New Archive Makes Available 800,000 Pages Documenting the History of Film, Television & Radio


Click images for larg­er ver­sions

Film buffs and schol­ars have a new cache at their fin­ger­tips. The Media His­to­ry Dig­i­tal Library has made hun­dreds of thou­sands of pages of film and broad­cast­ing his­to­ry avail­able in a search­able dig­i­tal archive they’ve called Lantern, an open access, inter­ac­tive library.

With help from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin, Madi­son Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Arts, MHDL made their entire col­lec­tion of Busi­ness Screen, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, Pho­to­play and Vari­ety—among oth­er magazines—available for text search­es for the first time.

In 2011 a group of film schol­ars devel­oped MHDL, an updat­ed resource for his­to­ri­ans used to read­ing through micro­film archives of cin­e­ma and broad­cast jour­nals. At the time, their archive was a gold­mine, pulling togeth­er the boun­ty of print­ed mate­r­i­al chron­i­cling the film indus­try. Now they’ve made it bet­ter, with more refined search, fil­ter­ing and sort­ing tools. Plus you can down­load images and texts.

It may have been a rite of pas­sage for film stu­dents to sequester them­selves in a dark library car­rel and scroll through micro­fiche reels of Mov­ing Pic­ture World, an influ­en­tial trade jour­nal until 1927, but Lantern brings ven­er­a­ble movie mag­a­zines dat­ing up to the ear­ly ’70s into the light of day where any­one can access the images and arti­cles of major trade and fan mag­a­zines, free of charge.

An ear­ly on-set chat rag, Film Fun, a mag­a­zine about “the hap­py side of the movies,” brought read­ers “inti­mate gos­sip of the pro­fes­sion told by the actors and actress­es ‘between the reels.’” The images are gor­geous.


In the twen­ties a new ama­teur movie mak­ing indus­try thrived, with equip­ment and even tour pack­ages avail­able for buffs who want­ed to tour exot­ic locales like Cuba with cam­eras and learn to shoot and pre­serve 16 mm motion pic­tures. A boom in DIY film mag­a­zines like Ama­teur Movie Mak­ers tar­get­ed the ear­ly adopters.


And lest we think that pulp celebri­ty mags like Peo­ple and Us are low­er brow than those of yes­ter­year, we should think again. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not sure four-times-mar­ried Bette Davis makes the best love advice colum­nist. But appar­ent­ly Pho­to­play mag­a­zine did.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Three Great Films Star­ring Char­lie Chap­lin, the True Icon of Silent Com­e­dy

How Brew­ster Kahle and the Inter­net Archive Will Pre­serve the Infi­nite Infor­ma­tion on the Web

Kate Rix writes about edu­ca­tion and dig­i­tal media. Vis­it her web­site and fol­low her on Twit­ter.

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