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Oral History Project


The oral history project, developed and executed by the history and conservation group, recorded the experiences of veteran professionals who have worked with nitrate film in a variety of capacities. We hoped their expertise would help us make sense of some of the lore surrounding cellulose nitrate, and give voice to particular forms of knowledge that would be of interest and use to others.

A list of experts was selected from four fields - archivists, conservators, laboratory personnel, and projectionists - that we believed would provide us with edifying accounts of their experiences:

  • Ken Weissman, Supervisor of the Film Preservation Laboratory for the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus for Audio Visual Preservation
  • Paul Spehr, former Secretary for the Motion Picture Section of the Library of Congress and Assistant Chief of the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress
  • Rosa Gaiarsa, Collections Services Manager for the UCLA Film and Television Archive
  • Jess Daily, former Chief Projectionist at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
  • Janice Allen, owner and manager of Cinema Arts film laboratory

Each of these professionals was asked to share their knowledge in a recorded phone interview. Because the interviewer needed to have some knowledge of nitrate in order to effectively frame the questions and guide the conversation, members of the history and conservation group developed the interview format and conducted the interviews. In each case, the interview followed a set of questions that were tailored to the interviewee’s particular field. The interviews were designed to take an hour or less, and were conducted in the summer of 2015.

We are extremely grateful that these highly respected professionals agreed to share their time and expertise with us, and we are excited to make their interviews available for you here.

Each audio file contains a list of chapters to help you navigate the topics discussed. Each audio file is also accompanied by a written transcript.

Ken Weissman

Click here to read the transcript of Ken Weissman's interview.

Paul Spehr

Click here to read the transcript of Paul Spehr's interview.

Rosa Gaiarsa

Click here to read the transcript of Rosa Gaiarsa's interview.

Jess Daily

Click here to read the transcript of Jess Daily's interview.

Janice Allen

Click here to read the transcript of Janice Allen's interview.