmed in 1953 on the event of its bicentennial. Scenes include people, streets, landscapes, buildings, farms, mills, post office, man working on fire engine, woman making a quilt. Starts with a poster of celebration events on August 8 + 9, but does not feature actual celebrations.
The Rail Diggers This film documents the historic trolley track removal that took place on Armistice Day, November 11, 1942, in Barre, Vermont, in response to the government's need for scrap metal for the war effort. Scenes in the film include men, both civilians and soldiers tearing out the tracks, women serving refreshments, a brief shot of a high school band walking down the sidewalk, and brief scenes of Governor William H. Wills lending a helping hand.
- Thanks to Vermont Vermont Development Commission promotional film in which a pipe-smoking father contemplates the good agricultural products Vermont has to offer while waiting for his Thanksgiving meal. Featured are scenes showing farmland and crop harvesting and haying, dairy farms, cheesemaking, poultry farms, maple sugaring with horse-drawn sleds, apple orchards and harvesting (including scenes of heavy pesticide spraying), and potatoes harvested by a method that burns off the top of the plants before machine harvesting. Strong emphasis is placed on the science and research that goes into making agriculture so successful in Vermont, along with hard work.
- A Town Solves a Problem Scripted film of a 1947 small town meeting in Pittsford, Vermont, produced by the US Army to advance democracy post-war occupied countries. Includes winter scenes, one-room school house, rural living, snow shoveling, gas station, balloting, discussion of hot lunch program.
- Vermont State Guard, 1941-1944 Silent color film presents Company H of the Vermont State Guard in Montpelier marching in Vermont Sesquicentennial Parade (1941), war bond rally (1942), and WAAC recruitment rally; additional training maneuvers at the Barre-Montpelier Airport, Wrightsville Dam, Stowe, and other locations. Later 1944 scenes include entire Vermont State Guard mustering at Tunbridge Fairgrounds and Camp Wills (now Camp Johnson) in Colchester.
- Where Do We Go From Here? This film created for the Vermont Bicentennial Commission in 1976 consists of interviews with a wide range of Vermont residents, from farmers to teenagers, who comment on the many aspects of living in Vermont, both positive and negative. Topics covered are family farms, education, lack of employment for young people, high taxes, characteristics of Vermonters, tourists and tourism, and state government. The film ends with many of these same Vermonters being asked what Vermont will be like in 50 years.