Lancaster University takes lead role in cinema project

6 March 2019 14:00
Montage of cinema stars from the 1930s

Researchers are to frame up a new ‘take’ on going to the pictures from the 1930s onwards.

The £778,000 project, led by Lancaster University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will see the digitisation of a special collection stored at the University library.

‘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.

The project team will produce a freely available website comprising a range of historical materials related to cinema-going in Britain.

The project’s starting point is the materials gathered in the course of ‘Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain’ (CCINTB), a large-scale inquiry, conducted in the 1990s, into cinema audiences and film going in the 1930s.

The CCINTB collection at the University Library includes:

·        In-depth audio interviews with 1930s cinemagoers living in four areas of mainland Britain – Glasgow, Manchester, Norwich and London

·        Questionnaires completed by 1930s cinemagoers from across the UK

·        Letters, essays and written memoirs received from interviewees and questionnaire respondents

·        A range of items of cinema going memorabilia and artefacts from the 1930s (diaries, postcard collections, scrapbooks, cinema programmes, posters, magazines).

The production of a dedicated website and the digitisation of the entire collection will mean all materials will be made available in digital form to members of the general public as well as academic researchers.

“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,” said Dr Richard Rushton, a senior lecturer in film studies at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, who is leading the project.

“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.”

Working with Dr Rushton are distinguished UK film scholar Professor Annette Kuhn (Queen Mary University of London), who conducted the original CCINTB research while working at Lancaster University in the early-2000s, and Dr Sarah Neely (University of Stirling), a specialist in the areas of film history and archival research.

The project’s research phase 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.

Public engagement events are scheduled throughout the project, which starts in June, so findings can be shared with the public.

A programme of archive-based activities, including residencies for creative artists, will be launched early on in the project, with a view not only to publicising it but also with an eye to the possibility that visitors’ works may feed, in perhaps unanticipated ways, into the project’s research design and/or the construction of its web interface.

The project will also include a new theatre production, inspired by the archive’s materials, by Lancaster-based theatre company, Imitating the Dog. The company’s director is Andrew Quick, Professor of Theatre at Lancaster University.

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