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Current research project

Title / Titel Presentation and Visualization of Historical Film Colors
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Whenever the current research projects on film colors come up in conversation with
laypersons or even film critics, the response is usually puzzled: Film colors? Why film
colors? Their reactions make it obvious that there is little awareness of the topic, and
that this lack of awareness is mostly due to the public’s lack of experience with the film
material itself. The demonstration and the sensory experience of film’s materiality are
thus at the core of the Agora project Presentation and Visualization of Historical Film
. The project aims to introduce and to establish a set of activities related to the
materiality and aesthetics of film colors, drawing on the recent research projects on
film colors, and on the digitization of archival films that have gained a high level of
attention among academics and archivists.

Historical film prints offer a precious sensory richness that is also very appealing to
laypersons. The online depiction of film materials on the interactive digital humanities
platform Timeline of Historical Film Colors has been unanimously praised for its
comprehensive and attractive display of technical information and aesthetics. However,
its impact remains limited to virtual access.

To overcome this limitation, the present Agora project intends to build a bridge from
virtual to real presentations of color film and digitized historical films, through the
following activities:

  • Planning and executing an exhibition that connects the presentation of large
    printouts of film stills with the display of film stock in various modes.
  • Screenings of color film fragments and entire historical color films in the context of
    film festivals and museums as well as selected public cinemas.
  • Developing a smartphone app that visualizes the connection of exhibition objects to
    the larger scientific context already in operation, including the two highly prolific
    research projects SNSF Filmfarben and ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.
  • Connecting the app to the crowdsourcing platform for film color analysis that is
    currently being executed in the framework of ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.
  • Offering an educational package to teachers.
  • Workshop on coloring films manually through hand coloring, tinting or toning.
  • Online quiz to engage the audience in acquiring knowledge.

At a variety of recent international conferences on either historical films or digital
humanities, it became clear that many archives and scholars are striving for better
ways to reach out to the public using attractive displays of their research or their
holdings. Until now, however, experience in these areas has been sparse. Beyond its
main goals, the present Agora project thus aims to establish a model study on how to
exhibit film in a museum context – by both connecting it to previous practices, and by
developing innovative educational activities.

It is the aim of the Agora project to provide an understanding and appreciation of the
film heritage and its appealing aesthetics to a wider audience, especially among
children and youth. To this date, moving images provide the most immediate and
universal access to knowledge and to the past. Movie fandom and the corresponding
enthusiasm need to be addressed by the Agora project.

There is also a political dimension to this project: To raise awareness for the necessity
of preserving the film heritage in its authentic form, to digitize it using a sophisticated
approach, and to make it available for future generations.
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Dr. Barbara Flückiger (Project Leader)
Dr. Evelyn Echle
Dr. Eva Hielscher
Other links to external web pages ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors:
Timeline of Historical Film Colors:
SNF Film Colors:
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung)
SNF Agora
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
Nadine Wietlisbach, Director, Fotomuseum Winterthur
Doris Gassert, Research Curator, , Fotomuseum Winterthur
John Canciani, Director, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur
Andreas Bühlmann, Programmer, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Jun 2018 to May 2020