Project: The Cultural Heritage of Moving Images

Project information

Project members: Dagmar Brunow
Time frame: 2016-2018

More about the project

The project "The Cultural Heritage of moving images" examines the access practice of national and transnational digital film archives in Europe. Digitization has enabled a wider access to the cultural heritage of moving images. Recently, a number of national film archives, such as the Swedish Film Archive at the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) or the national archive of the British Film Institute (BFI), have made selections of their archival holdings available online, for instance on the website Since digital archives, as all archives, can enable or contest an individual's sense of belonging, a study of film archival practice can be a useful point of departure for reflecting on the role and function of digital memories in multicultural societies. While the archive has long been theorized as instruments of control and power (Foucault, Derrida), digital memories have been celebrated for their democratic capacity to challenge the alleged top-down structure of the archive (Garde-Hansen, VanDijck, Hoskins).

Merging the theoretical framework of both film studies and media memory studies (Erll, Rigney), this project sets out to examine the ambiguities and limitations of digital memories. One of its aims is to redirect the prevalent focus from studies of film preservation and restoration to curatorial strategies and ways of creating access. Drawing on the example of the current archival practices by two European film archives, the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) and the British Film Institute (BFI), the questions to be examined are: what are the challenges for these online archives when attempting to acknowledge the diversity of cultural memory? What power structures are involved when it comes to the selection, preservation, digitization and online exhibition of the archival stock, its access(ability) and its politics of representation?

As the construction of cultural heritage both include and excludes groups and individuals, this project also asks in what way the film archival and curatorial practice can enable or counter a sense of belonging. The project sets out to study how curatorial decisions, the use of metadata and paratexts, can carve out discursive spaces for minorities within the remediation of cultural memory. This project aims at offering new avenues of thinking for memory studies, archival studies, and museum studies.