Number 60 • November/December 2007
Fragments of the Past: Exploring Clues to Early Color Film by Joshua Yumibe
DLF Surveys U.S. Moving-Image Archives by Barrie Howard
Cornell Hosts Faculty Research Behavior Workshop by Alice Bishop
by Joshua Yumibe
Editor’s note: In 2006, Joshua Yumibe received a Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in the Humanities in Original Sources, which CLIR administers. Yumibe, who received his Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago in August and is now assistant professor in English and the Film Concentration at Oakland University, recently attended a meeting at which he reported on his fellowship year. At our request, he adapted his report for publication in CLIR Issues. The article offers a glimpse of his fellowship work, while also highlighting his collaboration with archivists to salvage a portion of our disappearing film history.
IN 1898, BOLESLAS Matuszewski, a Polish cameraman working for the Lumière Brothers, published one of the earliest proposals for a film archive in the French newspaper Le Figaro, “It would suffice to assign to cinematographic prints that have a historical character a section of the Museum, a shelf in the Library, a cabinet in the Archives,” he wrote. His intention was to make film prints available for scholarly inquiry: “animated photography will thus become an agreeable method for studying the past.”1
Matuszewski’s vision for a moving-image archive has come to fruition, at least in part, through the efforts of various archives around the world dedicated to preserving and restoring film and video and to making them available to researchers. Such archives, however, did not emerge for some time, and an unfortunate result is that much of our silent film heritage has been lost. Decomposed, destroyed, forgotten—approximately 80 percent of silent films no longer exist. The problems that this fragmentary record raises for understanding history through film and the history of film are immense. However, scholars and archivists have been grappling with these historiographic problems, particularly since the late 1970s, when various collaborative research initiatives began to focus on surviving nitrate prints in order to revise long-held misconceptions about film history. These collaborative approaches have profoundly informed my work.
In my research, I have been examining the early uses and aesthetics of color in silent cinema. Though it is not widely known, color was used in the cinema since the medium’s inception. During the silent period, color was usually added manually to film prints after their photographic exposure and development through the “applied coloring” techniques of tinting, toning, stenciling, and hand coloring. This history of color cinema has been largely overlooked because of color’s chemical instability on the nitrate-film base, making it difficult both to preserve and reproduce. Because of this instability, many silent films that were originally manually colored in part or in whole now exist only as black-and-white copies. Fortunately, over the past 15 years there has been a renewed interest in preserving and restoring early color films. Thanks to the support of a Mellon Dissertation Research Fellowship from CLIR during the 2006-2007 academic year, I have been able to work with a number of film archives in the United States and in Europe that have been at the forefront of this work.
The Davide Turconi Film Frame Collection
One of the research projects with which I have been involved is an effort to preserve the Davide Turconi Film Frame Collection.2 In collaboration with Paolo Cherchi Usai of the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and the Cineteca del Friuli and the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy, we have been working to preserve, digitally scan, and eventually make available for study a large collection of nitrate-film fragments that were originally collected by the late Italian film historian Davide Turconi. The collection contains an estimated 18,000-20,000 separate fragments (usually two or three frames each). Of these fragments, approximately 70 percent were manually colored. While a small percentage shows signs of decomposition, most are stable with their colors intact. Turconi culled most of these frames from the Joye Collection of early films amassed by the Jesuit priest Josef Joye in Basel, Switzerland. Primarily between 1905 and 1911, Joye purchased upwards of 2,500 film prints (internationally distributed fiction and nonfiction films, most of which were colored) to be used for educational purposes in his parish. Joye left Basel in 1911, but the films remained in Basel until the 1950s, when Stephan Bamberger, a Jesuit priest and editor of the Swiss Catholic journal, Filmberater, became the curator of the collection and moved the films to better storage facilities in Zurich.
In the 1960s, Turconi examined the collection. Upon finding a number of the prints in advanced stages of decomposition, he arranged for some of the Italian films to be preserved in Italy. He approached a number of other archives about taking the rest of the collection, but no one at the time had the funds to undertake such a project. To preserve in fragments what he feared would soon be lost, Turconi resorted to a desperate step: he cut representative frames from the films (ranging from a few clippings per film to, in rare cases, more than 100) and carefully organized them, grouped in paper envelopes by title and date (when identifiable). Fortunately, as a result of the later efforts of British filmmaker David Mingay, the surviving Joye films were eventually preserved in the 1970s by David Francis of the National Film and Television Archive of the British Film Institute, where approximately 1,200 of the nitrate prints still exist.
