A digital archive is born: Revisiting the Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain Collection

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McDowell, Julia
Nissen, Annie
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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This paper explores the opportunities offered and the challenges involved in digitising, presenting and preserving data and materials on cinemagoing during the interwar years collected in the course of Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain, a pioneering inquiry led by Professor Annette Kuhn. The Cinema Memory and the Digital Archive (CMDA) project team is tasked with archiving and digitising the extensive materials that were originally collected in the 1990s: which include over a hundred audio-recorded interviews with 1930s cinemagoers and a wealth of related correspondence, documents and contemporary publications, along with postcards, diaries, scrapbooks and other memorabilia donated by participants. The primary focus of CMDA is to make these existing materials available online, applying the most appropriate formats and standards to make them accessible and engaging to a global audience of both scholars and the general public. In so doing, the project has placed an emphasis on developing logical and transparent systems for indexing and accessioning, collaborating to create a bank of shareable digital assets to help ensure interoperability between the project's own website and remote systems such as Lancaster University Library and Cambridge Digital Library. Drawing on our experiences as a close-knit research team, we describe the development of the project from two distinct perspectives, that of web developer and that of archivist. Identifying key issues, we highlight initial impressions and detail ongoing experiences and knowledge gained in the fields of cinemagoing history and memory studies, examining decisions taken in the early stages of the project that have enabled progression towards its goals. The challenges inherent in bringing such a valuable and unique set of resources ‘back to life’ and into the realm of digital humanities are immense; and we conclude by reflecting on lessons learned and offering fresh perspectives and insights to researchers undertaking similar work.
Cinemagoing , Archive , Digital humanities , Digitisation , Preservation
McDowell, J. and Nissen, A. (2021) 'A digital archive is born: Revisiting the Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain Collection', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 21, pp. 144-159. https://doi.org/10.33178/alpha.21.09