“Researching Cinema in the First World War” Workshop Report, 25 August 2023, Maynooth University, Ireland

Alan Corley

30 November 2023

Throughout my academic journey, I have largely relied on the writings of others, searching through books and articles in search of details and perspectives that could help me approach whatever my research. My biggest challenge has been independent research as I found it difficult to know where to look for potential sources. My current research examines the cinema-going experience in Ireland during the 1910s and 1920s, with a focus on what sort of films were shown to audiences and how they responded to them. Naturally, the First World War affected the distribution of film across Europe, and so I was interested in this time period especially. When I heard about this workshop, it sounded ideal. I can definitely say I came away from this workshop far more confident in my knowledge of available resources and my ability to use them.

The event was sponsored by the International Association for Media and History (IAMHIST) through the IAMHIST Challenge awarded to Dr. Veronica Johnson (Maynooth University), and hosted by the Media Studies department at Maynooth University, with presentations by Dr. Denis Condon (Maynooth University), Kasandra O’Connell (Irish Film Institute), and Dr. Johnson.

The focus of the workshop was on efforts to research and study cinema during the First World War. Given the delicate and fragile nature of material items of this time, much has been lost in the century since; many films have been lost due to decay, purposeful destruction, and/or negligence, while paper material was seen as discardable ephemera. These facts can make it extremely difficult to research early cinema – and with the added element of global warfare, information from the time can be hard to come by. This workshop was designed to showcase what is available and how to go about accessing it, from online resources to physical documents held in libraries and archives.

Dr. Condon, author of Early Irish Cinema: 1895-1921, opened the presentation portion of the day with his talk: “Researching Newspaper Archives”. He began by discussing how the film industry was disrupted by the war, moving on to the benefits of using archival newspapers, which he called the best way of researching this time in history as most information was spread in this format. Newspaper articles, advertisements, reviews, etc., can all show the cinema’s relationship to the Irish public and vice versa. He encouraged researchers to look outside of purely digital sources and pursue analog material with the same energy, going into detail about the microfiche holdings of the National Library in Dublin. Dr. Condon also spoke about the travelling nature of early film screenings, with groups bringing films to rural areas in an evolution of the travelling theatre groups of earlier times, with the films themselves being the main attraction.

Kasandra O’Connell followed with a presentation on “Using Film Archives,” detailing the holdings of the Irish Film Institute and the Irish Film Archive, explaining some of the IFI’s early history and how it began to build up its collection of film and ephemera. One of the things I found most interesting in her talk was the relationship the IFI has with donors and owners of film material, and the legal rights surrounding this material. Despite little indigenous film production in Ireland until relatively recently, the archive currently houses over 30,000 cans of film, with much work being put into making as much material public as possible, through the IFI Player and a variety of other access routes. I have previously viewed the O’Kalem and 1916 Collections of the IFI Player and it was extremely interesting to hear how one can go about contacting the access officer for access to other material.

Dr. Johnson closed the presentations with her talk on “Using Multiple Resources,” highlighting how researchers have to utilise all available sources as well as consider alternative routes. She spoke about her research into the Film Company of Ireland, the first indigenous narrative film company in Ireland, about which little has been written, which I found to be a fascinating topic (I had only been familiar with Irish Destiny (1926) prior to this). Providing an extensive list of journals, archives, and online libraries, including a large number of resources available to researchers that I had not come across before: Early Popular Visual Culture, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, the Media History Digital Library, and also pointed to Ancestry.com as a potentially useful resource. Dr. Condon and Dr. Johnson’s presentations taken together provided a vast and helpful education around both availability and the varying formats worth exploring. There are numerous online newspaper archives that have been digitized from original paper prints and can be searched digitally, research groups that freely share their findings for others to read and build upon, physical holdings in universities and libraries, microfiche copies of documents that have not been digitized due to time and expense limitations but are available to search through.

Following the talks, there was an hour-long workshop, during which attendees could share their research projects with the speakers and fellow attendees and receive feedback and advice. Much of my study, when I was working towards my Masters, was in the German film industry, with my dissertation being on the portrayal of gender and sexuality in the films of F.W. Murnau, which I am hoping to expand to book length. Since then, I have decided to look into the cinema-going experience closer to home, finding out what sort of films were imported into Ireland during the silent era, what films proved successful, or how audiences of the time responded to them. Were certain genres more appealing to the Irish people en masse, and were there themes or concepts that drew them in more so than others? I enjoyed hearing feedback from the speakers and my fellow attendees and was fascinated by their own topics and what drew them to researching them.

