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Meet the Kellys

Meet Mabel, Mattie, Oliver and pet dog Lady Luck. They live in their family home, Halycon Hill, in Lebanon, Ky. For fun, they enjoy reading, playing croquet, gardening, knitting and cooking. Some nights you can find them gathered around the piano, enjoying a little evening musical respite. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? An ideal family enjoying time together paints a pretty portrait. In 1938, the Kellys did just that for a home movie shot by Wallace Kelly, a prolific artist who often documented his family’s life on film.

Film still from “Our Day.” 1938 Pan-American exposition by night/Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1901

In December 2007, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington named Kelly’s home movie “Our Day” as one of 25 motion pictures added to the National Film Registry, which now lists 475 films deemed to have cultural, historical or aesthetical significance and to be worthy of preservation. The film joins such classics as “Bullitt,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Grand Hotel,” “Oklahoma!” and “12 Angry Men.” And, although Universal Studios theme parks have decided to decommission the De Lorean and power down the flux capacitor, the time machine lives on at the Library with the 1985 sci-fi classic “Back to the Future” also added to the registry.

Each year, the National Film Preservation Board, the Library’s Motion Picture Division staff, and, yes, the public nominate hundreds of titles. And, the people’s votes do count. The Library invites you to make your recommendations.

In July 2007, the Library of Congress opened its new Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, which will dramatically expand the Library's preservation capacity. For each title named to the registry, the Library works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s massive motion-picture preservation program that works out of the new facility or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers.

The Library of Congress began collecting motion pictures in 1893, when Thomas Edison and his assistant W.K.L. Dickson deposited the Edison Kinetoscopic Records for copyright. However, because of the difficulty of safely storing the flammable nitrate film used at the time, the Library retained only the descriptive material relating to motion pictures. In 1942, recognizing the importance of motion pictures and the need to preserve them as a historical record, the Library began the collection of the films themselves. From 1949 on, these included films made for television. Today the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division has responsibility for the acquisition, cataloging and preservation of the motion picture and television collections.

The Library’s collection of Edison films features some 340 titles, including an 1891 camera test, the earliest example from the collection.

A. Film still from “Our Day.” 1938. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Pan-American exposition by night/Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1901. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. SUMMARY: The film begins with a slow pan over the tower building of the exposition, which was lighted by electric lights. The pan goes from a daylight shot of the grounds to what appears to be a special-effects situation involving backlighting of the scene. Reproduction Information: Call No.: LC 995 (paper pos)