What Is the Project?
In early 2017, the initial aim was to create a “digital notebook,” organized in such a way that it would provide a structured space to critically interpret, evaluate and analyze bibliographic sources dealing with the films and people involved with sound films produced in the Weimar Republic from 1929 to 1933.
The first step was to design and create a research database through Airtable. This online spreadsheet-database hybrid was ideally suited to realize a first concept of the project, to link records with one another, and try out various tools for visualization, data mining, etc.
At the time, a blog documented the project’s various developments and experiments.
Inspired by the Media History Digital Library’s project Lantern, I set out to create a resource that would ensure a basis for the “digital notebook.”
One of the most quoted periodicals in Weimar film studies was also one of the least readily accessible, Alfred Weiner’s Film-Kurier. This Berlin newspaper which prided itself to be the only daily trade paper for film in Germany was published from 1919 to 1945 and included notable writers and editors such as Lotte Eisner and Willy Haas.
The issues of Film-Kurier survive on microfilm. Using the information already compiled in my database, I proceeded to locate reviews for the films in question by sifting through the multiple volumes of CineGraph’s Film-Kurier-Index.
First experiments digitizing the reviews proved successful but also time-consuming.
In 2018, the Weimar Talkies Project was mentioned in the film studies journal Synoptique in an issue devoted to moving image archival training.
In her article “The Current Landscape of Film Archiving and How Study Programs Can Contribute,” Adelheid Heftberger cites the project (among the Media History Digital Library, Cinemetrics, Timeline of Historical Film Colors and Kinomatics) as a prime example of a project “ideally suited to dealing with research questions in film studies” which, if widely adopted, would help film archives “curate innovative online presentations, thus also facilitating education and (further research).”
In Spring 2019, following the digitization of all selected reviews, the Weimar Talkies Project entered its second stage, digitizing the corresponding issues in the Illustrierter Film-Kurier (Berlin). These were scanned at the SRLF Imaging Services thanks to the generous support of Professor Todd Presner who funded the digitization.
The selected film programs are rich in pictures which is artfully incorporated into detailed summaries of the films in question, making them the perfect companion piece to the reviews. The collection, once processed, will be housed and preserved at the UCLA Digital Library where it will be made accessible to researchers on campus. Ben is working with Dawn Childress who has been overseeing the project since the summer of 2018 to realize the project.
All this progress was facilitated by Professor Ashley Sanders Garcia‘s helpful mentorship over the course of the Spring quarter at UCLA. Given that some of the materials are unreadable despite the scans’ high resolution, the Department of Germanic Languages decided to award a grant for research to be conducted on site at the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek allowing some of the issues to be transcribed in person over the summer of 2019.