Lately, a lot has been going on at Banting House. We’ve had a busy few weeks here. Of course, there was the creation and posting of the Teddy Ryder online show, but since then we’ve opened to the public for tours, we’ve had our first fundraising event with the Sikh motorcycle club, and we still have the in-person Teddy Ryder show to look forward to in the coming weeks. There’s a lot going on.
But there’s one other thing too. Announced last week, we have video footage of Dr. Banting and Teddy Ryder. It’s about a minute long and there’s no audio, but this find is incredibly exciting. If you remember from my second blog post, a lot of museum and collections work is either finding artifacts you didn’t know you had or finding artifacts you hoped were there. This was the latter.
Way back when Anne Pritchard first donated the collection, one of the artifacts was this:
It’s a case with 16mm film inside. Anne said that she knew it was of Teddy but wasn’t sure whether or not there was Dr. Banting footage. Obviously, this was very exciting.
We searched for a little while until we found a company from London, Ontario that could digitize the film. Because the actual reel is an artifact, we wanted to be sure it was handled with care by whomever was digitizing it. Waiting to hear back was stressful, not just because we wanted to know what was on it, but also because very little video footage of Banting exists.
See, while countless photos of Banting exist, for some reason video is far rarer. Although there may be undiscovered footage of Banting somewhere in the world, there really isn’t much that we know about. Also, while film may have been more common by the late 30s and early 40s (around the last 5 to 10 years of his life), it was still a fairly new medium in the 1910s and 20s (the discovery of insulin period). So even if there was more footage of Banting out there, it would likely be of Banting after the discovery period and not during. So we were hopeful that we might find something. Once we heard back about the digitization, Grant (the curator) reviewed the footage and found a solid minute of Banting and Teddy:
To see Banting’s face animate as he spoke was chilling (in a good way). This is the man who essentially saved my life (along with the expertise of the other three discoverers and purifiers, not to mention all the doctors and nurses since). But to see Frederick Banting smile and speak, and scratch his head a little was beyond incredible. There’s something about film that can capture history in this real moment—almost as if he was standing in the room for a second.
Again, there is little footage of Dr. Banting. So I among so many others were taken aback to finally see him move around and change facial expressions. One Facebook commenter wrote “This made me smile. Nice to see the man in motion who I can credit all these years later for keeping my daughter alive.” The power of this video cannot be understated.
So, overall, a very cool find. Unfortunately, it wasn’t found before the online Teddy Ryder show was published, but the great thing about online shows is that it was easily dropped in later. Though, the connection this video has to the online Teddy show is the other fascinating part (at least for me).
In the “Later Life and Legacy” section of the online show, there’s this letter from 1929:
The letter is from Banting to Teddy’s parents and it outlines their plans to meet up in Toronto that summer. When I first found this letter, I thought it was a neat addition to the online show because it demonstrated how Banting and Teddy stayed in contact for years after the treatment. But it became a much cooler addition when this video came along, because…
So, in sum, we have a video of Banting and Teddy, and an accompanying letter that verifies the visit in the video with the rest of the exhibit. This connection is even more solid when you compare Teddy’s face in the video to a photo of Teddy from that same year:
It’s all connected! The video, the letter, the photo—all of it. So, of course this video is especially important because it’s one of very few moments where Banting is caught on camera. But it’s also important because it gives this letter and photo more weight and acts as a really cool connecter piece for the artifacts in the online show.
So, as Banting House continues to have some more very busy weeks with lots going on, the experience of getting this video remains one of the coolest moments in my time here.
Until next time,
P.S. As I often do here, I want to highlight the online show. So, click below if you want to watch the video or see the online show (and how the video connects to the artifacts we have there from 1929).
Photo credit for the 1929 photo of Teddy: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.