Yale University has announced it has digitized and preserved the personal film reels of clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman.
The move is part of a larger preservation project now ongoing at the university’s Irving S. Gilmore Music Library; which already houses a vast collection of photographs, audio recordings, and other documentation of Goodman’s life and work.
“Goodman had a relationship with Yale over the last few decades before his passing,” Goodman scholar David Jessup said in a statement. “About a week before he died, Goodman had a meeting with the Yale University librarian and, as it turns out, he had contacted his lawyer and made sure that was where all of that material was going to go.” Goodman’s close ties to the university began when he moved to Stamford, CT around the age of 35. Yale was just 30 minutes from Goodman’s home, and he was a regular performer at the university for much of his career.
The so-called “Goodman Papers” had resided at the Gilmore Library for almost 30 years before one of the library’s managers noticed the scent of vinegar on the film stock – A subtle sign that marks the start of film stock degradation.
British grant-making fund Arcadia provided the financial backing for Yale’s plan to immediately restore almost 100 reels of footage by carefully transferring the film to a newer, polyester based, film stock; which has an average life expectancy of almost a millennia. They also digitized the reels so jazz fans across the world could enjoy the footage, which includes parties, rehearsals, rare recordings of events like Goodman in session with one of his small group configurations (likely pianist Teddy Wilson & drummer Gene Krupa) in 1955 and footage of his tour of Moscow during the height of the Cold War in 1958.