In a move that will almost certainly drive up the price of that Blood Diner tape you’ve been watching on eBay, Bloomberg Business brings word that Yale University has begun amassing a VHS collection. But the Ivy League institution isn’t looking for dusty copies of Men In Black (or Speed or Jerry Maguire, presumably because those already have dedicated archivists working to save them from landfills). Specifically, it’s collecting VHS tapes from the horror and exploitation genres, the once-undesirable, now highly collectible subset of VHS in general whose fans people—ourselves included—are usually referring to when they talk about “VHS Collectors.”
Yale librarian David Gary is apparently one of these fans. And, as people do when they’re trying to get their employer to spend money on something that they themselves secretly want, he’s come up with an elaborate justification as to why these tapes are important, calling them “the kind of material that lets you get at the cultural id of an era.” Praising what he calls “the materiality of VHS,” Gary says future historians “will want to study the labels that were put on tapes, or the tape stock, or the plastic case. All that stuff tells a story about how it was produced and where it came from that future scholars will want to grapple with in some fashion.” Also, the box art is awesome.
Gary’s argument must have persuaded his ivory-tower superiors, because according to Bloomberg Yale recently brokered the purchase of 2,700 rare VHS tapes from Joe Pesch, a private collector located near Dayton, Ohio. The amount the university paid for the collection isn’t disclosed in the article, but Gary says he was able to persuade Pesch to part with his collection by appealing to his sense of history. “Nostalgia is the last stage before it becomes an academic topic of study,” Gary told Pesch. “Let’s make sure that there’s a place that’s preserving these tapes for the long term.” Wonder if Yale is going to Cinema Wasteland this year?