The United States Post Office is one service that everyone uses, almost daily. We use it to send all sorts of things – letters, photographs, gifts. But how do you ship dangerous goods?
Nitrate film is considered a class 4 flammable solid, cannot be shipped using regular methods, and must meet strict handling and documentation requirements. In other words, you cannot send it through your mailbox!
Using the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) http://www.icao.int/ and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) http://www.iata.org/index.htm the United States follows set standards for shipping goods by air transport at both domestic and international levels. Every aspect is tested, monitored, and regulated ranging from strength of shipping containers to size of labels, to specifically formatted declaration forms. Every dangerous good is given a four digit number to identify the material in any country-regardless of the native language. The person packing the hazardous material must be a trained and certified shipper, with his or her certificate lasting only two years before re-training is required.
Since 9/11, air transport in the USA has been under strict scrutiny, and changes were made not only to declaring goods, but to the regulation of maintaining safe passage. So while many Americans saw an increase in security at the airport, they were unaware of the many changes made in shipping consumer goods across the country.
Over the years, the motion picture department at GEH has been involved in extensive shipping of nitrate film both in the USA and around the world. By sending nitrate film to places such as Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Sweden, Australia and Japan, we have truly made ourselves an international archive. And here goes another shipment out the door…
Deborah Stoiber is the Nitrate Vault Manager at The Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center. She graduated from The L. Jeffrey Selznick School in 1998. After graduation, she spent time at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY working on their 16mm collection.