© Jan Zappner


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Film gems from the field of ethnology

16/10/2017 | German National Library of Science and Technology

Easier access for science: Almost 2000 ethnological films of historical value will soon be available online.

Cultural practices and traditional crafts that have already disappeared in some cases or have drastically changed over the years: this is documented by the 1,953 ethnological films that TIB is set to digitise, index and provide online in its AV-Portal, insofar as legally possible, within the DELFT (Digitalisierung EthnoLogischer FilmbesTand – digitisation of the inventory of ethnological films) project. “Creating easier access to these films is an important step for research and teaching, opening up entirely new possibilities of working with this valuable, unique cultural heritage,” stated Thomas Bähr, Head of Preservation and Digital Preservation at TIB and DELFT Project Manager.

The DELFT project has been awarded € 287,000 in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for a period of two years.

Unique collection of ethnological films

The 1,953 films are part of the collection held by IWF Wissen und Medien (formerly the Institute of Scientific Film), which TIB acquired in 2012. The ethnological films illustrate all kinds of cultural traditions such as music and dancing, religion, medicine and much more besides. Some of the films are more than 100 years old, the most recent ones are from the 1980s. The majority of the films are part of the “Encyclopaedia Cinematographica”.

Easier access for science

The historically valuable films have already attracted significant interest, as testified by the large number of researchers who have already sent enquiries to TIB. “The digitisation and inclusion of these films in the AV-Portal means that scholars, researchers and the interested public will be able to permanently access and cite films from minor subjects such as ethnology, anthropology and film studies,” explained Margret Plank, Head of the Competence Centre for Non-Textual Materials at TIB, who is responsible for the AV-Portal.

In addition to being digitised, the films will be digitally preserved to ensure that the materials are conserved and protected in the long term. The films will also be allocated a DOI name (Digital Object Identifier) to ensure their permanent, unique access. Metadata such as film titles and keywords will also be indexed and prepared.


Dr. Sandra Niemeyer
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German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB)
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