Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Amsterdam: Filmmuseum

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Amsterdam: Filmmuseum

Article excerpt

Large Scale Poster-Conservation in the Dutch Filmmuseum.

In the world of film archives a lot is said and written about film conservation. But we hear much less about the condition and treatment of the paper collections of these archives. The large increase of paper collections in the Dutch Filmmuseum in the past years (through donations as well as through acquisition) has necessitated us to take measures to preserve these collections, either passively by acid-free packing and climatization of the depots, or actively way by improving the quality of the paper materials. Passive conservation is something we have worked on for almost ten years now, at first by new packing-materials and more recently also by using climatized depots.

We decided to give special attention to the poster collection by doing research into the best methods of active conservation. For that purpose we asked both the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science and the Mondriaan Foundation for an extra subsidy to implement these methods on a large part of our poster-collection.

The poster collection

The poster collection of the Dutch Filmmuseum is recognized as an important and beautiful collection. The build- up of the collection started in the 1960s, partly through donations from collectors and distributors, partly through active acquisition (especially the East European collections).

The total collection amounts to 40,000 posters. Important parts of the collection are more than 1,000 posters from the archives of exhibition and distribution pioneer Jean Desmet (of which the 900 films form the basis of the Filmmuseum's film collection from the 1910s). The posters are just as unique as the films, not only on a national scale but also worldwide: they comprise mostly non-Dutch designs that have not been fully retained in other musea throughout the world.

From the twenties there are several original copies of famous German posters, such as Heinz Schulz-Neudamm's for metropolis and Alfred Hermann's asphalt; Russian posters, for instance a number of designs by the Stenberg-brothers.

Other and larger sub-collections are some 1,400 Polish posters from designers such as Jan Lenica, Franciszek Starowieyski, and more recent work by Andrzej Pagowski. We hold about the same number of Czech posters and a smaller, but very interesting collection of Cuban posters (from designers like Raúl Martínez), unique in terms of colour and design and a magnificent contribution to the art of the 1960s.

Of course, we do try to collect as many Dutch designs as possible. Although they only amount to about 15% of the entire collection, they contain interesting designs by Dolly Rüdemann, Frans Bosen, Piet Zwart and several others. In the Netherlands original foreign designs were often used for foreign films (which always formed the majority in a small film production country like the Netherlands), with only a banner in Dutch.

'Breaking the waves of destruction'

From as early as 1991 the Filmmuseum tried to acquire the subsidy required for preserving its poster collection. The aforementioned ministry set up a so-called Deltaplan for the preserving the Dutch cultural heritage. Incidentally, the term 'Deltaplan' is reminiscent of the socalled Deltaworks, part of Holland's continuing battle against the sea; here, of course, it refers to the equally urgent 'battle' to preserve our archival and museum collections.

In 1995 our requests resulted in a subsidy for active conservation of 11,000 posters. The selection we made reflected our view on the importance of sub-collections and individual posters. But we also took into consideration the kind of damage we were confronted with and the ways of treating them as they were known to paper restorers. After consulting various paper conservators and curators of other paper collections, we chose the then small, but very enthusiastic firm Art Conservation. In order to handle 11,000 posters in four and a half years they immediately set out to expand. …

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