The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
Carlene E. Stephens, curator of mechanisms in the Division of Engineering and Industry at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), conducted a videotaped tour of the Waltham Clock factory to document operating machinery, and to record the process of making and testing mechanical watches. During the sessions, which took place on June 27 and 28, 1989, Stephens spoke with employees who represented a range of factory operations.
In Session One, Stephens interviewed Joseph "Chuck" Martin and Marie Bastarache in Secondary Operations about jewel setting and balance screw insertion; David Buccheri, Charlie Paradis, and Vincent Rhoad, in the machine shop, about making screws on three generations of machines; and Richard Halstead and Edward Pitts, in the heat-treating room, about making hairspring coils.
In Session Two Stanford James spoke about quality testing of the watches; John Valmas demonstrated subassembly and final assembly operations; and Bruce LeDoyt discussed the need for engineering and maintenance within the factory. Edward Murphy, Tam Thi Le, Richard Welch, and Savay Xayavong assisted with demonstrations in the assembly process.
This collection consists of two interview sessions, totaling approximately 5:40 hours of recordings, and 170 pages of transcript. There are three generations of tape for each session: originals, dubbing masters, and reference copies. In total, this collection is comprised of 17 original videotapes (17 Beta videotapes), 5 dubbing master videotapes (5 U-Matic videotapes), and 4 reference copy videotapes (4 VHS videotapes). The collection has been remastered digitally, with 17 motion jpeg 2000 and 17 mpeg digital files for preservation, and 5 Windows Media Video and 5 Real Media Video digital files for reference.
Artifacts and documents from the Waltham Watch Company are located in the Division of Engineering and Industry, NMAH, accession number 225.117. For more information, please contact the Division of Engineering and Industry, National Museum of American History.