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COLLECTION Identifier: hfa00030

Somerville High School Film Collection


Consisting of 385 educational films produced for classroom use between the 1930s and 1980s, the Somerville High School Collection provides a representative sample of the subjects and genres of educational media used in classrooms during this period. Though collected by Somerville High School, the films are aimed at students from primary grades through high school and cover a variety of subjects including art, math, music, science, health, and social studies. A highlight of the collection is the Screen News Digest series, consisting of newsreels highlighting current and historically significant events between 1958 and 1979.


  • Creation: 1939-1989

Language of Materials

Material is in English.

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions on physical access to the paper portion of this collection. Collection is open for research. The Harvard Film Archive's manuscript collections and paper-based materials are accessed through the Houghton Library Reading Room. This material is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Researchers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.

Access to audiovisual material is by appointment only. Applications to consult this material should be directed to the staff of the Harvard Film Archive. Film prints are made accessible in close consultation with HFA staff. Although materials do not circulate for individual use, students, filmmakers, artists, and researchers are encouraged to use the collections on-site.

Use Restrictions

Reproduction and/or publication of materials subject to copyright requires written permission from a) the copyright owner, his/her heirs or assigns and from b) the Harvard Film Archive, owner of the original material.


368 16mm film prints
8 DVDs
7 Digital Betacam (TM) tapes
1 linear feet (1 box)

Somerville High School, a 4-year, public educational facility, is within the scope of the Somerville Public School District. In the decades leading up to the 1980s, the district evolved from a 6-3-3 model separating primary, junior high, and secondary schools to an 8-4 model that better supported the enrollment figures. During this time, Somerville High School also incorporated the Somerville Technical Trade High School. The re-configurations over the decades led to the development of a diverse range of subject materials and audience-levels in their collection of educational films. The collection contains mostly 16mm film prints, which were popularly distributed by major educational firms such as Coronet Films and Encyclopeadia Britannica Films from the 1930s through the 1980s. The collection additionally includes some viewing and preservation copies in DVD and Digital Betacam tape format. It also contains one box of supplementary paper materials. The following categories elaborate on the types of films found in the collection:

  1. General films
  2. ___Art: This category includes films on music, painting, and general art education.
  3. ___Career guidance: This category includes a series of films exploring different potential career paths, such as banking or food preparation.
  4. ___Health: This category includes films on personal hygiene, nutrition, safety and risk prevention.
  5. ___Language Arts: These films cover grammar instruction, reading education, and both instruction of and reenactments of classic forms of literature.
  6. ___Math: These films cover basic math, the metric system, and introductions to geometry.
  7. ___Science: This category includes films on biology, botany, geology, animals, historical science, astronomy, electricity, physics, chemistry, and conservation.
  8. ___Social Studies: These films cover the basic subjects of history, politics, cartography, and economics. Also included in this category are films regarding social instruction and ethical education.
  9. Screen News Digest: This is a series of news reels produced by Hearst Metrotone News, Inc. between 1958 and 1979. Most episodes cover several current events, but some shorts focus specifically on one historically significant person, place, or event.
  10. Supplementary Materials: This box contains inventories of educational films kept by Somerville High School.


The original order and subject divisions of the film collection was largely adhered to, and the films are arranged within three series and subseries accordingly:

  1. I. General films
  2. ___Art
  3. ___Career guidance
  4. ___Health
  5. ___Language Arts
  6. ___Math
  7. ___Science
  8. ___Social Studies
  9. II. Screen News Digest films
  10. III. Supplementary materials

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to the Harvard Film Archive by the Somerville Public School District’s Department of Library Media Services in 2005.

Processing Information

Arranged & encoded by: Tricia Patterson, October 2013

Genre / Form


Somerville High School Film Collection, ca. 1939-1989 : Guide
Harvard Film Archive, Harvard University
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Film Archive, Harvard Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard Film Archive is one of the largest university-based motion picture collections in the United States, with a collection of 40,000 audio visual items, a growing number of manuscript collections, and nearly one million still photographs, posters, and other promotional materials from around the world and from almost every period in film history. The HFA's collection of paper materials, including the documentation of individual filmmakers as well as promotional materials such as posters, film stills, and ephemera are accessible to Harvard affiliates as well as to outside researchers.

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