Digital Resources & Research Tools
Researching silent cinema and/or early women filmmakers? The following is an expanding list of useful online resources (databases, publications, personal websites, and more).
DATABASES & WEBSITES
The Amateur Movie Database: This resource from the Department of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Calgary is a “tool for exploring the history of amateur cinema in North America during the middle of the 20th century.”
AFI Catalogue – The American Film Institute: The AFI Catalogue is a user-friendly database with information on film titles, credits, film plots, and much more.
American Memory Collection: Part of the Digital Moving Image Collections (from the Library of Congress’s Motion Picture Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division), this American-focused resource features curated online collections that contain still and moving images, articles, and more. Collections include: “The Life of a City: Early Films of New York” and “The Origins of American Animation.”
American Silent Feature Film Database: A collaboration between the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and the International Federation of Film Archives, this database “represents the first comprehensive survey of the survival of American silent feature films. It contains information on nearly 11,000 U.S. feature films released between 1912-1929, and holdings information about 3,300 of those titles for which elements are known to exist.” This database is from the report “The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912-1929,” published in 2013.
The Bioscope: Reporting on the World of Early and Silent Cinema: An online publication concerning silent film research, festivals, conferences, and more. Although no longer being updated, the website remains a valuable tool for silent film research.
Cinema Usherettes: A Cultural History of the Cinema Usherette looks at the female usher from the early years of cinema through the 1970s.
Cine Silencioso: Fimes Estrangeiros Exhibidos no Brasil 1896-1916: A database dedicated to research on foreign films exhibited in Brazil during the silent era.
Cine Silente Mexicano: Historical database on silent films and filmmakers from Mexico.
Colonial Film: An extensive archive of films having to do with life in the British colonies.
The Complete Index to World Film Since 1895: This online database “contains information on over 507,364 films produced in most countries of the world between 1888 and 2015.”
DocSouth: Going to the Show: “Going to the Show documents and illuminates the experience of movies and moviegoing in North Carolina from the introduction of projected motion pictures (1896) to the end of the silent film era (circa 1930).”
Domitor Journals Project: A collaborative and curated list of digital collections of periodicals relevant to early cinema studies.
Early African American Film: Reconstructing the History of Silent Race Films, 1909-1930: Produced by a group of undergraduate and graduate students in the Digital Humanities program at the University of California, the “main goal of this project was to collaboratively create a database on early African-American silent race films by drawing together information in a wide range of primary and secondary sources…[and] contains information on films, actors, production companies, and other aspects of early silent-era African American race films. The database is intended to allow the public to learn about this period in film history that is too rarely discussed.”
Early Cinema Filmography of Ontario (ECFO): “Early Cinema Filmography of Ontario (ECFO) is an ongoing research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).The project’s chief researchers are Marta Braun of Ryerson University and Charlie Keil of University of Toronto. ECFO provides data on all films made in Ontario between 1896 and 1930. As such, it functions as a parallel to the catalogue of early Quebec films compiled by the GRAFICS research group, headed by Professor André Gaudreault of University of Montreal Braun and Keil began their research on early Ontario cinema in 1995, with a SSHRC-funded project on the reception of early cinema in Toronto. The current filmography is an outgrowth and development of that initial research project.”
Early Cinema History Online (ECHO): Early Cinema History Online (ECHO) is a growing database of over 35,000 individual film titles (and associated credits) for films released between 1908 and 1920 in the United States.
Early Cinema in Scotland, 1896-1927: This digital resource “is a three-year research project (2012-2015) funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. It is based at the University of Glasgow in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.” Includes annotated filmographies, a map of venues, and annotated lists of relevant people, companies, and primary sources.
Early Russian Cinema: A research website produced by the Department of School of Literary History and Theory at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia. Includes links to archival materials and streaming films, as well as an interactive film program from 1909 and essays for contextualization.
