I’ve rediscovered this video compilation that I made for the Imperial College Archives in 1981. I had forgotten that the reason it was made was to show-case the college archives during the Meet Imperial College event that was held in the Sherfield Building. You can see another blog about the 1979 Meet Imperial College event that includes actual video taken on the day by STOIC.
This compilation is useful because it actually now helps to correctly identify one college member in the 1928 sports film. Jimmy Peacock is seen driving on the tug-of-war team and not Ted Coulson as previously assumed. Also, there is a short clip from the 1969 opening of what was then called College Block (later Sherfield Building) by the Queen. This clip is extremely important because it does include some of the sound track that we are now missing, because of technical issues extracting the film’s magnetic audio track. Included too is the audio of the Queen Mother in 1957 opening the Roderick Hill Building and the extension to the Students Union. And, from 1949 a sound recording on 78rpm disc of the college choir.
Whilst transferring more of the STOIC videotape archive into digital, I found this interview. It’s one that I had forgotten all about and is with Lord Flowers, then Rector, recorded 39 years ago in the TV Studio in October 1980. He had, a few days earlier, given his address at Commemoration Day. In that address, for the very first time, an appeal had been made to alumni for a covenant from each student of £20 a year for a total of five years. He had explained that this would assist the college with approximately a quarter of a million pounds a year. Just before you’ll see this interview there is a brief sequence actually shot during that speech at the Royal Albert Hall. This is actually the very first time a Commemoration Day had been videotaped, so it’s unique for that alone.
Here, he is talking with Mike Prosser both a presenter and a past chairman of STOIC.
Recently, whilst rearranging the shelves of archive videos I came across something I’d forgotten about. In 2002, Imperial had honoured Senior Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew (in recognition of his promotion of international trade and industry, and development of science and engineering study initiatives with the UK) by appointing him a Fellow of the College at the Commemoration Day held at the Royal Albert Hall.
Because this was a significant event, college had hired a company that occasionally provided a large video screen and cameras to help people see events in the Royal Albert Hall. We attended the event to get some background video shots and to also see what effect this new idea had on the ceremony. The previous night we had attended the first ever Commemoration Eve Dinner held at the Natural History Museum, where he gave the keynote address (seen left), we recorded and used that in full. College did not need his Commemoration Day speech recorded because we had the one from the previous day.
However, as this was the first time that cameras had been covering a Commemoration Day, I felt that this was unique enough to ask the company to make video recordings (right) of both morning and afternoon sessions. College had already indicated that they had no use for any of the footage, but, by being a ‘first’ I disagreed. So, both morning and afternoon events were recorded and promptly put into our archive collection and there they have sat for all of these 16 years.
Let’s see the first ever fully recorded Commemoration Day sessions from 23 October 2002 which are now available on line for the first time.
And yet more STOIC discoveries from 48 years ago. I was at Imperial yesterday and came across something I’d forgotten about and had really meant to do something about years ago. It’s another batch of 8mm films from the STOIC 1970-1972 “TOPIC” and “IC Newsreel” programmes era. A lot of it was shot on colour film stock, even though we only had black and white TV. All manner of things are there too! More of this once I can get them digitised.
And, just for a change, today I’m digitising two Betacam tapes that are now 16 years old. Commemoration Day 2002 was when Lee Kuan Yew was made a Fellow of Imperial College. The tapes I’m digitising are historic, as it was the first time a Commemoration Day had been recorded in its entirety and that was initially because of the special Fellowship being awarded. I have to say that they are all playing without errors – amazing!
In October 1979 Imperial College Students’ Union staged a series of protests against government education cuts. Occupation of the Senior Dining Room was one part of these protests. Another took place on Commemoration Day itself. Those who took part in the occupation, together with many others carrying placards and wearing black armbands, joined in a “Funeral March” following a black coffin, held aloft by six students, through the Beit building and on a journey around the Royal Albert Hall. Students were already leafleting the parents and other visitors to the ceremony in the Albert Hall.
STOIC were there to record the event and reporter Bob Powell spoke to a future ICU President John Passmore. Note that the incorrect name was used by Mike Prosser in the studio introduction to the news report.
Back in October 2010 I brought to you an extract from a unique 16mm colour film that was residing in the college archives since 1973.
Robert W Sarnoff was President & Chief Executive of RCA (Radio Corporation of America). He was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, he followed in his father’s professional footsteps throughout his career at NBC and RCA. On October 25th 1973 he received the Fellowship of Imperial College at Commemoration Day. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. News of this Commemoration Day Fellowship was reported in the Milwaukee Journal in November 1973 and the Nashua Telegraph in December of the same year, so this must have been important. Also here’s a report in Felix the student newspaper.
