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Inside BAMPFA’s trove of film treasures, collected since the 1960s

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The vault, created in the late 1960s, is filled with more than 18,000 films and videos from around the world.


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FEBRUARY 09, 2023

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, or BAMPFA, is located just across the street from Crescent Lawn, but just a few miles north in Richmond, the museum owns a massive and little-known vault.

The vault, created in 2010, is filled with more than 18,000 films and videos from around the world, including materials of significance in film history, according to AJ Fox, BAMPFA’s media relations manager.

“While in the early days, we seemed to take in everything we could get our hands on, these days we’re far more selective, focusing on works by Bay Area artists, historically marginalized artists (women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, etc.), and more generally, works that relate to our exhibition history and upcoming exhibitions,” said Jon Shibata, film archivist at BAMPFA, in an email.

The film archive acquires these works through donations and through the archive’s acquisition program, according to Fox.

The vault’s contents have proven valuable to students, campus faculty and researchers from around the world, and some have recently become the subject of a new exhibition.

“Everything’s Ephemeral” is the latest in the ongoing Out of the Vault series, which highlights films from the archive and receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, according to Adrianne Finelli, one of the project’s co-curators.

“I was invited to co-curate three programs of 16mm films,” Finelli said in an email. “Each of the three programs was entirely sourced from old 16mm educational, ephemeral, and experimental films from the BAMPFA film archive.”

The final screening from the “Everything’s Ephemeral” project — “Play is the work of life” — will be held Feb. 16 at the Barbro Osher theater in Berkeley, according to the BAMPFA website. The screening will consist of ten short films.

This exhibition is not the only thing in the works for the vault. New acquisitions are ongoing, and preservation projects are underway.

“We are wrapping up a major restoration of Bushman (David Schickele, 1971), a groundbreaking film that highlights the complexities of cultural conflict through the experiences of Gabriel, a Black Nigerian man in San Francisco in the late 1960s,” Shibata said in the email.

This restoration, which is aided by funding from The Film Foundation, is one of a number of similar projects undertaken, or recently completed, according to Shibata.

The vault’s collection is virtually unparalleled within the Western Hemisphere when it comes to its significance, according to Fox.

“The BAMPFA film collection is world renown and for good reason, it contains significant history, broad cultural value, and immeasurable beauty,” Finelli said in the email.

A previous version of this article said the restoration of the film “Bushman” was aided by funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation. In fact, it is being supported by The Film Foundation, a wholly separate organization funded by Martin Scorsese. 
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the BAMPFA vault in Richmond was created in the 1960s. In fact, the archive materials were moved into the current space in 2010 and were stored in West Berkeley prior to that.

Contact Andrew Green at 


MARCH 05, 2023