Harry Harris Interview

Prior to the opening of this website,
Harry was asked about his thoughts and aspirations.

How long have you been collecting Aliens?
I started collecting around 1987, just after I saw Aliens, which remains my favourite film of the series. I started with merchandise and gradually moved on to props.
What inspired you to put your collection on the Web?
I always try and look at things from other people's point of view. And having a collection as big as mine, it's very difficult to exhibit it. In fact to this day I've only done two exhibitions: one very small one when I first started collecting and had a few items, and one very recently in 1998, which was quite a logistics effort to arrange. I've got quite a few mannequins, there were exhibition tables, boards to put production artwork and paperwork on... and I just thought the internet is becoming a very cheap and easy way of doing what I want to do.
And why now?
In the past year and a half or so I've bought a lot more props, and a lot more production material and artwork which I will be phasing into the website possibly in the future.
Why show everyone your collection? Why not just keep it to yourself?
As I said before, I always try and look at things from other people's point of view. If I was a collector who was as enthusiastic as I am but didn't own all these things, I would really love to see them. And if they are half way across the world that's going to be very difficult. So I think the internet is a very good way of doing that. And I'm a believer in sharing my collection and not hoarding it and being snobbish about it.
Does the site cover your entire Aliens collection?
No, it doesn't. The site covers the props and costumes that I own. I also have quite a large collection of memorabilia and photographs which total over a thousand items.
There is also an extensive section on Alien War London. Is that worthwhile, when many visitors will never have heard of it before?
Yes. In the research that was done, we discovered that even after all these years since Alien War closed, people are still interested in it and a lot of people want to know what it was all about. I think it's a very valid section to have.
Have you been influenced by other sites you have seen?
Well, my designer and I did a lot of research, looking at other people's websites, and what we chose to do was take a fresh approach to the design. But we did look at a lot of sites and some ideas were inspired by certain good points and bad points. And inasmuch as we realised how we should do things, we also realised how we shouldn't do things. For example, we've visited some sites containing photographs of props without any description, or even indication that they belonged to the owner of the website.
How was the design of your site arrived at?
I'm very fortunate to have as a dear friend, a professional graphics designer who was kind enough to spend many long hours designing the site.
How much of the graphics, the backgrounds for example, have been taken from ready-made public domain libraries?
We designed and built all our own backgrounds, and all the photographs are original inasmuch as I either own the items, or I took the photographs myself. I didn't want to use even legitimate freeware, I think it's more fun to create something from scratch yourself.
Do you think a website is a good substitute for seeing the collection in person?
As they say, a picture paints a thousand words, and I think the internet is a very simple and fast method of conveying those images to anybody who wants to look at them across the world. If somebody published a magazine with all these photographs in, it would cost a fortune to print it - and I think this is the next best thing.
What do you hope that visitors will get from your site?
I hope they have a lot of fun! I hope they get to see and find out things that they didn't know. And I hope it's going to prove useful to modellers out there for reference material. That's close to my heart because I know that there's never enough reference and so modelling people end up having to guess, and getting things wrong through no fault of their own. And it also just shows people that we, the fans, still care about the movie a lot.
What is your attitude to visitors wanting to save copies of the photographs?
Well that's fine as long as it's only for their personal reference. But what I do object to is people taking them and republishing them, unless they ask permission. (In fact the website was delayed in its original launch because we had a case of copyright theft where somebody took some of the HTML code, and elements of their website design suddenly appeared very similar to ours.) To try and enforce this, all the photographs that are in the site have a stamp included on them to identify them as belonging to the HHACA website.
How important to you is feedback from visitors?
Feedback's very important. We've got a link where people can email back to us - I would dearly like to know what people think.
Does seeing your own props on the Web make you look at them in a new light?
I think it does. It makes me very proud of the fact that I've got this opportunity to publish the site and it makes me proud to know that I own these items from a film which is fast becoming a legend in its genre.
Will the website be updated as and when the collection increases?
Yes, definitely. There's also a 'news' section on the website for any other information that comes along. Whenever something is added to the collection it will be on the website as soon as we can do it.
What plans, if any, do you have for expansion or improvement of the site?
I have a lot of production paperwork which I recently was given, and may include that on the site if people are interested to see it.
What part of the site are you most pleased with?
I'm most pleased with all the page title graphics, I'm very happy with them.
Is there anything you would have liked to do with your site but which hasn't been possible?
Unfortunately due to technical limitations with the World Wide Web at the moment, I can't do things like put video clips of a prop if it moves or works in a particular way. That's something I may do if communication speeds improve in the future.
Finally - if James Cameron saw your site, what would you hope he would think of it?
I think I'd hope that he was pleased that there was still such an enthusiasm for Aliens, and I hope that he has very fond memories of making the film when he sees it all again.

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