CHICAGO (CBS) – Benjamin Gault was known for his research on birds, and there is even now a bird sanctuary named after him in his hometown of Glen Ellyn.
But as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported on Tuesday, the movies he recorded about 100 years ago have new life and offer a history lesson about more than just birds.
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Gault (1858-1942), an ornithologist – or ornithologist – from Glen Ellyn, kept meticulous field observations and notes of the birds he encountered.
“He was fascinated by birds, and he was very organized and methodical in his study,” said Dawn Roberts, senior director of collections at the Peggy Notebaert Museum of Nature at the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
Gault also collected bird specimens. His vast collection is now in the hands of Roberts and the Notebaert Museum, as is his collection of silent films, which will soon be recalled.
âI am so excited about this project,â said Roberts. âWe have them digitally copied and then fully digitally restored. “
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Most of the silent films come from Gault’s trips to Ireland from 1925 to 1927. In addition to birds, he also filmed everyday life – giving a rare glimpse of Ireland at the time through the lens of a American.
It shows everything from dancing to farming, and even a dog with a pipe in his mouth.
âIt’s all been trapped in these movies for so long, and now we can finally tap into it and see things from almost a hundred years ago,â Roberts said.
With the help of the Irish Film Institute and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival to fund the project, Roberts hopes that once fully restored, people will watch the 35 minutes of the film and help write the plots by identifying locations, events and even family members.
âSharing this history as well as preserving – these are strong mandates,â said Roberts.
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Roberts says the museum is still working on the details of how the films will be distributed and made available. She hopes the films will be fully restored by the spring.