Papers related to making of long-forgotten HBC documentary donated to Archives of Manitoba
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/10/2015 (2622 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Archives of Manitoba has obtained papers detailing the making of a documentary made about the Hudson’s Bay Company activities nearly a century ago.
In 1919, the HBC enlisted New York City filmmaker Harold Wyckoff to make a documentary to celebrate the fur-trading company’s 250th year.
Travelling by canoe, barge and dogsled through remote regions in northern Ontario, Alberta and B.C., Wyckoff gathered naturalistic and staged footage of indigenous Canadians who worked on behalf of the HBC.
Romance of the Far Fur Country, the resulting two-hour silent film, was screened in 1920. It was then stored in London, U.K. and forgotten for decades.
In 2011, the British Film Institute returned to the film to the HBC archives, setting the stage for Winnipeg producer Kevin Nikkel and his Five Door Films to make a documentary about the film’s repatriation in 2014. Five Door Films also re-released Romance of the Far Fur Country earlier this year.
Nikkel also searched for Wyckoff’s descendants to see what else could be learned about the invaluable footage. Scouring through genealogy records and a Sacramento, Calif. phonebook, Nikkel found Walter Wyckoff, who possessed his grandfather Harold’s personal diary, letters and other records pertaining to the making of the documentary.
Those documents were officially placed in the Archives of Manitoba on Thursday, when Walter Wyckoff travelled to Winnipeg to hand over the papers.
“My father had gathered them up from his parents. He kept them all. He realized that was important,” Wyckoff said following a donation ceremony.
He said he was aware his grandfather made a trip to the Canadian wilderness but wasn’t aware of the details – or their historic significance – until he was contacted by Nikkel.
“This is some of the earliest film footage about Canada and Canadian history,” said Nikkel, who says it provides a crucial glimpse of indigenous cultural practices even if some the sequences were staged.
Nikkel said Harold Wyckoff’s papers provide the context for the making of the film at a time when no one was carrying cameras through the Canadian wilderness.
A DVD of the film can be purchased through the Winnipeg Film Group through its online store.
Updated on Thursday, October 1, 2015 2:39 PM CDT: Adds documentary video clips