Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography

With this post I introduce a new page which I have added to my blog called ‘Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography’. Moving deeper into my research I have become increasingly aware of how little literature exists specifically on the theory and practice of digital methods in film historical research. For that reason I thought it was particularly urgent to try to create an overview of the existing literature, and to create an awareness about this still somewhat limited discussion, first of all for my own sake but potentially also for scholars with similar interests. Hopefully, it may engender additional suggestions from readers, which I may have overlooked.

The page will be updated each time I stumble upon something relevant, so make sure to check it regularly if you, like I am, are particularly interested in this topic. Should the page grow significantly I might consider restructuring it into a thematically structured bibliography, but as for now I did not see a good reason for doing that.

For the sake of simplification I have avoided including general literature on film historiography and film archiving history as it would mean listing a very large number of film historical reference works. In other words, the aim here is not to surpass the effort of Jean Mitry’s Bibliographie internationale du cinéma et de la télévision (1966-1968) but rather to create a growing list of writings on the digital research practices that are currently emerging.


A Numerate Film History

Detail from the flyer accompanying the symposium “A Numerate Film History? Cinemetrics Looks at Griffith, Sennett and Chaplin (1909-1917)” at the University of Chicago


I have written a little introduction to the bibliography which reads as follows:

With digitisation of film heritage occurring at an increasing pace, the past decade has seen an array of digital formats of access and reuse emerge, in scholarly as well as in museum contexts, to become central to the production, contemplation and validation of film historical knowledge: video essays, data visualizations, DVDs, online platforms and museum installations are formats that increasingly permeate sites of film historical knowledge.

As pointed out by film and media scholars Vincenz Hediger (2008), Malte Hagener (2011) and Katherine Groo (2012) with regard to this development, it becomes increasingly urgent to understand how and if the appropriations of digitised films in these formats confirm, challenge or reformulate understandings of film history.

Addressing this debate and the concerns it expresses, I have established the bibliography below with the aim of enhancing the overview of emerging uses of digital methods in film historical research amongst film and media scholars. I have called it “Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography” to align it to the sub-field of “Digital Historiography” which has existed in the discipline of history for well over a decade and has already seen the publication of several pioneering monographs. As historian David J. Staley puts it in his 2003-monograph Computers, Visualization and History – How New Technologies Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past:

Without our recognizing them as such, visual secondary sources do exist in our profession in the form of diagrams, maps, films, dramatic recreations, and museum displays. While these visual secondary sources surround us daily, historians accord them supplementary status to the ‘real history’ we believe is written (p. 59-60)

My hope in making this bibliography is that the aforementioned formats can indeed be recognized as secondary sources of film history and contribute to the scholarly discussion about their theoretical implications. The bibliography is updated regularly.


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