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Happy Birthday, Bob Hope!

This is a guest post by Frances Allshouse and Susie Booth, librarian/catalogers in the Moving Image Section.

Portrait of Bob Hope. Bob Hope Collection

Wednesday, May 29, 2019, would have been Bob Hope’s 116th birthday and we couldn’t let the day go by without a bit of a celebration.  This year, our gift is the recently-formed Bob Hope moving image processing project.

Long-time readers of Now See Hear! might remember a series of posts penned by David Jackson, manuscript archivist, outlining his work over the last three years to organize the Bob Hope manuscript collection which included scripts, speeches, publications, photographs, and many other kinds of paper materials related to Bob’s professional and personal life.  As David’s project drew to a close, a team of two catalogers, Frances Allshouse and Susie Booth, was assembled with the task of organizing the moving image material from the Hope collection.

Frances and Susie came together at the start of a three-year project in August 2018, and have since been working to process and describe the Bob Hope moving image collection. In addition to item-level cataloging, rehousing and storing the collection, they also seek to synthesize the moving image holdings, contextualized in their own finding aid, with the corresponding papers arranged and described by David.

Bob Hope Collection materials. Photo by Frances Allshouse.

The moving image component of the Bob Hope Collection is vast and includes a wide range of formats dating from the 1930s through the early 2000s.  It is estimated to span over 10,000 items which are largely unidentified. Frances and Susie identify each item individually and exert intellectual control by cataloging it at title-(work/expression), component-(manifestation), and carrier-(item) levels in MAVIS,  the merged audio-visual collection management system used by the Library. The majority of the items in the collection make up the celebrated Bob Hope specials (1950-1996), including his annual USO Christmas specials, which featured such guests as Ann-Margret, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra, among many, many others.  Formats include 35mm and 16mm film, 2-inch quadruplex video, 1-inch video, Umatic, Betamax, VHS, Betacam, and Digital Betacam among others.

1963 Bob Hope Christmas Special. Bob Hope and Amedee Chabot, Miss California, 1962. Bob Hope Collection.

Cataloging includes standardizing main entry titles to enhance data display, adding alternate titles to provide additional access points, identifying production and broadcast history by designating statements of responsibility, generating summaries from secondary source material (including the Bob Hope manuscript collection), compiling additional descriptive metadata by assigning credits (according to LC Name Authorities) and genres (according to LC Genre/Form terms), and reconciling mistakes in previously-created (before the project) legacy records.

Episodes of Bob Hope Christmas Specials ready to be shelved. Photo by Frances Allshouse.

At the item-level, processing these elements requires thorough inspection. In addition to identifying programs, this includes comparing duplicate and digital copies to identify differences between programs, creating additional records to disambiguate similar-but-different copies, and documenting technical metadata such as format, extent, completeness, length and/or duration, and sound and color characteristics. These items are ultimately rehoused in accordance with preservation policies and stored as part of the NAVCC archive.

Because the collection is so large, cataloging and processing uses in-house prioritization workflows in compliance with the multi-format processing plan the team developed at the beginning of the project. Emphasis is placed on the processing of original film formats first, and at-risk video formats intended to be digitized next. While Frances and Susie have taken the lead on processing each, respectively, both catalogers work with every format presented by the collection. Both catalogers also identify, inventory and transfer audio located in the collection to the Recorded Sound section for processing.

From a reel of home movies, circa 1953. Bob Hope and unidentified soldier. Bob Hope Collection.

While the team is dedicated to arranging the Bob Hope moving image collection and ultimately making it more accessible to the public, Hope’s birthday presents a great opportunity to share some of the special, unexpected gifts that have already been uncovered in the collection.  Tucked in amid the dozens of pallets of film and video materials that comprise his public body of work, the team has discovered reels of home movies as well as films that document his busy schedule of personal appearances.  There are unrehearsed, candid gems featuring the Hope family at graduations, house parties, and birthdays, some rendered in the vivid jewel tones of Kodachrome.  And, of course, there are also clips of Bob taking part in various golf matches, emceeing tournaments, giving addresses to troops and so much more.  Susie and Frances look forward to learning more about these unique items and linking them with the extensive list of personal appearances noted in the Bob Hope manuscript collection finding aid.

Bob Hope in Africa. Bob Hope Collection.

Speaking of which, another gift from the collection has been the connection between the moving image materials and the manuscript collection.  Using the finding aid for the Bob Hope papers, Frances and Susie are able to directly connect film and video from the Bob Hope television specials with the original scripts on which those episodes were based.  They can see where and how Bob and his guests adlibbed their lines and even trace individual jokes used in the specials back to Hope’s infamous and extensive joke files.  This level of interconnectedness will prove invaluable to future researchers once the current project comes to a conclusion in 2021.  Future researchers interested in the Bob Hope moving image collection will be able to use the finding aid to discover pertinent items and can view them by contacting the Moving Image Research Center.

Eventually, the moving image processing team hopes to make select clips from the many Bob Hope specials available online.  Until then researchers and fans should visit the National Screening Room where some of Hope’s work can already be found.  A favorite is The All-Star Bond Rally which also features appearances by a very young Frank Sinatra, Harpo Marx, Betty Grable, and Bing Crosby among others.  Be sure to check it out!

Researchers interested in Bob Hope, and his career should contact the Recorded Sound Research Center  or the Moving Image Research Center for more information.  The Bob Hope Collection finding aid is available from the Library of Congress finding aids page.

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