Early Russian Film Prose: “The main goal of the project is to create the most complete electronic collection of all the narrative film texts that were published in Russia before 1917.” This database, and its related resources, was developed by the faculty and students at the School of Literary History and Theory at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia.
Edited By- Women Film Editors: “A survey of one hundred and thirty-nine editors who invented, developed, fine-tuned and revolutionized the art of film editing.” Created by Su Friedrich and hosted by Princeton University, this online resource features an index of female editors, a companion film, and other links and resources.
European Film Gateway: A portal to archival holdings of photos, periodicals, programs, newsreels, documentary footage, and other materials.
f_films: Female Filmworkers in Europe: In conjunction with the Department of Women and the Department of Culture in Frankfurt/Main, the Deutsche Filminstitut runs the project “f_films: Female Filmworkers in Europe.” The website serves as a database and aims to illustrate a “corrective” edit of traditional film history and research. The database features biographies, filmographies, and images of many silent film pioneers.
Film Archives Online: The result of the 2006 MIDAS project, Film Archives Online provides free access to moving image collections of film archives from across Europe. Works can be searched for by content, filmographic data, and physical characteristics.
filmarkivforskning.se: A “film-historical platform,” this online resource contains digitized materials (programs, journals, newspapers) relating to early Swedish cinema. Now in beta, this project is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumfond – The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (RJ) and is a joint venture by the Swedish Film Institute and the National Library of Sweden.
Filmographie des “vues” tournées au Québec au temps du muet (1897-1930): A database of film titles from the silent era in Quebec produced by Groupe de Recherche sur l’Avènement et la Formation des Institutions Cinématographique et Scénique (GRAFICS) research team. Principle investigators are André Gaudreault and Germain Lacasse, both of the University of Montreal). Includes an extensive bibliography.
The German Early Cinema Databases: A website run by the Visual Communities: Relationships of the Local, National, and Global in Early Cinema research project at the University of Cologne. This resource serves as a nexus that combines the Fairground Cinema Database, the Documents Collection, and the Film Supply and Programme Database to provide extensive data related to the distribution, exhibition, and reception of cinema in Germany between the years of 1895-1926.
Great Women Animators: Great Women Animators is an ongoing research initiative and database that showcases the careers of women working in the field of animation from the 19th century to the present.
Indian Cine.ma: An annotated online archive of Indian film.
Irish Film and Television Research Online: “Irish Film & TV Research Online is a website designed to bring together the wide diversity of research material relating to Irish-made cinema and television as well as to Irish-themed audio-visual representations produced outside of Ireland. It incorporates two searchable databases: Irish Film & Television Index 1896-2006 and Irish Film Censors’ Records 1923-1938. It also makes nine Irish Silent Films 1910-15 available on its webpages. The project is based in the School of Creative Arts, Trinity College Dublin.”
Irish Silent Films: A portion of the larger website and project, Irish Film and Television Research online, this website is devoted to bringing Irish silent films out of archives, restoring them, and placing them online for the public to have free and easy access. At present, the website features nine fully restored and uploaded films.
La Dimensió poc Coneguda: Pioneres del Cinema: La Dimensió poc Coneguda: Pioneres del Cinema is a Spanish research project and website stemming from the Spring 2014 exhibition of the same name at the Cinema Museum in Girona, Spain. The website includes virtual content, bibliographies, links, news, and aims to serve as a visual representation and exploration of some important theories in the history of feminism applied to the history of cinema.
The London Project: “The London Project is a major study of the film business in London, 1894-1914, organised by the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies. The London Project has produced a searchable database documenting cinemas and film businesses in London before the First World War. ”
London’s Silent Cinemas: Dedicated to the history of motion picture exhibition in London from 1906-1930, this website serves as a rich depository of local histories, city council records, film trade journals, directories, cinema programs, and city mapping and planning. All of this information and material is accessible through the website’s interactive “London’s Silent Cinemas Map.”
