The Exhibition Context and the Contemporary Significance of Color In the Case of Kinemacolor

Victoria Jackson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


    The ephemerality of colour poses problems to those seeking to preserve, restore or recreate colour film. With no reliable visual reference to draw on archivists and specialists must find other methods to guide their work. Using the example of Kinemacolor, the first natural colour process to be shown commercially between 1909 and 1919 I argue that in coordination with studying the material qualities of colour film an examination of the exhibition context and the original audience’s understanding of colour’s significance, as part of the media experience is an invaluable tool in the restoration and reconstruction of lost colour experiences. I explore local and national marketing and advertising material to examine some of the multiple experiences and meanings that emerged around the process, from scientific marvel to patriotic spectacle and even to routine feature. I also argue contemporary understanding of the significance of Kinemacolor was shaped by the conditions under which it was exhibited which varied considerably. Consequently there were multiple contemporary understandings of Kinemacolor.
    The commendable aim of most archival simulations of early colour film is to reconstruct as accurately as possible the original colour. However as this research reconfirms colour is ephemeral not only over time but also spatially with the contemporary colour experience varying from hall to hall and individual to individual. Therefore I archive for an approach to archival colour reconstruction in which the original understanding of colour is explored with equal vigour as the accuracy of the colour reproduction. This approach can inform the decisions taking by archivists restoring the image but it can also guide the modern audience who can be introduced to this contemporary context as a means to engage with archival simulations.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalMoving Image
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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