Out and Back: Ventura County Backcountry Adventures
In an archival box, waiting to be discovered, sat twenty reels of 16 mm film. The reels were stored in metal cans, with handwritten labels. The box also contained a handwritten list of topics on fading yellow paper. The list was brief, with one or two words describing scenes in the film. One reel's list read "Bear. Condor. Snake. Farm. River."
When library staff opened the box in 2018, they knew they had something special. From the labels and containers, the reels could be dated to the early 20th century. Nothing else like this existed in the library. But the film was fragile and very old, so putting it on an old projector was out of the question.
In May of 2020, the Museum received a grant from the Schwemm Family Foundation to digitize and conserve the film reels. The collection, now called the Herman Keene Collection, is available on our collections page to view.*
In March 2021, when staff were finally able to view the digitized records, marvelous backwoods scenes were viewed for the first time in a very long time. This exhibit pulls from the one of a kind material to give you a glimpse into the backcountry experience in 1920s Ventura County. The film also contains footage that is disturbing, with scenes of wild animals being shot, as well as some instances of animal cruelty. These scenes do not appear in the exhibit but are contained in the full footage in our collections.
*Warning: This collection does include graphic footage of animals being hunted, as well as instances of animal cruelty.