The rigorous military training that has taken place for decades at Parris Island in Beaufort County has made the basic training base synonomous with the U.S. Marine Corps.
For most of the 20th Century, the Marine Corps archived film footage of that recruit training along with Marines fighting in wars, including World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and various public relations activities.
Starting at the first of the year, that film collection – 10,000 Marine Corps film – will be permanently transferred to the University of South Carolina, where it will be digitized, stored and made available for public viewing. The footage covers Marine Corps activities from 1918 through the 1970s.
On this Veterans Day, the university is launching a campaign to help raise funds to pay for digitizing the film and putting it on display, while also establishing an endowment to pay for its future preservation in cool storage.
“I thought this would be something that people at the university and in our state could really be proud of, even though our fundraising is going to be on a national basis,” said Tom McNally, USC’s dean of libraries, who said he went out on a limb to accept the collection.
The school seeks to raise $2 million to cover digitizing the Marine Corps film collection at the university’s Moving Image Research Collections facility, or MIRC, located on Catawba Street.
USC said the partnership between the Marine Corps and USC to preserve and digitize the vintage films gives recognition to the specialized expertise at MIRC, which the university said is one of the largest and most respected academic film and video repositories in the country.
This is how it happened:
The Marine Corps told the history division of Marine Corps University at Quantico, Va., it had to find a new home for the film collection, McNally said. The history division turned first to the U.S. National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., but officials there didn’t have the cold storage space for the collection, he said.
Marine Corps University officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Next, the Corps sought out the Library of Congress as the future home of the voluminous 16mm and 35mm archives, but that institution could not accommodate the collection, either, McNally said, also because of space limitations.
“We were third on their list,” McNally noted. USC President Harris Pastides “always likes us to be No.1, but I’m okay about being number three behind the National Archives and the Library of Congress.”
USC told the Marine Corps, which celebrated its 241st anniversity on Thursday, that the school would be proud to be the repository of the Marine Corps archive, McNally said.
At that time, USC actually did not have the space for the film collection either.
But Richard and Novelle Smith of Columbia, whom McNally described as friends of the Thomas Cooper Library, donated $400,000 to build a 2,000-square-foot cold storage vault at the MIRC. The Smiths wanted to honor a family member, the late Capt. James Davis, who McNally said served in the Marines for nearly three decades.
“They felt his service needed be memorialized,” McNally said. “It’s a beautiful gesture and they got us going. If that had not happened...we’d be in big trouble.”
The first phase of the fundraising and awareness campaign features a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign designed to digitize and make available online the Parris Island portion of the films, USC said. The link to the crowdfunding page is http://bit.ly/uofscmirc.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398