A future for Lucey

After a month of working among the pages of the Lucey archive and immersing myself in the frames of his film, I feel as though I’ve learned so much about him as a person. Since  it is impossible to meet him in person, all I can do is explore that which remains: his works. “Lucey’s archive is what’s left of his working life. His family gathered together and gave it in its entirety to us, which is fantastic because nobody is putting a particular slant on it,” Rachel Hosker, Deputy Head of Special Collections, says, “It is just what is left behind and we can look at it and piece together who this man was and what he did, what his personality was like. I know that both of you working in the archive have got to know and to like Lucey quite a lot as an individual, and you can’t help it because you start working with material and you start to find out about people and their personalities and who they are.” Who a person is isn’t just what they did but it is also is the memories they leave behind. The research became more real when I met with Lucey’s daughter and one of his sons, who had so many memories and stories to tell. They were happy that he had left behind this archive and his autobiography because it gave them an understanding of him that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. His son told stories of the hustle and bustle that was constantly surrounding Lucey’s daily life. Apparently, in his spare time Lucey was tinkering and building contraptions to enhance his filming while making the science aspect easier. The children all seemed very interested in the Timescapes: Looking for Lucey event and believe that their father would have loved the project.

It isn’t just the family that’s excited about the possibilities. Hosker, who has been working closely with the project, can’t wait to see the collection out in public. “One of the techniques [Lucey] uses quite widely is timelapse, and trying to capture something, whether it’s a flea jumping or movement on Princes Street in a very rapid way,” Hosker said, “he’s trying to capture the reality of something within a particular measurement. I think also when you start looking at the films themselves, not necessarily as science or Lucey’s work, film is all about capturing a moment in time, capturing a memory, capturing something, so that you can go back and look at it, so you can go back and analyze it, and make sense of it. So it is quite important for us to look at film and ask what do we do with film now. Time is going on and the film is deteriorating because of time, because of the environment, and so resurrecting it through digitizing it and reinterpreting it, I think, is very important as well because it allows that film to continue its life and continue its journey.”

Looking for Lucey isn’t only showcasing Lucey’s films. This event will contain footage from the Moving Image Archive and short films produced after Lucey’s time. We are trying to celebrate his works while showing the importance of film through time and within fields of experimentation. There will also be a short interval of films created by Conrad Waddington, Head of the Institute from Animal Genetics and longtime friend of Lucey. All these films and a lot of the Waddington archive were explored by Project Archivist Clare Button at the Centre for Research Collections. Button has worked with people in and out of the centre trying to understand this archive and she was one of the first people to come into contact with Lucey’s children and personal archive. The collection is something Button is continually coming back to. She first interacted with the Lucey personal archives while working on a different project in 2012 but without dedicated funds, it became a side project. She again encountered Lucey when working with the C.H. Waddington archive. Button seems to be someone always in orbit around the Lucey archive. “I think the fact that we barely scraped the surface [keeps me coming back] really, which you guys are proving, so the stuff that we had in from Caroline had a basic description,” Button said, “It was not a full catalog because it was extra to the project and I never had any time to delve into the film collection. I had no idea the paper archive you guys have been working on even existed. I think it’s the fact that he created such a large group of work and such a diversity of work as well. Not just the scientific and genetics stuff but the fact that he became a sort of resident filmmaker at the University [of Edinburgh]. He had a variety [of films] under his belt and he was such an interesting person as well as a filmmaker. I certainly think he was an underappreciated figure, not just in the University’s history but in filmmaking history. I am really pleased that you are doing this work because I think he is due a renaissance.”

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