1947 Film by Arctic Adventurers to be Preserved

Bud and Constance Helmericks in 1947The Alaska Film Archives at UAF’s Elmer E. Rasmuson Library has received funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) to preserve the only known copy of a 1947 film made by Arctic adventurers Harmon “Bud” and Constance Helmericks. Shot with great care and artfulness under extreme living conditions, "We Live in the Arctic" depicts the unique lives of the young couple, as well as the rapidly-changing lives of coastal and inland Iñupiat peoples during the era of pre-Statehood and pre-pipeline Alaska. Detailed lecture notes written by the filmmakers accompany the 80-minute silent program, originally shot on 16mm color film. Funding will allow new preservation film prints to be created, as well as high definition digital scans.

Bud and his first wife Constance spent more than a decade living in and exploring northern Alaska during the 1940s and 1950s. Constance was the best-selling author of seven non-fiction books detailing their lives and adventures in the far north. Scenes that she and Bud captured with their film camera were the subject of national lecture tours.

The Alaska Film Archives was recently gifted three original full-length lecture films by a daughter of Bud and Constance, now both deceased. The earliest film in particular stood out as being worthy of special preservation. The two-reeler contains views of homesteading activities in the jagged and remote Brooks Range, ice along the arctic coast in summer, the activities of northern Alaskan Iñupiat peoples and inland Nunamiut peoples, hunting and fishing, and airplane use and care under extreme arctic conditions. Bud and Constance filmed every aspect of their lives, including the wildlife they observed, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, and the people they met.

"We Live in the Arctic" at once provides a broad perspective of the northern frontier experience while also exploring its many minute and intimate details. As such, the film is extraordinarily representative of the mission of the Alaska Film Archives, which aims to locate and collect film and videotape pertaining to Alaska through donation, document the regions and dates of each film, catalog and make each item available for viewing, and store original materials under controlled environmental conditions. Following preservation, the film archives plans to arrange special free screenings of the films in several Alaska communities.

"We Live in the Arctic" is part of the Constance Helmericks Papers, held by the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives at the Rasmuson Library. For more information, contact Film Archivist Angela Schmidt at ajschmidt@alaska.edu

This page was last modified on July 14, 2015