After lunch, the group moved to the Irish Film Archive, housed a few minutes away on the Maynooth University campus, for a tour of its facilities. I must admit that this was what initially caught my eye about this workshop. Film preservation and restoration have long been a source of fascination and passion for me and I was eager to see the inside workings of a professional film archive. It was staggering to see the volume of film cans and I spent some time seeking out titles I was familiar with (such as Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984), a personal favourite).

Tour of the Irish Film Archive (Maynooth University)

Before breaking for the day, we returned to the workshop room to view an extract from an early Irish film, Knocknagow, directed by Fred O’Donovan in 1918. Produced by the Film Company of Ireland, it is the oldest surviving Irish-made film to be produced in Ireland. I found the extract fascinating and thought its use of on-location shooting in Tipperary an excellent way to boost its production value. One of the charms of the silent era, from my perspective, is the immediacy of the film itself, almost functioning as a direct connection to a place and time in a way that I don’t particularly feel in other eras of film history. Despite being set in the 1870s, it is a window into the landscape of Ireland in the 1910s and I think it is well worth a watch.

I found this workshop to be massively beneficial and thanks to it I feel more confident in my research abilities, and more familiar with the material available to me. Beyond my research into the Irish cinema-going experience, I have used the resources mentioned by the speakers to build up my knowledge of my main areas of interest and use that to build up my regular articles and writings. I want to thank the organisers for setting this up, creating an easy and welcoming atmosphere, and for presenting myself and my fellow attendees with a wealth of information in such a great way.

Alan Corley holds an M.Phil. in the Theory, History, and Practice of Film Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. His interests include the silent film era, the development of film as an art form, social contexts of horror films, and film preservation. He currently writes for the FanFare publication on Medium, where he explores a variety of films through aesthetic, historical, and critical lenses (https://alancorley.medium.com/).

Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

Researching Cinema in the First World War Workshop

Friday August 25th 2023

Department of Media Studies, Maynooth University, Ireland

Are you researching a film company, audiences, stars, filmmaking, cinemas, female film pioneers, or any other aspect of cinema in the First World War? Then you know that this type of research while rewarding is also very challenging. With most of the films from this period designated as ‘lost’, much of the contemporary material long discarded as ephemera and paper archives extremely limited it can be difficult to know how to start or where to find information. To help discover which resources are available to scholars of film and cinema in this period the International Association for Media and History (IAMHIST) and Maynooth University, Ireland are hosting a one-day workshop on Researching Cinema in the First World War on August 25th 2023.


10.30am-12pm: Welcome and Presentations

Denis Condon, Maynooth University. “Using Newspaper Archives”
Kasandra O’Connell, Irish Film Institute. “Using Film Archives”
Veronica Johnson, Maynooth University “Using Multiple Resources”

12pm-1pm: Workshop
Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss their research questions and problems with the speakers in smaller groups.

1-2pm: Lunch (provided)

2-3pm: Visit to the archive

3-4pm: Screening of films from 1918 including and excerpt from the Irish film Knocknagow (Fred O’Donovan, 1918)

For further details and to register for this free workshop please contact the workshop organiser Veronica Johnson at veronica.johnson@mu.ie.

Thanks to the IAMHIST Challenge award there is a small fund available for student bursaries to attend this event. Please indicate if you would like to apply for this funding when you register.

A Film Scholarship without Films? Reimagining the History of Israeli Cinema Culture through the Archive

The International Association for Media and History (IAMHIST) & The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University

 July 5-6, 2022


All sessions take place at the Mexico Building, Room 206A (with live streaming via Zoom)

Event is free to attend

Registration link:


Programme PDF:

Film Scholarship without Films Programme


Tuesday 5 July 

09:00-09:30: Registration

09:30-10:30: Greetings and Opening Lecture

Eran Neuman, Dean of the Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University

Ohad Landesman, Interim Head of Cinema Studies Track, The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University

Dan Chyutin and Yael Mazor, Conference Organizers, Tel Aviv University: “If you build it, they will come”: Notes Towards a Future History of Israeli Cinema

10:30-10:45 Coffee Break

10:45-12:15 Panel A: Reimagining the Archive and Alternate Film Histories (Chair: Ohad Landesman, Tel Aviv University)

