Curating film history : film museums and archives in the age of new media
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As analogue film approaches obsolescence and new modes of engaging with moving images through digital media displace traditional cinema-going practices, film archives and museums acquire increasing prominence in the cultural scene. These institutions preserve audiovisual works, apparatuses and techniques from the past, exhibiting them as artefacts and records of a cinematic time before the “digital turn.” While media and art scholars have addressed the appearance of film, video and digital media artworks in the contemporary art museum, insufficient attention has been dedicated to film museums as sites of moving-image exhibition and historical mediation. This study explores the work of film archivists and curators, with particular attention to the exhibition of early and silent films through different media, institutional settings and historical narratives, shaping contemporary audience’s interpretation. This research examines three institutions—the EYE Filmmuseum (EYE) in Amsterdam, the George Eastman Museum (GEM) in Rochester, NY and the National Fairground Archive (NFA) in Sheffield (UK)—that have recently experimented with innovative film exhibition practices, advancing compelling new models of film curatorship. Through archival research, historical analysis and interviews with curators, this study focuses not just on present curatorial work at these archives, but also on their institutional histories and shifting understanding of moving-image historicity. The EYE, the GEM and the NFA represent three alternative curatorial strategies, respectively exhibiting early and silent films through practices of “crowd-curatorship,” “fine art curatorship” and “modern cine-variety pastiche,” mediating between these archival records and new media cultures. The present research advances a double contribution. On one hand, it proposes a more refined theoretical framework to understand film curatorship within the context of contemporary film historiographical debates. On the other, it provides film museums with a critical analysis of alternative exhibition strategies, highlighting the cultural politics at play within the historical interpretation and exhibition of archival films.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-05-11
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 11th May 2022
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