Restoration nation: motion picture archives and "American" film heritage

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Frick, Caroline Jane

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With the inception of cinema in the late 1890s, discussions relating to the preservation of film emerged in countries around the globe. Early motion picture collectors, enthusiasts, critics, scholars, and producers justified film preservation by appealing to cinema’s role as art or artifact or through the medium’s capacity to document historical events. In the mid to late twentieth century, however, film preservation advocates increasingly validated their work by defining and celebrating cinema as cultural heritage. This dissertation investigates the emergence and growth of the film preservation movement throughout the twentieth century on all levels of the film archiving network, from the international and national to the infra-national. Using a wide range of archival documents and organizational records, this project creates a more complete discursive history of key institutions involved in the film preservation movement. Moreover, the project examines the ramifications of this movement upon what constitutes “American” film heritage for the scholar, practitioner, and global audience. This dissertation illustrates that moving image archives have not merely preserved movie history, but have, instead, actively produced cinematic heritage.