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Session 20: Karel Dibbets Panel – Digital data, platforms and New Cinema History

Paper 1 - Eric Hoyt, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Linking Data, Languages, and Cultures: New Directions and Challenges for the Media History Digital Library.

This presentation reports on the exciting next phase for the Media History Digital Library (MHDL), a digitization project that I lead and previously discussed at HoMER in 2017 and 2018. Thanks to the support of an ACLS Digital Extension Grant, the MHDL is beginning a 2-year initiative improve its websites and globalize its collections. By implementing a new interface and database, users will be able to contribute tags and metadata that improve the MHDL’s searchability. User contributions will also generate new knowledge and connections thanks to our linked data partnership with the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog, the field’s most authoritative database of US film credits. Additionally, the project is enhancing the global scope of the MHDL. Currently, the MHDL’s 2.3 million page collection consists almost entirely of US publications. This limits the collection’s research potential for the study of national cinemas and the transnational exchange of films. To address these gaps, we have created the Global Cinema History Task Force, a group of a dozen experts who are investigating the locations and copyright statuses of key global film publications, then digitizing texts that are identified as out-of-copyright. Beyond simply reporting on what’s new, I hope to use this presentation as a chance to reflect on the project’s biggest challenges, many of which are more cultural than technical in nature. How can we share digital works and data in an ethical and culturally sensitive manner? How can a project based in the US avoid recreating imperial dynamics as it pursues collaborations with partners in the Global South? To what degree should automated translations be integrated into the website? These questions speak to the conference’s theme of “Integrating Traditions,” and I hope to be able to discuss them with others at HoMER.

Biltereyst, Daniel Richard Maltby, and Phillipe Meers, eds., The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History (New York: Routledge, 2019).

Navitski, Rielle and Nicolas Poppe, eds. Cosmopolitan Film Cultures in Latin America, 1896-1960, co-edited with Nicolas Poppe, Indiana University Press.

Treveri Gennari, Daniela, Pierluigi Ercole and Silvia Dibeltulo, “Mapping Cinema Memories: Emotional Geographies of Cinema-going in Rome in the 1950s,” Memory Studies (2017).

Yueh-yu Yeh, Emilie, ed., Early Film Culture in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Republican China: Kaleidoscopic Histories (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018).

Eric Hoyt is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director of the Media History Digital Library (http://mediahist.org), which has digitized 2.3 million pages of historic film and broadcasting publications. He is the author of Hollywood Vault: Film Libraries before Home Video (2014) and co-editor of Hollywood and the Law (2015) and The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities (2016).

Paper 2 - Daniel Biltereyst, Ghent University, Philippe Meers, University of Antwerp, and Vincent Ducateeuw, Ghent UniversityCinEcoS, or developing a Belgian Cinema Context: Reflections on an open access data platform for Belgian cinema historiography.

This paper presents an ongoing digital humanities project on sharing film historical data sets, more precisely Cinema EcoSystem (CinEcoS), which aims at building an open access data platform on the history of cinema in Belgium. The origin of this project, which is funded by the Flemish Research Council under its infrastructural projects grant series (FWO-Hercules Fund, October 2018 – December 2021; Ghent U, U of Antwerp & U of Amsterdam), goes back to film and cinema historiographical work resulting into a series of longitudinal data sets, which were built over the last fifteen years, and which cover key aspects of Belgian cinema history. These include more than ten data sets on film exhibition in Flanders, Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent (various time frames, mostly post-WW1); on programming data sets in a series of cities (sample years, various time frames, mostly 1932-1972); and on film censorship (1921-2012). The first phase of the project consists of cleaning and integrating these data sets (end of 2019), which will then be followed by the enrichment of these data with cinema collections coming from various national heritage institutions and other partners (e.g. posters, reviews and photographs; to be done in 2020). The last year of the project will consist of compiling narratives on different aspects of Belgian cinema history, and in making the data sets, the enriched material and the narratives available as open access, hence facilitating (inter)national data exchange and comparative research. After presenting CinEcoS’ structure and aims, we reflect on some conceptual, methodological and practical issues encountered so far. We then situate it within the ongoing academic debate on new cinema historiographies, as well as comparing it to other digital humanities initiatives on cinema history in Europe and beyond.

Nasson, B (1989) ‘She preferred living in a cave with Harry the snake-catcher’: towards an oral history of popular leisure and class expression in District Six, Cape Town, c.1920–1950. In: Bonner, P, Hofmeyr, I, James, D. (eds) Holding Their Ground: Class, Locality and Culture in 19th and 20th Century South Africa. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press and Witwatersrand University Press, pp.285–309.

Daniel Biltereyst is Professor in Film and Media History and director of the Cinema and Media Studies (CIMS) research center at Ghent University, Belgium.

Philippe Meers is Professor in Film and Media Studies at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Tamar Cachet joined the Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities in 2018 where her main focus is the CinEcoS project.

