Paper Print and Biograph Compendium Poster

Dartmouth College’s Media Ecology Project (MEP) has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Advancement to research and publish a diverse set of perspectives on critical films from the late 19th and early 20th century. This research will be led by Prof. Mark Williams (Dartmouth Film & Media Studies), an expert in film and media studies, and Dr. John P. Bell (Dartmouth Research Information, Technology and Consulting), an expert on digital curation. Prof. Williams is the director of and Dr. Bell is the associate director for the Media Ecology Project at Dartmouth.

The Paper Print and Biograph Compendium will produce a collection of data on over 400 select films from the early silent cinema era that document the transition of visual culture from stage to screen. It will combine highly influential and rare works archived in the Paper Print collection of pre-1930 cinema at the Library of Congress with additional American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (Biograph) films preserved at the Library of Congress and the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, plus a digitized version of the Biograph Exhibitors Catalog from The Museum of Modern Art, in order to create a digital resource for film scholars around the world.

As primary sources of cinematic history, the Paper Print and Biograph films have received considerable attention. This new compendium will take an innovative approach to annotating the digitized films with diverse types of scholarly description, archival metadata, and machine-generated annotation to present online visitors with a variety of analytic lenses embedded in a single, simple interface. The Compendium will offer scholars a reliable home from which to compare disparate types of data, create linkages to fields outside film studies, and otherwise begin to produce new lines of scholarship about these essential films. Participating scholars will include film historian Paul Spehr, Dan Streible (NYU), and Jenny Oyallon-Koloski (U Illinois).

The Compendium will unite MEP’s existing Semantic Annotation Tool (SAT) with the popular scholarly publishing platform Scalar, produced by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture. It will provide scholars a simple way to relate their work to other transdisciplinary studies of early cinema and highlight emergent relationships between seemingly independent quantitative and qualitative data. Technology developed to create the Compendium will be made available to other researchers who can apply it to analyzing their own collections as well. The Scalar-compatible version of SAT will provide scholars with an accessible way to manage detailed annotations of embedded video in their human-readable publications while simultaneously making those annotations available as data that can feed machine learning systems, quantitative analysis, and semantic web consumers.