From 1956 to 2010, the Institute for the Scientific Film (IWF) in Göttingen produced films for scientific and educational use. Among these films was the series “Film Documents of Contemporary History,” which contained, among others films, re-edited speeches of prominent National Socialist politicians. Those films, inherited by the IWF, were released together with a publication that provided a critical perspective on the material, explaining the origin and context of the source. Although carefully prepared, the IWF restricted the usage of these films to a degree that they were hardly ever shown to a wider public. Today, the films are housed by the Technical Information Library in Hannover, and while the digitization of other IWF-films has long started, the question of how to reasonably show digitized Nazi speeches is still unsolved.
In this talk, I will elaborate the problems that arise when film material of a conflicted past is digitized and made accessible online. I will consider whether the term “sensitive collection” (Britta Lange) is also applicable to film material. As an example, I will discuss the film Theodor Eschenburg Spricht Über Politische Filmdokumente aus den Jahren 1930-1933, which was produced at the IWF and released in 1970, amidst massive student protests in which continuities of National Socialist traditions within the postwar German society were criticized by left-leaning students. This film sheds light on the different layers of afterlife and re-use that historical film documents could have, depending on their actual historical context.
Anja Sattelmacher is a historian working on the edge between the history of science and media. She is currently academic staff at the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB) where she is responsible for researching and developing the collection of the former institute for the scientific film. As of 1st of April she will be assistant professor at the Humboldt-University of Berlin in the Media Studies department. In her book project, she writes about the history of political education in (West-)Germany of the 1950s and 1960s.
Over the last few decades, aesthetic strategies to create knowledge and value within societies have shifted significantly. Industrial film, a once important medium of industrial organizations, has gone through major transformations since its twentieth-century heyday. Though a phenomenon of the second industrial revolution and tied to early organizational forms of mass production, industrial films still matter, however, and they still circulate.
My paper contributes a theoretical perspective on the “afterlife” of nontheatrical film: on the circulation of industrial films that are no longer part of the functionalist setting in which they were produced and screened but that reappear as indexes for historical and aesthetic meaning in exhibition spaces and on digital platforms. I specifically focus on moving images that stem from the realm of the automobile age. A wide range of nontheatrical films that once only were available in public and corporate film archives are now easily accessible. Video platforms such as archive.org, commercial and amateur YouTube channels specialized in automobile history, or digital collections and repositories of museums and libraries all offer access to a wide range of moving images that have ties to automobile culture.
I conceptualize the afterlife of film as a relational, two-fold process between the “persistence of visual forms” and “changing modes of perception”: how do aesthetic values and forms change when nontheatrical film reappears or is reanimated today? How does nontheatrical film originally produced for quite different film dispositives and occasions relate to modes of (post-)cinematic experience?
Florian Hoof is currently a Professor for Media Systems and Media Organization at Paderborn University. His research interests include film and media history, industrial film, social theory and digital cultures. He is the author of Angels of Efficiency. A Media History of Consulting (Oxford University Press, 2020) and coeditor of the forthcoming book Films that Work Harder. The Global Circulation of Industrial Cinema (Amsterdam University Press, 2021). Recently published articles include: “Between the Frontlines. Vocational Training Films, Machine Guns and the Great War.” In: L. Grieveson, H. Wasson (eds.) Cinema’s Military Industrial Complex, (University of California Press, 2018).
In the last decade, collections of digitized moving images have held out the promise of realizing the long-held and frequently frustrated fantasy of constructing a comprehensive archive of moving phenomena. This talk will focus on one contemporary project, the Encyclopedia of Life (eol.org), which was called into being by E. O. Wilson and is now affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. The Encyclopedia of Life has as its goal “an electronic page for each species of organism on Earth,” and each page has the capacity to contain motion-picture files in addition to textual and still-image resources.
Building on the site’s content strategy of relying on curated crowdsourcing, this paper will contain an account of the author’s ongoing conversations with the EoL team about connecting media from a previous encyclopedic moving-image project, the West German Encyclopaedia Cinematographica, to EoL pages. The EC, which was an active project from the 1950s into the 1990s, generated thousands of films that documented a variety of processes across three major categories—biology, anthropology, and industries. The majority of the EC’s holdings have been relocated to the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB) in Hannover, Germany, and the TIB has digitized and made available a large part of the original collection. The attempt to recirculate EC films via the EoL allows for the testing of a key premises of the EC project, namely, creating documents of movement that are enduringly useful.
Oliver Gaycken is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and a core faculty member of the Cinema and Media Studies and Comparative Literature Programs at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science (Oxford University Press, 2015). His articles have appeared in Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television; Science in Context; Journal of Visual Culture; Early Popular Visual Culture; Screen; and the collection Learning with the Lights Off.