Over the past century, one thing has become obvious. The technology we use today will evolve and eventually become obsolete. Unfortunately that means we may fail to save writings, photos and videos that could be important to future generations.
That point hit home recently when the Library of Congress released results of the first comprehensive survey of silent films.
The agency found about 70 percent of silent films made in America have been lost because of decay and neglect over the past 100 years.
The Associated Press reported that of the nearly 11,000 silent feature films made in America between 1912 and 1930, the survey found only 14 percent still exist in their original format, and about 11 percent survive only as foreign versions or on lower-quality formats.
But once these films were a widely popular entertainment form, one that spawned the rise of modern Hollywood and the film industry.
Movies first became a popular form of entertainment between 1912 and 1929, the heyday of silent films.
The Library of Congress report notes movie theater attendance in United States averaged 46 million admissions per week in the 1920s at a time when the country had a population of 116 million people.
The AP story cited the historian and archivist who conducted the study, David Pierce, who said the best of the silent films “are as effective with audiences today as they were when they were initially released.”
Without dialogue, the makers had to tell the story entirely in a visual fashion. “And it's that limitation, I think, which makes the films so effective,” he said.
The loss of so much of an original American art form points to a need to make sure to preserve and appreciate the remaining silent films. But it also shows that as we develop new technologies we must find ways to preserve the artworks we create with them.