Museum film featured by Library of Congress

Masked dancers from The Drums of Winter (credit: Oregon Provence Archives)

JUNE 2014 - A documentary film produced by the UA Museum of the North is getting a special screening by the Library of Congress. Drums of Winter, directed by Film Curator Leonard Kamerling and Sarah Elder in 1988, was named to the National Film Registry in 2006 and is currently being restored.

Kamerling says the national tour validates the community-collaborative approach to documentary and ethnographic film that he developed at the museum over many years. “It is an endorsement of the idea of shared anthropology and collaborative decision making. Being named to the National Film Register is the highest award a filmmaker can achieve because it means that his film will be around for future generations to experience.”

Since the film received national recognition, requests for showings from organizations and educational institutions have been continuous. The idea for a national tour grew from the increasing public recognition of the film and for the role it could play in encouraging the preservation and restoration of other irreplaceable films.

Len Kamerling and film preservation specialist Andrew Whitmore working on the Drums of Winter Restoration project.

Drums of Winter is about Yup'ik music and dance and the spiritual world that it mediates. The film was made in collaboration with the Lower Yukon community of Emmonak. Kamerling says the restoration project, funded by the Rasmuson Foundation and the National Film Preservation Foundation, is integral to the upcoming Library of Congress screening.

“Drums of Winter could not have been shown in its original 16mm format without restoration,” Kamerling said. “Seeing the film in a theater is a completely different experience than watching a DVD. The world of the people in the film comes alive in the most dynamic and beautiful way.”

The Library of Congress showing will take place at the Packard Campus Theater in Culpeper, Virginia on June 6, 2014, the first in a national tour of the restored film. Screenings at regional preservation centers in New York and Los Angeles are in the works, as well as at regional museums and educational institutions throughout the country.

In Alaska, public showings are being planned for Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Bethel and Emmonak in the coming year. 

Back to Top