UW Today

This is an archived article.

August 20, 2009

Why a cat in a glass box? Help the library identify this week’s Lost and Found Film

Editor’s Note: The UW Audio Visual Services Materials Library has more than 1,200 reels of film from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, documenting life at the University through telecourses, commercial films and original productions. Some of the short films are easily identifiable, but many more remain mysteries. Who shot these films and why? Can you help answer those questions? Faculty and staff can use the comments field at the end of the story to send ideas. Those outside the University can e-mail filmarc@u.washington.edu.

The images go by so quickly on this week’s film, Public Opinion Laboratory, that it’s hard to know just what’s going on. Within the film’s nearly three-minute running time, we see glass blowing, a home economics demonstration of how to cook pork roast and applesauce being canned, among other things. Why is that cat sitting in a glass box with a metal framed door? What is being measured when a woman bites down on a device? What is that man adjusting as he turns a large wheel surrounded by gauges?

The film was made in about 1948. It was originally silent, but a musical soundtrack was later added for a Special Collections presentation.

“There is a Public Opinion Laboratory manuscript collection in Special Collections,” said Hannah Palin, film archives specialist with UW Special Collections. “We’re looking for additional information about the Public Opinion Laboratory — its history, personnel and location.”


She’d also like to know what is going on in each of the film’s sections, what experiments are being conducted and how the film was used.


Palin got a wealth of information from people who looked at last week’s film, Big Beef Creek, much of it collected by Lin Murdock, student services coordinator in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. The fish in the film were being spray painted with a fluorescent dye and released back into the water. The man peering into a wooden box was looking at fish under fluorescent light to see if they are marked or unmarked. Go back to the story to read all the comments.

And now have a look at the whirlwind of images in Public Opinion Laboratory to see whether you have an opinion about it.