The notice below I copied off of the AMIA Listserv,
This is the announcement of the death of Bill O'Farrell. The particulars of his life are written below. I'll add my short bit, and I'll keep it short because he would have gotten pissed off at me for it. Back in the 1990's when I figured I wanted to get more involved with Film History than just watching it, I went to LOC, got a FIAF listing of all the Film Archives at the time, and wrote over a hundred letters asking for more info about early film history and preservation. I received exactly 2 responses. One from Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, and the other was a phone call from Bill who at that time was head of preservation copying at National Archives of Canada. We spoke for well over an hour (later I found out this was a short phone call for him). He gave me people to contact, places to look for more info, and later as I began to write and do more detailed research he acted as a sounding board for most of my projects. He served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Moving Image Archivists for many years, as wells as being an advisor to Northeast Historic Film and the Chicago Film Archive. He was deeply involved with preservation of Amateur Film and small film gauges.
He served as a mentor to many budding Archivists and after his illness forced him to retire from the Archives he worked as an appraiser and advisor to many Film related Groups. We became good friends, spoke on the phone often usually chatting into the wee hours of the morning. He constantly contacted me to discuss footage he had located and one of his major passions was documenting early Canadian Film History.
When we talk of preservation and the Availability of material, we also talk of folks like Bill O'Farrell who toil in Archival Institutions to preserve these historic artiiacts for future generations to experience.
This posting appeared on the Canadian archival
Posted on behalf of Rosemary Bergeron and Yvette Hackett
William S. "Bill" O' Farrell, former head of
Moving Image and Audio Conservation at the
National Archives of Canada, passed away in
Ottawa, Ontario at age 54 on Saturday, August
30th. Bill 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
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
on Saturday: "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
His loss will be felt in audio-visual archives around the world.
Rosemary Bergeron and Yvette Hackett
Talk about the work of collecting, restoring and preserving our film heritage here.