Thursday 10 October 2013

Women Film Pioneers Project at Columbia University

Website header and masthead at the incredible Women Film Pioneers Project website

This project began as a search for silent cinema “women film pioneers” who challenged the idea of established great male “pioneers of cinema.” Since researchers found more women than anyone expected to find, one principle came to organize the project: What we  assume never existed is what we invariably find. [About 'Women Film Pioneers Project']
Film Studies For Free is heading away from its computer for a few days but had to rush to publish the essential news of an incredible new website resource: the Women Film Pioneers Project.

WFPP is a new free online database published by Columbia University Libraries’ Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. The database includes more than 150 career profiles of women who worked during the silent film era as directors, co-directors, scenario writers, camera operators, title writers, editors, costume designers, exhibitors, animal trainers, studio accountants, film company owners, and theatre managers.

A monumental, open access piece of important film historical research and publishing, this first phase of the project places together the Americas, the U.S. in the North and Latin America in the South. The next phases will open up the study of women in other national silent era cinemas: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary,  India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey,  The United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Yugoslavia.

Clearly this is an archival resource that will also grow as more people know about it and can contribute missing information to it, but the editors have done a truly fantastic job in establishing this resource and populating it with such high quality and significant material already.

Congratulations and many thanks go to the WFPP team led by the brilliant film historian Jane Gaines, whose related book on early cinema, Fictioning Histories: Women Film Pioneers was published by University of Illinois Press in 2009. The project launch will take place at MoMA this Saturday, part of the film exhibition To Save and Project: The 11th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation.

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