Lost Films: An “internet portal aimed at collecting and documenting film titles, which are believed or have been declared ‘lost.’” Created by the Deutsche Kinemathek, in collaboration with Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC), Filmarchiv Austria, and Národní filmovy archive.
LUCERNA: The Magic Lantern Web Resource: “LUCERNA is an online resource on the magic lantern, an early slide projector invented in the 17th century…[and] includes details of slide sets, slide images, readings and other texts related to slide sets, lantern hardware, people and organisations involved in lantern history, and much more.”
Mapping Desmet: This interactive mapping-tool is the result of the project “Data-driven Film History: A Demonstrator of EYE’s Jean Desmet Collection (2014-2015),.” which demonstrates the spread of programming and distribution of the film collection belonging to Jean Desmet (1875-1956), a film distributor and cinema owner in the Netherlands. This visual tool links data from three databases: Collection EYE, CinemaContext, and a database of films which Jean Desmet rented out in the years 1910-1912, created by film archivist Rixt Jonkman. The ultimate aim of this tool is twofold: 1) to showcase the individual films’ distribution and screening patterns and 2) to visualize gaps and overlaps in the three databases.
The Media Ecology Project: “The Media Ecology Project (MEP) is a digital lab at Dartmouth College directed by Prof. Mark Williams that enables researcher access to archival moving image collections and contribution of critical analysis back to the archival and research communities. The Media Ecology Project enables new research capacities toward the critical understanding of historical media and facilitates expanded research context bridging technical, disciplinary, and epistemological boundaries.”
Media History Digital Library: “A free online resource, featuring millions of pages of books and magazines from the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound. Led by Eric Hoyt at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”
Nordic Women in Film: By “expanding the female filmmaking universe” the Nordic Women in Film online resource serves as an ongoing national research initiative and publication. Featuring more than 800 entries on Nordic female film directors, producers, screenwriters, editors, cinematographers, set designers, title writers, and more, this interactive site includes film clips and archival posts pertaining to women involved in film production from the start of motion pictures to the present in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
The Origins of Cinema-1890-1915: In-progress film library with corresponding posts. Created and managed by film historian Klaus Kreimeier, this resource includes numerous films made by or featuring the women featured in WFPP.
Portale Cinema Muto Italiano: A digital resource from Cineteca Nazionale (with support from the Film Board-Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism), this rich portal features still and moving images, bibliographies, filmographies, digitized primary sources and documents, and an in-progress list of Italian silent cinema magazines (preserved by the Library L. Chiarini of the Experimental Center of Cinematography and the Library M. Gromo of the Cinema Museum of Turin).
Progetto di ricerca sulla censura cinematografica in Italia: Produced by Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali and the Cineteca di Bologna, this database and research project looks at film censorship in Italy, 1913-2000.
Progetto Turconi Project – Davide Turconi Project: A database of film frames from the early film period (1897-1915), collected by film historian Davide Turconi.
Project Arclight: A collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Concordia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Project Arclight serves as an interactive resource and tool for analyzing 20th century American film and media history through comparative trends across space and time. Making use of digitally scanned periodical sources, users can deploy Project Arclight as a “data mining and visualization tool” to search through the Media History Digital Library and to graph resulting analytics.
Silent Era: The Progressive Silent Film List: The Progressive Silent Film List is a growing online collection of information on more than 22,500 silent and sound films produced from 1888 through the end of 1929.
Silent Film Sound & Music Archive: “Established in 2014, SFSMA is building a robust archive of music for silent cinema (c. 1895-1930) and related film technologies for research and performance. The archive includes sheet music for film, cue sheets, instruction manuals for film accompanists, and a bibliography of resources on silent film sound and music. All of the silent film music archived here is available to download for free.”
Silent Film Still Archive: An online archive of stills associated with early cinema. Images include original studio photographs, advertising, lobby cards, sheet music, and other ephemera from the silent film era. All photos have been scanned from original photographs issued by respective studios at the films’ release.