Paper 3 - Michael Aronson and Elizabeth Peterson, University of Oregon, Beyond The Reference Desk: A (Local Exhibition) Model For Librarian and Film Scholar Collaboration.

Librarians are universally championed by scholars, but true collaboration is rare, at least in the U.S. context. Why? Librarians are, arguably, the primary interdisciplinary agents within academia. Librarians are particularly well suited to meeting the needs of the kind of interdisciplinary work that is typically required for the effective production of New Cinema History by uniting diverse disciplines, facilitating dialogue, promoting critical ideals such as open access and preservation, and championing scholarly and pedagogical innovations. In the spirit of the “integrating traditions” call for the conference, we propose an analytical exploration of the ongoing collaboration between the two of us, a humanities librarian and a film historian, particularly in relation to our development of the Oregon Theater Project. The Oregon Theater Project is a digital humanities platform that we developed as part of a course that we co-teach on local film exhibition history. In the course, undergraduate students learn research methods and information literacy as an integrated component of cinema history content. As students gain skills in primary research and digital tools, they contribute to building and mapping a history of moviegoing and exhibition in cities and towns and Oregon during the silent era. The resulting platform is an online public history resource that showcases the integration of research, teaching, and scholarship. We plan to offer details about the project’s open-source and scalable website and database infrastructure that can be freely utilized by other scholars/institutions interested in developing and publicly presenting similar local movie culture projects. Our shared goal with this presentation is to provide and advocate for an effective model of increased research and pedagogical collaboration between librarians and film scholars.

Acland, Charles R., and Eric Hoyt. The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities, REFRAME Books, 2016, http://projectarclight.org/book/

Carman, Emily. “Film History Comes Alive: Primary Sources as Participatory Pedagogy.” Cinema Journal, May 31, 2017, http://www.teachingmedia.org/film-history-comes-alive-primary-materials-research-as-participatory-pedagogy/

Keegan, Tom, and Kelly McElroy. “Archives-Alive! Librarian-Faculty Collaboration and an Alternative to the Five-page Paper.” In the Library with a Lead Pipe, Aug. 26, 2015, http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/archives-alive-librarian-faculty-collaboration-and-an-alternative-to-the-five-page-paper/

Elizabeth Peterson, M.A., M.L.I.S., is a humanities librarian at the University of Oregon.

Michael Aronson is co-founder and Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Oregon.

Their collaborative research has appeared in journals including Film History and The Moving Image.

Paper 4 - Thunnis van Oort, University of Amsterdam & Radboud University Nijmegen, & Leon van Wissen, University of Amsterdam & Menno den Engelse, Islands of Meaning, Cinema Context as Linked Open Data: A Conversion to RDF.

Cinema Context as Linked Open Data: A Conversion to RDF. Cinema Context is an online MySQL database containing places, persons and companies involved in more than 100,000 film screenings in the Netherlands since 1895. In 2020, this relational database was converted into Linked Open Data or RDF (Resource Description Framework) and published in a sparql endpoint. In this paper, we want to report on this conversion process and give some examples of the potential that RDF offers to link to other datasets. Linked Open Data offers opportunities for broadening and renewing historical and cultural research, by allowing more flexible linking to other (linked) data sets than is feasible with the current SQL format. It allows linking data from the database to a range of external information: about buildings, persons, heritage objects and locations. In the Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage communities there is a need to be able to query Cinema Context data in connection with such external data via a sparql endpoint. The project was a collaboration between the Cinema Context editorial staff, the University of Amsterdam Library, and Islands of Meaning, a one-man company owned by Menno den Engelse, programmer and data maker specialising in RDF. The selection of appropriate vocabularies and thesauri required a close collaboration between data specialists and domain experts. Moreover, the collaboration has functioned as de facto training in working with RDF and the Sparql query language. See for more information: https://uvacreate.gitlab.io/cinema-context/cinema-context-rdf/

Charles R. Acland and Eric Hoyt (2016) The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities.

Karel Dibbets (2010) ‘Cinema Context and the Genes of Film History’, New Review of Film and Television Studies 8, no. 3 (September): 331–42, https://doi.org/10.1080/17400309.2010.499784.

Thunnis van Oort and Julia Noordegraaf eds. (2020) Special issue Performing Arts Data, Research Data Journal for the Humanities and Social Sciences (forthcoming).

Thunnis Van Oort is a cultural and media historian. He currently works as a post-doctoral researcher at Radboud University in a project on colonial history of the Dutch West Indies. Previously, he participated in the CREATE digital humanities research programme of the University of Amsterdam.

Leon van Wissen is a scientific programmer at the University of Amsterdam in the CREATE digital humanities research programme. He has a background in Dutch literature and computational linguistics, and works with historical databases and linked data.

Menno den Engelse is a freelance data programmer and co-developer of the crowdsourceplatform hetvolk.org. He works on linked data projects for cultural heritage institutions.