Dan Chyutin: ‘From Israeli Film to Israeli Film Culture: Reimagining the 1950s’

Boaz Hagin, Tel Aviv University: ‘The Living Desert: Reimagining and Film Discourse in Israel before the 1970s’

Olga Gershenson, University of Massachusetts-Amherst: ‘New Israeli Horror: Film History Without Films’

12:15-12:30: Coffee Break

12:30-14:00 Panel B: Transnational Connections and Cultural Diplomacy (Chair: Yael Mazor, Tel Aviv University)

Giora Goodman, Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee: ‘Israeli Films and Israeli Cultural Diplomacy, 1948-1967’

Naomi Rolef, independent scholar: ‘The Twists and Turns of German Influence in Early Israeli Cinema: An Archival Journey’

Hilla Lavie, Hebrew University: ‘”An Authentic and Optimistic Israeli Story”: West German Television Imagines Israel after the Six Day War (1967)’

14:00-15:15 Lunch Break

15:15-16:45 Panel C: Beyond Textual Analysis: Production and Reception (Chair: Dan Chyutin, Tel Aviv University)

Rachel S. Harris, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign: ‘Eldorado: Israel’s First Film Noir’

Elad Wexler, Ethiopian Jewry Heritage Center: ‘The Way to Hole in the Moon (1965): How Early Drafts of the Script Lead to a New and Deeper Understanding of the Film’

Iddo Better Pocker and Orit Rozin, Tel Aviv University: ‘Operation Thunderbolt Between Cinematic Blockbuster and National Propaganda’

16:45-17.15 Coffee Break

17.15-18.30 Panel D: Creative Biographies (Chair: Pablo Utin, Tel Aviv University)

Israela Shaer-Meoded, Tel Aviv University: ‘Witnessing Beyond Borders: On Edna Politi’s Cinematic Testimony of Palestinian Life During the Yom Kippur War (1973)’

David Shalit, independent scholar: ‘Print My Legend: The Americanization of Menachem Golan’

18.30-19.00 Coffee Break and Light Refreshments

 19:00-20.00 Event: Artist Talk

A conversation with filmmaker Amos Gitai on the stakes of personal archiving

Wednesday 6 July

09:30-11:00 Panel E: The Limits of Israeli Film Culture (Chair: Ori Levin, Tel Aviv University)

Jonathan Yovel, University of Haifa: ‘The Subversive and the Repulsive: a Sociolegal History of the Aesthetics of Censorship over Films in Israel’

Ori Yaakobovich, Tel Aviv University: ‘Anatomy of Censorship: Censorship of Foreign Cinematic Sexuality by the Israeli Hegemony’

Rotem Yifat, independent scholar: ‘Making Film History through Legislation: The Case of the Israel Film Fund’

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-13:30 Archivist Roundtable

Deborah Steinmetz, Director, Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive

Omri Horesh, Director, Tel Aviv Cinematheque Film Library

Uri Kolodney, Film and Video and Hebrew, Jewish, and Israel Studies Liaison Librarian, University of Texas Libraries

Marat Parkhomovsky, Co-Creator, Israeli Cinema Testimonial Database

Noa Ben Ya’akov, Archivist, Yad Tabenkin Research and Documentation Center of the Kibbutz Movement

Hila Abraham, Digital Archive Program Director, Jerusalem Cinematheque-Israel Film Archive

13:30-14:30 Lunch Break

14:30-16:00 Film History and Digital Humanities: Methodological Workshop 1

Christian Olesen, University of Amsterdam: ‘Rethinking New Cinema History Methods with Jean Desmet’s Digitized Business Archive: Textual and Visual Approaches’

16:00-16:15 Coffee Break

16:15-17:45 Film History and Digital Humanities: Methodological Workshop 2

Sarah-Mai Dang, Philipps-Universität Marburg: ‘Visualizing Research: Reflecting Data-based Methods in Digital Film History’

17:45-18:15 Coffee Break

18:15-19:45 Keynote Lecture

Eric Hoyt, Professor of Media Production and Associate Professor of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison: ‘Global Movie Magazines, Hollywood Pressbooks, and the Data of Media History’

Respondent: Yael Netzer, University of Haifa

Conference Organizers: Dan Chyutin and Yael Mazor | Conference Producer: Alon Judkovsky

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