Museums of Cinema
Communication and Computing Research Centre
This is an ongoing project about the international study of museums of cinema as institutions dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of cinema culture and other media art forms
Truffaut, the celebrated French filmmaker, once said of the Musée du Cinéma in Paris and some of the activities of its founder Henri Langlois that 'putting a Garbo costume next to the skull from Psycho was a gimmick for tourists' and, 'Who cares about seeing a lot of old projectors?' Yet museums of cinema, far from being gimmicks, are successfully combining the exhibition of pre-cinema and cinematographic artefacts with an introduction to the best of contemporary national and world cinema – and they're attracting large numbers of visitors.
This research project looks at the historical development of the institutions created to conserve and safeguard the cinematographic heritage. It looks at their contemporary role, and the way they have become wider institutions responsible for both national cinematographic collections and the dissemination of cinema culture through film festivals, thematic exhibitions and educational programmes. Museums of cinema play an important role in the promotion of national and international cinematographic culture and provide a link between this culture and collections of the archaeology of cinema, pre-cinema and cinematography.
Most museums of cinema have developed new environments for their public with exhibition spaces designed to move away from the glass-case and into interactive displays. Most museums of cinema are pursuing a policy of digitisation of collections and creation of multimedia and interactive environments and online exhibitions.
All museums and cinémathèques studied to date have tried over the years to exhibit and screen film material produced at international level. There now seems to be a consensus that the role of a national museum is to provide international resources and knowledge alongside the exhibition and screening of objects and films that have been created and produced by national cultures.
This research is about promoting the survival of cinema in a public cultural space like a museum. Preserving the cinema’s cultural heritage is not only a worthwhile activity but one which could reconcile the ideal of public access to cinematic cultural heritage with cinematic popular culture.
The programmes of activities, exhibitions and events at museums of cinema show that it is possible to attract audiences to both the cinematographic heritage and cinema as well as to keep alive a public film culture. Museums of cinema are more than just museums – they are templates for future museums’ practices and good examples of institutions responsible for both national cinematographic patrimony and the dissemination of contemporary cinematic culture. It is said cinema won’t last forever, but the paradox of cinema in a museum may just mean they can.
Dr Rinella Cere - Reader in Media and Cultural Studies