A little bit of Laurier history came home on June 27, 2017, when Film Studies accepted the donation of a collection of historic cameras from WLU alumna Melanie Reed.
The collection includes over 100 pieces of photographic equipment, from film and still cameras to lenses, print copiers, camera cases, and rolls of film. Some of the first cameras ever produced for the mass market can be found in this collection, such the famous “Brownie” No. 2 box cameras produced by Kodak starting in 1901 and the “Pocket Kodak” folding cameras of the 1910s and 1920s. The collection features cameras from every decade of the 20th century and from many countries around the world, including Canada, the US, England, France, Germany, the USSR, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Along with the history of film and photography, this collection also evokes a piece of Laurier history, as it was donated in gratitude to Dr. Wilhelm E. Nassau -or, as he was known around campus back in the day, “Willy Nassau.” Nassau was born in Vienna in 1922 and began his career in the European film industry, most notably working on the Oscar-winning 1949 thriller The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles. In 1969, Nassau came to WLU (then Waterloo Lutheran University), where he worked as Director of Audio-Visual Resources and as a teacher of technical courses for many years. Melanie Reed, a former student of his, fondly remembers “Willy Nassau” as a man who was incredibly passionate about film and innovative in teaching. She recalls, for instance, students having to take pictures for his course with cameras they made themselves. Pieces from Nassau’s own vast collection of historic camera equipment can now be found in the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. He inspired Melanie to begin collecting historic cameras herself, and eventually to donate her collection to the Film Studies program.
This compact yet comprehensive collection gives us a picture of the past here at Laurier, and wherever these cameras have traveled!