Stepping into the unknown, this exhibit invites visitors to confront a unique puzzle. Encased within two dozen Scotch and Sony brand reels rest potential insights into the history of the Ladd School, yet their secrets remain tightly held. Their contents unknown, these artifacts are the last remaining ephemeral traces of their era, waiting to be unspooled.
The labels on some of the boxes hint at the possibility of what lies within. Terms like "Speech Department," "Annual Review," and "Hepatitis" suggest instructional content. Others, like "Greene II," likely reference the old hospital, while "Bowling" hints at recreational activities. Still, others like "Qualified Mental Retardation Professional," reflect the changing terminologies and understandings in the field of intellectual disability.
However, many of the reels are unlabeled, and some have had their original labels obscured, their identities shrouded in mystery. Therein lies the enigma: what do these silent sentinels of history hold?
Ranging from five to seven inches in diameter and in varying formats, the reels could contain up to seven hours of footage, possibly in color or black-and-white, with accompanying sound. Based on their physical condition and the era of their production, it seems these reels have been dormant since the 1970s and stored since the 1990s.
The dilemma facing us is technological. The obsolete equipment necessary to play these films is exceedingly rare, and the cost to digitize the reels remains prohibitively high. Yet, the potential knowledge and insights these reels could offer about the Ladd School's history are invaluable.
This exhibition stands as a testament to the untold narratives hidden within these reels and a testament to our commitment to unveiling these stories. We look forward to the day we can share these captured moments of the past. In the meantime, they remain intriguing enigmas, enticing us with the promise of unknown stories awaiting their turn to be told.
Twenty-two reel-to-reel films of the Ladd School, in color or black and white, with sound.