Sarnoff paid for large parts of the 1973 ceremony to be filmed in colour and or course with sound. Lord Flowers (1924-2010) was Rector at the time and speaking at the ceremony was David Sinclair – Student Orator; Professor Gerald Whitrow (1912-2000) – Staff Orator and the Chairman of the Governing Body – Lord Sherfield (1904-1996). Eric Brown is seen conducting the Choir. This is the earliest moving picture record the college has of one of its ceremonies and it’s thanks to Robert Sarnoff that this happened. One of the greatest achievements by RCA and Sarnoff in particular was the development and introduction of colour TV in the USA. At the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facility on May 22, 1958, Sarnoff introduced President Eisenhower who became the first President to then appear on Colour TV. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this event. The tape represents the earliest known colour television recording discovered to date.
Here then is the full 16mm colour film of Commemoration Day, being shown for the first time after its transfer into digital form.
As we celebrate yet another Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall I thought the time was right to bring you the few recordings we have from earlier years. At the end, I’ll mention technical challenges involved with the transfer of the first two recordings onto modern formats.
Although you’ll find this first recording elsewhere I’ll include it again for completeness.
The October Commemoration Day graduation ceremonies recall the visit made to the College by King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth in 1945, on the centenary of the foundation of the Royal College of Chemistry, Imperial College’s oldest forerunner. King George said: “You students here assembled – men and women who soon will be going out from the Imperial College to your work in the world – have not only an opportunity but also a responsibility greater than men of science have known before. To you, I say: Regard your knowledge and your skill always in the light of a trust for the benefit of humanity, and thereby ensure, so far as in you lies, that science may never be put to uses which offend the higher conscience of mankind.”
For those unfamiliar with King George 6th, he battled throughout his life with a nervous stammer and his attempts to overcome this during the speech are obvious with long pauses between sentences.
From 1945 we jump to 1952 and a recording that, so far, I have no idea exactly why it was made. It features Karl Compton who was a prominent American physicist and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1930 to 1948. In 1948 he resigned his post as President of MIT and was elected president of the MIT Corporation. He held that position until his death on June 22, 1954, some two years after this sound recording was made. Compton was awarded a fellowship in 1949 but was unable to attend, but in 1952 he was special visitor and collected it then. Interesting references are made to key players in college life at that time: Chairman, Viscount Falmouth; Rector, Sir Roderic Hill along with Sir Henry Tizard, Sir Richard Southwell and Sir George Thomson. There is only part of the introduction by Viscount Falmouth to Karl Compton on the original tape, so it will sound a bit truncated. At the end, Compton reads greetings to the Imperial community from the President and also the Chairman of MIT and the American national anthem is played. Could this be why it was recorded?
Finally, we have something visual in the form of a 16mm colour film shot in 1973. Robert W Sarnoff was President of RCA (Radio Corporation of America). He was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, he followed in his father’s professional footsteps throughout his career at NBC and RCA. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. A year later in 1974 Sarnoff married Metropolitan Opera diva Anna Moffo, so maybe opera was his interest as well as being the music library benefactor? As I understand it, Sarnoff himself paid for large parts of the 1973 Commemoration Day ceremony to be filmed in colour and with sound. Lord Flowers was Rector at the time and is seen in this current extract. This is the earliest moving picture record the college has of one of its ceremonies and it’s thanks to Robert Sarnoff that this happened. One of the greatest achievements by RCA and Sarnoff in particular was the development and introduction of colour TV in the USA. He was the first person to be officially televised in colour at the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facilities on May 22, 1958. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this 1958 event. The program represents the earliest known colour recording discovered to date.
The first two sound recordings could have been lost for ever had we not transferred them onto modern formats. The 1945 recording of King George 6th is held on 78rpm shellac discs which are very delicate and will break if dropped. I had these transferred by the National Sound Archive a few years ago. Although, in theory it’s easy to copy these discs, using the correct pick-up weight and stylus is essential. Using a modern LP stylus will simply “bottom’ into the disc’s groove and produce more scratch and crackle then actual sound and can damage it too.
The second recording IS interesting. I discovered that the recording tape used paper as the backing, rather than a form of plastic and its manufacture probably dates from the 1940’s. The oxide was also very basic and looked more like gunpowder than anything you could record sound on! Transferring the tape was also a challenge as I had to run the tape very slowly because it was sticking to itself like a reel of sticky parcel tape. A lot of background noise will he heard and I’m still amazed I managed to get anything off of it anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed listening to our recordings of Commemoration Days from the past….unless YOU have something we don’t know about?