The MPPDA Digital Archive
Flinders University Chief Investigators
Professor Richard Maltby
Dr Ruth Vasey
The MPPDA Digital Archives consist of a database of the extant records of the General Correspondence files of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc., covering the period from 1922 to 1939. Established in 1922, the MPPDA was the trade association for the motion picture industry, and included all the major companies producing and distributing motion pictures in the United States in its membership. The association was popularly known as the Hays Office, after its first President, Will H. Hays, who remained in office until 1945. Hays was a leading Republican party politician, who resigned from President Warren Harding's Cabinet to take up the MPPDA position. After Hays' retirement, the association was renamed the Motion Picture Association of America.
In 1965, the Motion Picture Association of America copied some of the accumulated document archive of its predecessor organization, the MPPDA, onto 16mm microfilm, and disposed of the original documents. Although the documents in the MPPDA’s General Correspondence files represent only a small fraction of the Association’s output, they provide an immensely rich source of information about the political history of the industry and its key activities and decisions. The Archive comprises 35,000 digital images (18GB, in JPEG format) of documents describing the industry’s organization and operation, including extensive information on industry policy, public relations, censorship and self-regulation. The great majority of this material is unavailable from other sources, and a substantial part of the original material has since been lost.
The development of digital technologies has made it possible to make the material much more accessible. With the aid of research grants from Flinders University, the Australian Research Council and the Australian National Data Service, a frame-by-frame digital copy of the archive has now been made.
This has allowed indexation of the archive’s 35,000 pages in a fully web based version. Emphasis on a user friendly system has been built in to both front and back ends of the MPPDA Digital Archive of today. Users are able to view all records in the archive in “snapshot” view or, if they wish to download full versions, they can complete a simple on-line registration process (authenticated by Flinders University Library Special Collections).