Stumfilm.dk: “Stumfilm.dk is at the heart of the comprehensive digitization and dissemination initiative that aims to digitize, study and disseminate the entire surviving Danish film heritage. Here you can follow the results of our film archaeological efforts and gain insight into a time, where Denmark was bigger than Hollywood.” Between 2019-2023, 413 films will be digitized and made available on stumfilm.dk, as will posters, photographs, letters, and other archival materials.
Timeline of Historical Film Colors: A database created and curated by Barbara Flueckiger, Professor of Film Studies at the Institute of Cinema Studies, University of Zurich. Its mission is to serve as a web resource on the history, techniques, and significance of color on film.
Treasures from the Film Archives: The database, produced by FIAF, “contains unique information about silent-era film holdings in international film archives. It was conceived as a tool to aid the work of preservation, research and film exchange between archives, and provides filmographic and holdings information on over 60,000 works.” Requires either an institutional login or a subscription.
Women and the Silent Screen – Oxford Bibliographies Online: An extensive list of resources related to women and the silent screen, compiled by Shelley Stamp. Includes direct links to many of these resources (accessible via a institutional subscription).
Feminist Media Histories: An online journal from University of California Press, Feminist Media Histories publishes quarterly issues around a central theme or topic. “Inter-medial and trans-national in its approach, Feminist Media Histories examines the historical role gender has played in varied media technologies, and documents women’s engagements with these media as audiences, users and consumers, creators and executives, critics, writers and theorists, technicians and laborers, educators, activists, and librarians.”
See also: A Genealogy of Feminist Media Studies: Data visualization website to supplement Spring 2018 issue of Feminist Media Histories (a special issue on Genealogies of Feminist Media Studies). Created by Fabiola Hanna, commissioned by editors Mirada Banks, Ralina L. Joseph, Shelley Stamp, and Michele White.
ithankyouarthur: Blog by Paul Joyce dedicated to silent and early cinema.
Journal of Film Preservation: “The Journal of Film Preservation (also known as the JFP) is published by FIAF twice a year. It offers a forum for both general and specialized discussions on all theoretical, technical, and historical aspects of moving image archival activities. Articles are written in English, French, or Spanish, with summaries in the other two languages.”
The Peeping Archivist: “The Peeping Archivist is a blog dedicated to the dynamic world of moving image archiving. Written by archivists for archivists, it intends to bring together a broad set of knowledge, ideas and resources to help advance the field of audio-visual preservation.” Resources include weekly newsletters, blog posts, archival news, and calendar of events related to archiving moving images taking place around the world.
Picturegoing: An ongoing survey reproducing eyewitness testimony of viewing pictures with a focus on the viewing of films from 1890s to present day.
Sempre in penombra: Blog dedicated to Italian silent cinema. Resources include bibliographies, links to resources, DVDs, events, and more.
Silent Locations: A blog dedicated to the historical locations in which the silent films were produced.
Silent London: This website is dedicated to all things silent cinema, and is run by Pamela Hutchinson, a London-based journalist and silent film historian.
Silents Are Golden: An online resource about silent film with over 600 film reviews, 800 archival photos, and 150 in-depth film features.
Silents, Please!: A research-focused blog dedicated to silent film and silent film history, with special interest in the Italian diva films. Created by Katherine Frances.
Snapshots: Domitor’s online platform for short written pieces “commenting on current happenings in the field of early cinema: research updates, events announcements or reviews, publication reviews, debates, ideas for further consideration, work in progress, preservation projects, and the like.”
PIONEERS ON THE WEB
Alice Guy Blaché: Blog by Alison McMahan about her research and published works on Alice Guy Blaché. Includes filmographies, information on these books, news, and additional links and resources.
Alice Guy – Paris Locations: A blog post from the Cine-Tourist on Alice Guy’s Paris films, broken down and examined film by film and location by location.
