HoMER Conference

  • Victoria Jackson (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Historical Sensation, Digital Mimicry and the Negotiation of History Through Digital Reproduction. Co-wrriten with Dr. Bregt Lameris. The development of digitization projects such as the Media History Digital Library, Hathitrust and Newspapers.com are making available to the film historian ever increasing quantities of searchable digitized primary material. This proliferation of material allows researchers instant access to a huge volume of primary sources, not only conventional sources such as trade and fan journals but also to non-film industry related material including newspapers and books. Thus researchers gain access to a volume of material that would be impossible to examine in person and sources they would be unlikely to encounter. However, historians are also problematizing the use of digital sources. Richard Abel for example, explains that with digital sources he misses the feeling of having been there. This phrase, which of course reminds us of Barthes’ ça-a-été [it-has-been-there], was introduced by Carolyn Steedman and refers to the physical presence of the historian in the archive. She argues that this having been there is what gives the historian authority, since this touching and breathing of the sources is the only way one can be moved and dictated by the historical material (Abel, 2013; Steedman, 2001). This debate is similar to one that started in the 1990s, on the value of nitrate prints vis-à-vis new preservation prints on acetate material. Questions such as how can we preserve the aura of the ‘original’ nitrate print, and can we actually reproduce the experience of a nitrate projection were asked. This resulted, for example, in found footage films, preservations of damaged and decomposing nitrate prints and events such as the 2000 FIAF conference This Film is Dangerous in London. We will investigate if touching the material sources is really necessary to be ‘touched’ by history. To understand other ways of how historians can experience immediate contact to the past, we will use Johan Huizinga’s term ‘historical sensation’ (Huizinga, 1948). Further, we will ask the question is it really necessary to produce such a sensation in order to be a good historian? Here we will consider the new possibilities digitisation offers, and if in fact digitisation can create new forms of historical sensation. We will conclude by outlining our ideas for how these concepts of having been there and historical sensation can be employed in the presentation of digitised source materials to enrich the historian’s engagement with it. To illustrate this we will draw on our research for the Leverhulme Trust project: Colour in the 1920s: Cinema and Its Intermedial Contexts. The project investigates major spheres of colour expression in European and U.S. motion pictures of the 1920s. It seeks to contextualise colour’s intermedial role in other arts, in order to produce a fully comprehensive, comparative study situating colour cinema within the chromatic culture of its time.
Period22 Jun 2015
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United Kingdom