Other than organizing the fragments into paper envelopes, it is unclear how Turconi stored them. However, the collection’s relative stability is likely due to these paper housings, which allow the nitrate to breathe off gases. Turconi’s collection is now stored in the film vaults of the George Eastman House and at the Cineteca del Friuli, and we are working on preserving the original fragments (transferring them into new paper housings, one per fragment) and digitizing them for access. Along with this archival work, we are researching the collection’s filmography—identifying the fragments and determining if print material is extant in other archives. To facilitate this research, we are convening an international group of film scholars and archivists who will be able to access the collection through a networked Filemaker database, currently hosted by Oakland University. Once complete, we will publish the entire collection through a DVD-ROM or Internet database that will provide ready access to the colors of the Turconi Collection. Given the size, scope, and discrete nature of the material, these frame clippings will constitute the largest and most varied collection of early colored nitrate readily available for study. These colored frames illustrate crucial aspects of what has been lost from our understanding of the past, both through natural processes of decay and through historical disregard.
The research and preservation work undertaken through the Turconi Project not only showcases some of the potential of archival and academic collaboration but also demonstrates the usefulness of digital technologies to complement and reimage (but not replace) historical media, thus providing a digital cabinet for historical inquiry among the various other cabinets of the moving-image archive.
2 For a more detailed history of this collection, see my article, “From Switzerland to Italy and All around the World: The Josef Joye and Davide Turconi Collections,” in Early Cinema and the National: The Proceedings of the 2006 Domitor Conference, ed. Richard Abel, Giorgio Bertellini, and Rob King (forthcoming; Eastleigh, United Kingdom: John Libbey Publishing).
by Barrie Howard
SINCE GOOGLE INC. launched its project to scan millions of books from library collections and make them available online, the endeavor has drawn criticism from various communities of practice, especially regarding public-private contractual agreements and the commercialization of public domain works. How long will it take for Google and its competitors to begin mass digitizing other media, e.g., moving images, and can the lessons learned from the book project be leveraged to ensure an improved outlook for important issues such as access and preservation?
With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Digital Library Federation (DLF) has begun an environmental scan of traditional moving-image archives, major public and university libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions such as public television broadcasters with significant film and video collections in the United States. The goal of this project is to summarize which moving-image collections are potentially available for digitization, with an emphasis on open access to increase the volume of online content for teaching and learning.
In a three-phase project, DLF will endeavor to survey the size, scope, material condition, and metadata coverage of moving-image collections held by U.S. cultural institutions. The survey will include a brief enumeration of technical, logistical, organizational, and legal impediments that affect the suitability of these collections for digitization. The project will also include an analysis of other surveys and inventories conducted in recent years that inform and give context for the project.
In addition to providing information about moving-image collections, the organizers hope that the project will generate support for creating a “bill of rights” for stewards of moving-image collections. The bill of rights would assert the value and significance of providing access as a public good. Currently, many moving-image collections are hidden from public view in dark storage. Although this provides some level of preservation, it does not support the objectives of access policies embodied in the missions of many cultural institutions. Providing exposure and access to moving-image collections has great potential for increasing the visibility of an institution, driving preservation programs, increasing the effectiveness of mission-critical services, and supporting teaching and learning.
DLF has commissioned consultant Jennifer Mohan to conduct the environmental scan. An overview of her findings will be published in spring 2008. Ms. Mohan, an expert in moving-image archiving and preservation, previously conducted a scan on how video-on-demand and Internet television companies will affect archives as well as entertainment and media industries.
Given the rate at which digitized books are being put online, the moving-image community has at this time a unique opportunity to prepare for public-private partnerships. Google and others have already partnered with the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and digitized hundreds of films for commercial use. The DLF environmental scan will assist archives, libraries, museums, and public television broadcasters as they prepare to deal with drafting contracts, selecting collections for scanning, and designing workflow scenarios to achieve economies of scale and reduce opportunity costs.
