Climate-controlled haven for NZ's film treasures

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
AT HIS FINGERTIPS: Deputy vault manager Richard Falkner in the new Archive New Zealand building in Plimmerton.
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ The Dominion Post

AT HIS FINGERTIPS: Deputy vault manager Richard Falkner in the new New Zealand Film Archives building in Plimmerton.

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A silent black-and-white film of Christchurch shot before World War II shows haunting scenes of buildings that are now rubble.

The forgotten 15-minute film, City of the Plains, was discovered by the New Zealand Film Archive as thousands of original film reels and videotapes were sorted, preserved and transferred to a new storage vault in Plimmerton.

"It's scenes of Christchurch, in particular around [Christ Church] Cathedral, and it really just gives us a glimpse of what the city looks like in 1930 and the city that's gone forever now," chief executive Frank Stark said.

The purpose-built $850,000 temperature-controlled vault, due to be officially opened this morning, houses about 18,000 reels of film and about 40,000 videotapes on four kilometres of shelving.

The five-year Saving Frames project was sparked by the risk of a natural disaster wiping out New Zealand's cinematic history, stored in two central Wellington sites.

"Seismic risk is something we've been concerned about for a long time. Obviously the recent events in Christchurch have confirmed the need for sensible planning," Mr Stark said.

Original master films, many dating back to the early 1900s, were moved to Plimmerton and duplicates, including 30,000 digital copies, remain in Wellington.

The vault was also needed to help house the ever-growing collection of 125,000 films, videos and television programmes. Hundreds of thousands of photographs, publications and papers of the country's cinematic history are also stored by the charitable trust.

The building is kept at 15 degrees Celsius with 40 per cent humidity to protect the film.

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- The Dominion Post

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