Film Preservation

About the Film Conservation Center

Media Preservation’s Film Conservation Center specializes in the handling of motion picture film. The Film Conservation Center staff works primarily with the collections of the Harvard Film Archive, but is able to consult on projects belonging to other entities at Harvard.  Motion picture film, an analog format that hasn’t changed much in over a century, requires specialized handling and equipment. Additionally, film requires a cold and dry environment for long-term storage. The Harvard Depository has a specialized film vault available. If you are storing film at Harvard, please consider utilizing this specialized storage area, which has a controlled lower temperature and RH than the general vault space.

Film was historically used at Harvard for a variety of purposes, so we expect to find it in a variety of places on campus.


  • Identification of formats
  • Identification of content
  • Identification of base type (nitrate*, acetate, polyester)
  • Testing for decomposition (nitrate decomposition or Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Inspection of material
  • Rehousing
  • Viewing
  • Consultation for use, processing, storage, digitization, and reformatting
  • Preparation and boxing for HD storage

*Nitrate-based film is chemically unstable and highly flammable. If improperly stored and handled, nitrate can pose a significant risk to staff, facilities, and collections. If you think you may have nitrate film (still film or motion picture film) in your collections, please email to arrange a consultation. Preservation Services staff can help you determine whether or not your film is nitrate and explain your options for storing, preserving, and disposing of these materials

Viewing Equipment

  • Small-gauge film projection (8mm, Super 8, 16mm)
  • 16mm and 8mm tabletop viewers for delicate film
  • 16mm and 35mm flatbed viewing tables (Steenbeck and KEM)

 Film may be viewed on the above equipment if the Conservation Center staff determines the material is in stable condition.


Film Conservation Services Tel: 617-496-8647