CLIR and NEH to Cosponsor Conference on Long-Term Research Challenges in Digital Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will cosponsor, with CLIR, a workshop and subsequent publication that identifies long-term research challenges at the intersection of humanities, social sciences, and computation. Scheduled for summer or fall 2008, the invitational workshop is being organized in response to the recent recommendation from the American Council of Learned Societies’ Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences to encourage digital scholarship. To provide context for workshop discussions, CLIR will commission five background papers that illustrate the kinds of research projects that are possible and that point to future needs in areas such as archiving and preservation, data analysis, and semantic tools. CLIR will publish these papers, along with a summary of workshop discussions, in late 2008.
The CLIR-NEH workshop will serve as a capstone to five symposia on digital scholarly methodologies that are scheduled for the fall and winter of 2007-08. The first symposium was held in November at Emory University and the others will be held at Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Illinois, and Williams College/Clark Institute. The symposia will focus on specific disciplines—medieval studies, music, and art history—as well as on general methodological issues. The workshop will integrate the findings from these symposia with the results of parallel efforts at NEH, the National Science Foundation, and elsewhere.
CLIR Receives IMLS Grant
The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded CLIR a $30,000 grant to plan a project to engage scholars more substantively in the design and implementation of large-scale digitization projects across the United States. To date, scholars’ involvement in such efforts has typically been limited to the local level. There is no coordination at the national level that would encourage uniform standards for data capture, digital architecture, metadata, content management and harvesting techniques, and long-term preservation of data.
To best serve research, teaching, and learning, the design and functionality of large-scale efforts must be based not only on standards for interoperability but also on an understanding of research methodologies, intellectual strategies for the conduct of scholarship, new forms of scholarship, and the changing mechanisms for scholarly communication and publication. CLIR believes this goal can be attained only if scholars are closely involved in project design. The IMLS grant will allow CLIR to develop and structure a project to enable such involvement. CLIR anticipates that the project will focus initially on the coordination of large projects at five or six major institutions.
ACRL Invites Comment on Scholarly Communication Research Agenda
A new report by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) explores the gaps in our understanding of how scholars create and share new knowledge. The report, Establishing a Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication: A Call for Community Engagement, lays out a preliminary research agenda for creating greater understanding of the rapidly evolving system of scholarly communication—how research results and new knowledge are registered, evaluated, disseminated, and preserved.
Available at http://www.acrl.ala.org/scresearchagenda, the report encourages academics, librarians, and their partners to gather more data on practices that enable or inhibit the production of scholarship and its communication. It identifies eight themes with research possibilities in each area.
The paper resulted from a one-day invitational meeting in July 2007 at which participants discussed what evidence is needed to manage and influence the changing scholarly communication environment. Attendees included representatives from ACRL, CLIR, the Coalition for Networked Information, Ithaka, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and SPARC. ACRL Scholarly Communication Committee cochairs John Ober of the University of California and Joyce Ogburn of the University of Utah facilitated the meeting and discuss the report at http://blogs.ala.org/acrlpodcast.php.
Johns Hopkins Creates New Center to Manage Digital Scholarship
The Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries have announced the creation of the Digital Research and Curation Center (DRCC) to manage, preserve, and provide access to the growing body of digital scholarship generated by faculty and researchers at the university.
Sayeed Choudhury, newly appointed associate dean of university libraries at Hopkins, is also the Hodson Director of the DRCC. The DRCC builds on the extensive digital library track record of the former Digital Knowledge Center, established in 1997.
AT ITS NOVEMBER meeting, the CLIR Board appointed Lizabeth Wilson, dean of university libraries at the University of Washington, as its newest member. Ms. Wilson’s professional interests focus on information literacy, teaching, learning, and technology; educational collaborations; and assessment and evaluation. In addition to bringing new expertise to the Board, she will serve as CLIR’s Board liaison to the Digital Library Federation, where she currently serves on the Executive Committee.
“I am delighted to welcome Betsy Wilson to the CLIR Board,” said Chairperson Paula Kaufman. “She is an innovative leader who will bring exceptional energy and experience to our work.”
Ms. Wilson was a cofounder of the award-winning UWired program at the University of Washington. UWired is a campus collaboration committed to helping educators and students incorporate applications of information technology and information literacy education into teaching and learning.
She is chair of the board of trustees of OCLC and a member of the Association of Research Libraries Board. She has held numerous leadership positions in the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), including chair of the ACRL Instruction Section, member of ALA Council, and ACRL president (2000-2001).
