The Future-Past of Moving Images: Towards a Pre-history of Film Archiving

< Program < PANEL NO. 1: Film Chemistry, Lab Technique, and Archival Traces

Historians and archivists tend to assume that there was a big gap between the initial articulation of the need for the preservation of cinema in the 1890s – by figures like Bolesław Matuszewski – and the beginnings of its realization in the 1930s with the formation of the earliest institutions tasked with saving cinema’s past. Yet this simplification ignores the rich pre-history of film archiving at both the conceptual and material levels which includes the establishment of archives within broader historical organizations like the Imperial War Museum, Kodak’s early guidance on the storage and safekeeping of celluloid film and even the rise of the compilation documentary as a genre that fostered a consciousness of the value of “old films.” This presentation will sketch key points in that pre-history from 1898 to 1930 within the context of research for my forthcoming book which traces the rise of film historiography in the silent years through books, exhibitions, films and educational initiatives.

Dimitrios Latsis (Ryerson University)

Dimitrios Latsis is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the School of Image Arts of Ryerson University in Toronto where he teaches in the Film Studies and Film + Photography Preservation and Collections Management programs. He received his PhD in Film Studies from the University of Iowa and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Visual Data Curation at the Internet Archive where he served as film archivist. His work has been funded by the Smithsonian Institution, CLIR and the Mellon Foundation among others. He has published widely in the fields of American Visual Culture, historiography and theory and cinema and archival studies. He is currently co-editing an anthology on documentaries about the visual arts in the 1950s and 60s, and writing a monograph on the historiography of American cinema during the early and silent years.