Call for Papers - Film Heritage and Digital Scholarship: Computer-Based Approaches to Film Archiving, Restoration and Philology

Edited by Rossella Catanese (University of Udine), Adelheid Heftberger (German Bundesarchiv, Berlin), and Christian Gosvig Olesen (University of Amsterdam/Utrecht University)


In recent years, film and media studies have witnessed an emerging interest in integrating computer-based techniques for analyzing and visualizing both quantitative and qualitative data relating to film. This emerging interest can be seen in the development of approaches that involve new and practice-based audiovisual methods, such as videographic criticism and video annotation, as well as various data visualization and digital humanities techniques that rely on empirical methods such as data mining, linked data, geo-tagging and mapping, in order to study, among others, filmic structure, style, discourse, storytelling and reception (Grant, 2012; Ingravalle, Prelinger & Latsis 2015; Ferguson, 2016; Verhoeven, 2016). This development has opened new paths for film history scholarship and its traditional focus on the cultural significance of films in terms of aesthetics and medium specificity, while also leading scholars to explore and reflect on potential new paths for interdisciplinary research methods (Grant, 2012; Acland & Hoyt, 2016). Through new tools and collaboration with scholars from disciplines that were traditionally distant from film and media studies - such as data, computer and information science, and practice-based research - the relation between researchers and their sources, films and related materials, is being reconfigured.

This development creates new expectations and challenges for film heritage institutions as well, specifically with regard to the role that they may play in relation to digital scholarship in creating and offering access to archival collections and data. As still larger digitization projects have continued to emerge in recent years, within a political climate that promotes and stimulates digitization and development of digital research infrastructure for studying collections, film heritage institutions need to develop sustainable and critical models for facilitating, shaping and benefiting from digital scholarship in film and media studies, all the while being mindful of their own institutional core values and missions. This endeavor, we suggest, entails that film heritage institutions develop a greater sensitivity towards key concerns of digital scholarship in film and media studies at large, while also making sure that digital scholarships in turn develop a better sense of archival concerns in their practice (Heftberger, 2014).

Taking the cue from this suggestion, this special issue offers a platform for thinking through productive connections, synergies and frictions between emerging methods in film and media studies and the current work of film heritage institutions. In doing so, we encourage contributors to stage speculative encounters between approaches and practices as well as to discuss concrete case studies, so as to imagine future paths.

With the issue we are looking for a broad range of approaches and contributions pertaining to a wide variety of practices. Some of the questions we specifically invite contributors to consider are:

  • How may the comparative study of film prints, an integral part of film philology and restoration, benefit from videographic approaches to film analysis and data visualization, both elements that often involve comparative analysis of film “texts”?
  • How may scholarly annotations made within online research infrastructures or environments feedback into archival databases through linked data and inform archival work in a “virtuous cycle” (MEP/Williams, 2018), and what may best practices look like?
  • How may film heritage institutions support the concerns of digital scholarship by highlighting bias, ambiguity and uncertainty in collection data so as to avoid the risk of “engaging in positivist reductionism and of fundamentally ignoring philosophical aesthetics and its analytical tradition” (Flueckiger 2017)?
  • How may film heritage institutions nurture “distant viewing” of collections (Tilton & Taylor, 2019) through interface development based on existing collection data and/or on data created with visual analysis software?
  • How may the affordances of high-resolution scanning and scanning of the edge area of film elements benefit aesthetic and historical analysis of archival film as a material artefact, as well as close reading approaches?

In addition to these questions, contributors are invited to take into consideration theoretical issues as well as specific case studies related (but not limited) to these themes:

  • Theoretical reflections on the relationship between digital humanities and film archiving, restoration and philological analysis, with regard to digital film historical research methods and traditions focusing on specific questions, epistemes, and assumptions;
  • Specific case studies involving application of digital methods and tools in the context of film history research projects;
  • Research design in digital humanities projects, i.e. the development of databases, algorithms, software, tools, digital and virtual research environments;
  • Digital archives (online database, data management systems, online exhibitions, etc.), indexing and distribution for film heritage;
  • The role of digital humanities in the development of technology for film restoration (scanners, laser printers, etc.).
  • Mapping and sharing of filmographic data, as well as developing new (interactive) platforms.
  Submission details

Please send an abstract and a short biographical note to Rossella Catanese, Adelheid Heftberger, and Christian Gosvig Olesen at:,, and  by April 1st, 2021 — [subject: Film Heritage and Digital Scholarship + name surname author(s)].

Abstracts should be from 300 to 500 words of length (English). Notification of acceptance will be sent within April 10, 2021.

If the proposal is accepted, the author(s) will be asked to submit the full article by June 15, 2021.

The articles must not exceed 5,000/6,000 words and can include images, clips, and links for illustrative purposes. Please, provide correct credits, permissions and copyright information in order to be sure that the images, clips, and links are copyright free and can be published.

Contributions will be submitted to double-blind peer-review.

The issue will be published in December 2021.