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Chicago, Illinois 60616
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William O'Farrell Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2003-01
This collection consists of the orphaned "orphan" films and is named after William O'Farrell, a Canadian moving image archivist and champion of the neglected, lost film and regional archives in general. He was truly instrumental in shaping CFA in its early days. During 2004, O'Farrell, the Chief Moving Image and Audio Preservation Director at the National Archives of Canada, was on leave of absence as he recovered from an illness. He gladly stepped in to give CFA a hand as our fledgling organization found its legs. As humble as they come, O'Farrell was brilliant in every aspect of moving image preservation and in management of a small archive. This collection contains films O'Farrell purchased off of ebay (such as reels documenting 1968 Indianapolis 500 race) as well as Midwest films he wrestled from other collectors' arms to deposit with us. The William O'Farrell collection will become the home of those cast-off films and anonymous donations that from time-to-time come through CFA's doors.
William O'Farrell (created by)
William S. "Bill" O' Farrell, 1954-2008, former head of Moving Image and Audio Conservation at the National Archives of Canada, worked at the National Archives from 1975, until his illness forced him to leave his position in 2002.

Over the years, Bill served as a mentor to many in the film archive profession in Canada and elsewhere. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm, imagination, knowledge and sense of humour. He began his career in moving images with Crawley Films and the federal Department of Urban Affairs. In 1975 he joined the Public Archives of Canada as a film vault technician. He quickly became responsible for the management of all film preservation projects at the archives. During Bill's tenure he oversaw numerous film restoration projects, including 550 reels of silent-era films excavated from Dawson City, Yukon Territories; the Flaherty collection of vintage 1896 Edison nitrate; the complete set of 106 Canadian Army Newsreels; and the oldest surviving copy of the Canadian feature film Back to God's Country.

Sam Kula, the former director of the National Film, Television and Sound Archives of the Public Archives of Canada, acknowledged in his posting to the AMIA listserv: "whatever success we had in building a national collection of moving images for all Canadians was due greatly to his efforts."

Bill also lectured at conferences and seminars, gave numerous workshops and wrote on the subject of audio-visual preservation. Bill was an active member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). With AMIA he served as a member of the Executive Board and also chaired its preservation and awards committees. He served as an advisor to various film archives in Canada and the United States, including Northeast Historic Film and the Chicago Film Archives. He was one of the recipients of the 1997 Film and Video Preservation Honors from the Anthology Film Archives of New York, in recognition of his dedication and efforts in the field of film and video preservation. His loss will be felt in audio-visual archives around the world.
-Rosemary Bergeron and Yvette Hackett Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et archives Canada
Custodial History
During CFA's first years, Bill O'Farrell bought films off ebay for CFA's collections. The O'Farrell Collection has become the repository for "stray" film items that come in without a history or family of other films. It is our "Orphanage" collection.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the rights to the films in this collection.