Protecting originals and providing access for research

TIB receives funding for the processing of the supplementary materials of the ethnological films of the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica

The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BMK) is funding a project of the TIB – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology that will preserve the supplementary materials of the ethnological films of the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica (EC) of IWF Knowledge and Media (formerly Institute for Scientific Film) from further damage by repackaging them.

The Encyclopaedia Cinematographica includes approximately 2,000 scientific films with a focus on ethnology. The collection represents a production period of 100 years of ethnological film history, with the earliest examples from the beginning of the 20th century and many films from the 1960s to the 1980s. The films show, among other things, cultural customs such as music and dance, religion and traditional healing, and much more.

In addition to the films, this collection includes extensive supplementary material: 300 file folders with editorial and production files, supplementary publications in the form of more than 100 file folders, 3,500 loose leaf booklets as well as a photo archive with hundreds of photos, negatives and diapositives.

“The supplementary materials are really quite something, they contain the making-of of the films, so to speak, and thus important information for a better understanding of the films. Supplementary materials and films absolutely belong together, like two sides of the same coin,” explains Miriam Reiche, conservator and conservation coordinator at TIB.

In the project “Repackaging the Ethnology File Collection of the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica (EC) of the former Institute for Scientific Film IWF”, the supplementary materials will now be “demetallised” – paper clips and staples that damage the paper will be removed – and repackaged in archival-quality packaging from October 2021. This task will be done by two student assistants including a Master's student of Conservation and Restoration Science from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen (HAWK).

Now after the films of the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica have been digitised as part of the Delft project and are available on the TIB AV-Portal, the supplementary materials are being prepared for digitisation. “Repackaging is a first step for making these culturally and historically important materials accessible to researchers,” says Thomas Bähr, Head of Conservation of resources and long-term archiving. At present, use is unfortunately only possible to a very limited extent, as the files are very fragile due to decades of inappropriate storage and can therefore only be accessed under strict conditions.

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