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  • Editors’ Foreword
  • Donald Crafton (bio) and Susan Ohmer (bio)

No sooner was there cinema than there were demands for cinema archives. As our contributors Dimitrios Latsis and Martin Bonnard mention, it was in 1898 that the Polish-Russian-born Bolesław Matuszewski, a Lumière camera operator, published Une nouvelle source de l’histoire du cinéma (Création d’un dépôt de cinématographie historique). Besides being among the first (if not the first) to cite cinema as the means par excellence to record history for posterity as it was happening, the modest twelve-page pamphlet also called for what we might take to be the first film archive—or as he called it, a dépôt, meaning more than simply a repository but also a trust, a guardianship of cine-actuality for future generations. Are we there yet? Well, it’s an asymptote we’ll probably never reach with complete satisfaction, but, as several of our essays suggest, the emergence of the internet and the digital era have curiously converged with early cinema, uncannily reviving it and its most utopian archival aspirations, even (thank you, Mr. Scorsese) in the estimation of the general moviegoing public.

This special issue of the journal devoted to “Early Cinema and the Archives” has been ably guest edited by Tami Williams, on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and, appropriately, the incoming president of Domitor, the international society for the study of early cinema. Intimately connected to the archival community, the organization fosters

new methods of historical research and understanding by promoting the international exchange of information, documents, and ideas. Recognizing that the work of the world’s film archives has made accessible a growing body of early [End Page vii] films and research materials pertaining to early cinema, Domitor also seeks to promote close relationships between scholars and archivists.1

Professor Williams has many interests, including turn-of-the-century and contemporary performance arts (modern pantomime, symbolist theater, burlesque, modern dance) and their relationship to early filmmaking as well as to contemporary contemplative cinema. She teaches courses in various national cinemas and archive studies. We benefited immensely from her expertise and have been pleased to collaborate with her.

We adopted for the scope of this issue Domitor’s time frame, roughly enclosing all things cinematic before 1915 or so (with exceptions made for lesser-industrialized places and cultures where the cinema was still “early” at later dates). As is typical with today’s scholarship, though, history is not just chronology. Our authors venture far afield into present-day film, video, and new media activities and theories. As Williams points out in her guest editor’s foreword, this tendency even invades “ludic” zones, as when Meredith A. Bak applies play theory to cover not only “pre”-cinema optical toys but also the sites that exhibit them, and when the Derek Long, Eric Hoyt, Kevin Ponto, Tony Tran, and Kit Hughes team reconceptualizes early trade journal coverage of people who were “trending,” à la Twitter. Other articles consider archives, museums, Fandor, and virtual display sites (and archivist Harold Brown’s kitchen cupboard) as “playrooms,” places for serious as well as amusing pursuits, all the while organizing and generating knowledge. Monsieur Matuszewski would be quite baffled, but we think he also would be pleased.

Donald Crafton

Donald Crafton is the Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre. He teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.

Susan Ohmer

Susan Ohmer is the William Carey and Helen Kuhn Carey Associate Professor of Modern Communications. She teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.


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