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Kemp R. Niver (1911-1996) was born in Los Angeles. He served in the Navy during World War II and worked as an investigator for the Los Angeles district attorney's office and as a freelance bodyguard and private investigator. Niver is best known for his work on the Library of Congress paper print collection. The paper prints were contact prints made from original nitrate films. Prior to 1912 these prints were the only way through which filmmakers could secure copyright protection. The collection was originally under the supervision of Howard Walls, a former curator for the Library of Congress film division. Walls had been hired by the Academy in the fall of 1947 to supervise the conversion of the Library of Congress paper print collection to celluloid under the auspices of the Academy Foundation. Due to lack of funding, however, little progress had been made by the time Walls left the Academy in the fall of 1953. Niver, who had met Margaret Herrick in the early 1950s as a private investigator, took over the project and received funding from the Academy through 1956. He created the Renovare process to transfer the paper print films to 16mm film. Niver developed an optical step printer with a variable aperture to copy each paper print frame by frame (the printer later was donated to the UCLA film archive). More than 3,000 titles were processed through 1965 (pictured, left to right: Kemp Niver, Academy Governor Claire Trevor, and Academy Film Library Committee Chairman Fred Metzler with the first 200,000 feet of restored film). For his efforts, Niver received a 1954 Honorary Academy Award. Niver was president of Renovare Productions and also ran companies known as Locare and Historical Films. He was often aided by researcher Bebe Bergsten. Writings include "Motion Pictures from the Library of Congress Paper Print Collection," "In the Beginning: Program Notes to Accompany One Hundred Early Motion Pictures," "The First Twenty Years: A Segment of Film History," "Biograph Bulletins," 1896-1908, and "Early Motion Pictures: The Paper Print Collection in the Library of Congress." At one time Niver was museum curator for the American Society of Cinematographers and also taught film history at Loyola Marymount University.
Kemp Niver, Claire Trevor, and Fred Metzler with the paper print collection