An Interview with Dan Miles, Poster Collector and Restorer

By Anastasia Hare, SG Communications & Development Manager

Amazed at the graphic punch, size and number of the vintage posters on display at Station Gallery, I contacted local poster collector and restorer Dan Miles to hear about what motivates his collection.

AH: What started your interest in posters, collecting and restoration? Have you always been a poster enthusiast?

DM: My interest in movie posters was an extension of my love of movies. My mother was a big movie buff and began taking me to the theatre when I was a young child. In fact, she says she spent her last silver dollar taking me to see The Sound of Music in 1965. I would have been 3 years old.

AH: Wow, it’s interesting to hear that it started at such a young age –nostalgia can be incredibly powerful, and  the memory and excitement of watching these films for the first time is something that many of us can relate to. The reference to a mid-1960’s movie is also interesting since this exhibition at Station Gallery specifically showcases film posters from Oscar winners between 1968 and 1978. Does your collection of posters span other decades as well?

DM: My collection consists of hundreds of posters primarily from the 1960’s and 1970’s. This is the era that had the greatest impression on me. The movie that started it all was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I saw the film when it was released in 1969 and I loved the story, the characters, the music and the sharp and funny dialogue. To this day it is my favourite movie and the reason there are three posters from this movie in the exhibition.

AH: I hear that you and your team at Backing to the Future have also restored hundreds of posters for clients worldwide. What’s personally been the most exciting poster you have ever restored?

DM: It’s difficult to narrow it down to one poster. Every single day we see amazing posters that we have never seen before, whether it be a movie poster, a travel poster, a war era poster, a concert poster or a sports poster. However, we did restore a collection of Nazi war posters from World War II. Clearly, it was a tragic period in history, but the posters and the graphics were stunning.

AH: These objects can now become opportunities for learning about history and trends in visual culture. Collectors familiar with legacies also go on extensive chases in search of particular treasures, and often have curious stories about how they found or stumbled upon them. What’s been the most exciting poster lead or discovery?

DM: There have been two very similar discoveries, one in Toronto and one in Whitby. Both owners were renovating their homes and when they lifted the hardwood floor they discovered large three sheet movie posters from the 1920’s had been used as underpadding. The posters had been under the floor for so long the woodgrain had embedded itself right into the poster. We linen backed and restored both pieces and the final posters look amazing.

AH: I can only imagine that embossed woodgrain is hard to remove from a poster! What are some of the other challenges that you encounter with poster restoration?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DM: We restore posters of all sizes in all conditions. Each presents its own challenges, but it’s the posters that are extremely fragile and in several pieces that present the greatest challenge. We recently restored a large three sheet poster that had broken into several large pieces and about 100 small pieces. We referred to it as the “Humpty Dumpty” of posters. Again, it required hours of work, but it looked really nice when finished and perhaps most importantly, it was in one piece.

AH: Do you have a few great tips that you could share to help us take care of posters?

DM: The most common type of damage we see is water damage. I strongly suggest people keep their posters off the floor and away from any sources of water. However, if your poster is damaged in a flood, dry it out as soon as possible and prevent mold from forming. Mold attacks the integrity of the paper and permanently destroys the poster. Water damage on the other hand can be reversed through the linen backing and restoration process.

AH: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone who’s just starting a collection?

DM: I am a firm believer that people should collect posters that interest them and make them happy. Do not collect posters simply as an investment. That approach is not very satisfying. Today, with online movie poster auctions, the marketplace is the entire world so there is plenty of choice at every price range.

Whether you saw the films depicted on these posters when they first opened in theatres, recently streamed them, saw them on DVD or have just been introduced to them today, there’s a lot to take in from Dan’s impeccable collection in the exhibition And the Oscar goes to…Film posters from Oscar winners between 1968 and 1978. Drop by SG as we lead up to Oscar night and anticipate this year’s winners.

 

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