Unseen For 50 Years, Film In Denver Museum Archives Screens Again

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<p>Bailey behind the wheel of the Kinkajou with Comander Bill Pemberton, 1940 museum expedition to Baja Island group off of Mexico.</p>

A remarkable old film sat for decades in the vaults of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Filmed in the early 1940’s by Alfred M. Bailey, then the museum’s globetrotting director, it captured the last days of a lush coastal island near Baja, Calif. -- San Benedicto Island. The reel from "Desert Islands" was in bad shape, but it has since been restored, and screens again at the museum Bailey once led on Tuesday.

René OConnell, the museum's image archivist, and Robert David of the Englewood film preservation company CinemaLab spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel about this adventurous man and preserving his legacy.

Highlights from the conversation are below. Click the audio above to listen to the full interview.

O'Connell on Bailey and his contributions to science

"He's an icon in the ornithology world. I think he really believed in fieldwork and he documented it. I mean, there are a lot of curators and a lot of museums that did a lot of fieldwork. But nobody documented it in moving images like Bailey... He believed he had to educate the world on nature -- and that if they understood it and saw it they would take care of it."

David on preserving these films

"We're trying to save the Bailey films before they go away. The normal life of film is about 50 years. It is [a race]. Bailey made 15 or 12 of these films [that we've been able to find and have the audio for]... So we're going through them as quickly as we can."

David on what it's like bringing back "Desert Islands"

"It's always a moving experience to hear him because it's an intimacy that you get from him. I feel like we're bringing him back into the world by preserving these films in the way that we've done."