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Cinema Memory and the Digital Archive

An academic from Queen Mary University of London is collaborating on a major new research project on cinema from the 1930s onwards.

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A photograph of a cinema projector
A photograph of a cinema projector

The research, Cinema Memory and the Digital Archive: 1930s Britain and Beyond, aims to expand public and academic knowledge and understanding of how audiences relate to and remember the experience of cinema-going.

A snapshot of time

The project builds on ‘Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain’ (CCINTB), a pioneering and unique nationwide inquiry into cinema going and everyday life in the interwar years that was conducted by Annette Kuhn, Emeritus Professor in Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London.

The materials gathered through CCINTB include letters, essays and written memoirs as well as in-depth interviews with people from around the UK who went to the cinema in the 1930s. The archive also includes rare memorabilia and artefacts from the 1930s including cinema programmes, posters and magazines.

Building upon previous research

Cinema Memory and the Digital Archive: 1930s Britain and Beyond is being led by Dr Richard Rushton, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Lancaster University, and builds upon Professor Kuhn’s previous research. It has been awarded £778,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and will result in the digitisation of a special collection stored at the university library.

Professor Annette Kuhn said: "My previous research showed that early memories of cinema are so often intertwined with our own memories of childhoods. People remember the first time they went to the pictures, even if they do not necessarily remember the particular film they saw.

"This is an exciting project to be a part of since through the digitisation of artefacts we are able to protect the personal histories of these people for future generations".

Dr Richard Rushton said: "In the period since the CCINTB collection was assembled, research on historical film reception has expanded considerably, and is now an important subfield within film studies.

"It is also a topic that attracts considerable public interest. The time is ripe to bring this material on 1930s’ cinema going and cinema memory into conversation with more recent inquiries, by drawing on and developing digital tools now available to scholars in the humanities and social sciences."

Dr Sarah Neely, Senior Lecturer at Stirling University will also collaborate on the project. Dr Neely is a specialist in the areas of film history and archival research. 

About the project

The first phase of the project will aim to introduce substantial new findings on the cinema experience and cinema memory, while sharing these insights with the research community via international workshops, conferences, and publications.

Several public engagement events have also been planned so that findings from the project, which starts in June, can be shared. In addition to the digitised archive, future outputs also include a brand new theatre production inspired by material from the archive.

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