This is just a short notice to mark the sad passing of Sam Kula, one of the leading figures in international film archiving for many years. He was 77 years old and died at Ottawa General Hospital on Wednesday, 8 September 8, 2010. Sam joined the BFI in 1958 and became deputy curator under Ernest Lindgren, before joining the American Film Institute (where he was among those who oversaw the publication of the multi-volume AFI Catalog) and then the National Archives of Canada, where he established its film, sound and television section, serving as the director of the audiovisual archives 1973-1989. He served on the executive committee of FIAF, the international federation of film archives, and its television equivalent, FIAT, and was president of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) for two terms. He was also founding member of Canada’s Board of the AV Preservation Trust. He was the author of The Archival Apprisal of Moving Images (1983) and Appraising Moving Images: Assessing the Archival and Monetary Value of Film and Video Records (2002), and made notable contributions to moving image history and archiving in numerous authoritative articles.
Sam’s work encompassed the moving image medium in all its forms and for all periods. However one of the most notable incidents in his archival career related to the silent era: the Dawson City collection. He played a major role in the discovery, care and historiography of the extraordinary discovery of over 500 reels of silent film that were found in 1978 underneath a boarded-up swimming pool in Dawson City in the Yukon Territory, where the films had been buried in the permafrost (ideal archival conditions) for forty-nine years. The story of the find has been documented in an earlier Bioscope post. It is the film archivist’s romantic tale par excellence, and alone serves as memorial to one of world audiovisual archiving’s most dedicated servants.
There is a memorial web page with a guest book to sign.
The photograph of Sam Kula is by Lois Siegel, www.siegelproductions.ca/ottawarocks/avtrust.htm.