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Tales from the CSA Archives

March 22, 2023
By as told by Archivist Jenny Lukomski

When I first started working for CSA, I began with an inventory of the archive’s holdings and was excited to find several canisters of 16mm film. I couldn’t wait to see what was on them. The problem was most didn’t have any identifying information on them. Later, I found a DVD called “CSA Films” that I assumed contained the footage of these films, but they were all combined into one jumble of a digital file and there was no way to match the contents to each of the original films.

I thought of running the films through a projector in order to identify them but immediately found broken sprocket holes and worse, the scent of vinegar. As the acetate in the film base begins to decompose it off-gasses acetic acid which produces the vinegar scent. Once this chemical process called “vinegar syndrome” starts, it cannot be stopped and will speed up over time causing shrinkage and brittleness to the film base and dye fading of the images. I knew I had to preserve them soon before any further damage made it impossible.

Six 16mm and two Super8 films were sent to SceneSavers, a company specializing in archival media preservation. They cleaned and repaired the films before converting them to digital files.

The six 16mm films date from the 1940s and include both color and black and white footage of nursing students entering and leaving St. Agnes School of Nursing; laying the cornerstone of the hospital addition in 1942; investing and profession ceremonies; visiting Sunday with sisters and their families; and candidates and novices at recreation on CSA’s grounds involving volleyball games, dancing, and cookouts. The two Super8 films contain footage of a celebratory Mass for Sister Judith Schmidt at St. Joseph’s Church in Hays, Kansas, after her election as General Superior in 1977.

Sisters in the motherhouse came together on December 6, 2022, to watch the one-hour premier of the compilation of films. They enjoyed popcorn and walks down memory lane as they worked together to see who they could identify in the films.

It’s your turn! Head to to view the films!

This article also appears in the February Issue of Reflections and Connections

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