Alla Nazimova Society: “The primary goal of the Alla Nazimova Society is to serve as a nexus for the growing community of fans, admirers, scholars and historians who are interested in the life and career of Alla Nazimova.”
Aloha Wanderwell Baker: Official website dedicated to adventurer and filmmaker Aloha Wanderwell.
The Autobiography of Agnes Christine Johnston (Dazey): “Agnes Christine Johnston began her writing career at age 16. She wrote for Vitagraph and Thanhouser Studio in New York and for MGM in Hollywood. She wrote for famous stars such as Mary Pickford, Mickey Rooney, and Marion Davies. This is her autobiography, edited by her granddaughter, Susanna Dazey Sayre.”
Helen Gardner: A website run by Gardner’s granddaughter, Dorin Gardner Schumacher, featuring photographs, archival materials, a blog, and ongoing research on the critical impact of Gardner on the film industry.
Importing Asta Nielsen Database: An online database that is “designed to become the tool for international research into the distribution and exhibition of Asta Nielsen films in many countries before the First World War.”
Lady Lumberjack: An online educational resource dedicated to Canadian filmmaker Dorothea Mitchell.
Lillian Gish: The official website dedicated to pioneer Lillian Gish.
Mabel Normand: A website featuring the research of Stephen Normand (Mabel Normand’s great-nephew) devoted to exploring and detailing the tremendous impact of Mabel Normand on comic art in film.
Mary Pickford: The official website of the Mary Pickford Research Foundation featuring original films, photographs, writing, archives, and historical material demonstrating the impact Mary Pickford and her colleagues had on the film industry.
Norma Talmadge: A website aimed at documenting the work of silent film pioneer Norma Talmadge.
The Search for a Film Legacy: Mary Pickford (1909-1933): Christel Schmidt’s research project on Mary Pickford’s filmography. Includes reports on archival visits, lists on archival holdings, filmographic information, and more.
The Talmadge Sisters: A website featuring an article from the October 30, 1920 issue of Picture Show entitled “Sisters Three: The Life Story of the Talmadge Sisters.”
Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.: Online resource on Thanhouser Company and Thanhouser family, including Gertrude Thanhouser.
DISTRIBUTORS FOCUSED ON EARLY CINEMA
Flicker Alley: “Flicker Alley creates and distributes new digital editions of cinema classics & rare works that may otherwise be lost to time. Working with archives, preservationists and film historians Flicker Alley brings you the rare classics so our collective film history and culture will be preserved and enjoyed.”
Grapevine Video: Distributor with “over six hundred DVDs available: from rare and obscure silent subjects to foreign film, and early talkies to classic television!”
Harpodeon: “Founded in 2008, Harpodeon is a film distributor specializing in rare and unusual silent films, early feature films, and niche silent genres. Our products are available streaming online, for download, on DVD, or they may be licensed for theatrical screening.”
Kino Lorber: “The classic arm of Kino Lorber offers many of the greatest films from the past, both silent and sound, for the discriminating viewer, from historical silents through the French new wave.” Kino Lorber’s silent cinema collection consists of numerous films across a variety of genres, including the recent anthology Pioneers of African-American Cinema and the forthcoming Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.
Lobster Films: “The Lobster collection catalog, now on-line, covers 60 years of cinema – from 1895 to the 1960’s. It’s a real gold mine of early films containing rare and unique gems, but also offering some of the great heritage classics.”
Milestone Films: Founded in 1990 by Amy Heller and Dennis Doros, Milestone Films has “since gained an international reputation for releasing classic cinema masterpieces, groundbreaking documentaries, and American independent features.”
Undercrank Productions: Created by Ben Model, Undercrank Productions is “a distributor and producer of quality DVD/BluRay releases of rare silent films that deserve an audience. We work with both archives and private collectors to bring the undiscovered classics of silent cinema from film cans to film fans.”