THE CLIR BOARD has named Elliott Shore, chief information officer at Bryn Mawr College, CLIR Distinguished Fellow for Leadership Programs. In this capacity, he will continue to serve as dean of the Postdoctoral Fellowship in Scholarly Information Resources program while also working with CLIR President Charles Henry to design new leadership programs that support the development of digital scholarship.
“Elliott Shore brings to CLIR a proven ability to teach and inspire, exemplifying those qualities and characteristics so fundamentally important to ensure a creative and thoughtful generational transition in a complex environment of unprecedented challenges,” said President Henry. “I look forward to working with Elliott as a CLIR Distinguished Fellow, confident that his talents can be brought more broadly to bear on existing and new leadership efforts to the great benefit to our constituency and its legacy.”
“The CLIR Fellows Program has helped bring into university and college libraries a group of wonderfully talented scholars who are getting a chance to turn their deep subject expertise and their teaching skills toward both the challenge and the opportunity that digital scholarship, special collections, and teaching with technology afford,” said Shore. “Working in that rich area of collaboration between and among faculty members, students, librarians, and information professionals, we are all learning together to help in the process of reinvigorating the present and reshaping the future library. I am delighted to work with Chuck Henry on further developing this program and to extend an invitation to CLIR sponsors to consider hosting a fellow in the years ahead.”
In addition to his work with the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, Elliott Shore is a founding member of the CLIR Chief Information Officers’ group. Before coming to Bryn Mawr in 1997, he was director of the Historical Studies-Social Science Library at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He holds a Ph.D. degree in history from Bryn Mawr College, an M.S. in library science from Drexel, and an M.A. in international history from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He earned his B.A. from Temple University.
CLIR IS NOW accepting applications for the 2008 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Scholarly Information Resources for Humanists. The program offers fellowships of one to two years at participating academic libraries nationwide to individuals who have either earned a postdoctoral degree in the humanities within the past five years or who will earn such a degree before starting the program. The program offers participants opportunities to develop as scholars and teachers while learning about modern librarianship, digital resources, e-publishing, archives, and digital and analog collection development. Scholars with interdisciplinary backgrounds, especially in the digital humanities, are particularly encouraged to apply.
Fellows must reside at their sponsoring institution for the duration of the fellowship. The amount of the fellowship award varies among institutions; all institutions offer benefits and some travel expenses. For more information about the fellowship and application procedures, visit https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/postdoc.html.
Applications must be submitted by February 15, 2008. Applicants will be notified of their status by April 30, 2008.
by Alice Bishop
CLIR SPONSORED THE third in a series of faculty research behavior workshops on November 5-6 at Cornell University. The workshops are being led by Nancy Foster, lead anthropologist and comanager of the Digital Initiatives Unit at the University of Rochester. During the workshop, participants learned ethnographic techniques that helped them understand faculty members’ work practices and how library and information services can better address faculty needs. Liberal arts institutions were invited to send one member each from their library instruction and information technology units to the workshop. Teams from Bates College, Brandeis University, Cornell University, Denison University, Dickinson College, Rhodes College, and SUNY College at Brockport attended the November session.
Working in pairs, participants began by observing people at several locations on campus. Using structured observation guides, the participants made notes of what people were doing, what kinds of objects they were using or trying to use, and how they were interacting with each other. The purpose of this introductory exercise was to help participants hone their observational skills. They then discussed what they had observed as well as the skills they used to conduct those observations. In the afternoon, Foster described the challenges of customizing and implementing institutional repositories that faculty use. She emphasized the need for user-centered design and for reaching beyond assumptions about faculty behavior by conducting work-practice studies. She then conducted an interview with a Cornell faculty member, while participants took turns videotaping it as practice for the following day.
On the second day of the workshop, participants conducted their own interviews with Cornell faculty members. They videotaped each interview and reported back to the group. After discussing and analyzing the interviews, participants reviewed steps for interpreting their data and applying their findings. The workshop concluded with a session that gave participants an opportunity to plan how they will apply what they learned upon return to their home campuses.
During the final session, participants discussed the value of the ethnographic methods they learned. “We’re part of the process of adding meaning to knowledge. So we need to understand how faculty conduct their scholarly work in order to facilitate teaching and learning,” said Laura Juraska, associate college librarian for reference services at Bates College.
The fourth faculty research behavior workshop will take place at the University of California at Berkeley February 20-21, 2008. Previous workshops were held at Wesleyan College and Kenyon College.