MEP Contribution to Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathé Archive

Thanks much to Stéphanie Salmon at Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathé for utilizing historic archival data that MEP helped to rescue.  Proud to have played a role in this important film history data recovery and implementation, a process that began at the DOMITOR conference in 2014.

The data recovered is the work of Paul Spehr and the his late wife Susan Dalton, legendary figures in the film archive world.  The rescued information includes significant details about Pathé’s pre-1914 film releases, the period when it was arguably the most prominent and powerful motion picture studio in the world.

Special thanks to Dan Rockmore and The Neukom Institute for their support, and especially Mark Boettcher and Bennett Vance for cracking two locked hard drives and performing the data rescue.  We are at work to make a fuller set of the rescued data available as a public resource.

Here is Paul’s detailed memo about the data, its rescue, and its implementation:

From: Paul C Spehr
Date: Sat, May 21, 2016

I’m pleased to let you know that data from Susan Dalton’s records of Pathe’s pre-1914 film entries have now been put online by Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathe. Stephanie Salmon, curator of historic collections for the Fondation sent an email to Mark Williams and myself yesterday to let us know that all but a few of the entries had been entered into their filmography. Susan and her staff at the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, AFI spent a great deal of time trying to identify silent films that they acquired for the American Archives so they created files that centralized the information they needed. Collections they acquired often had Pathe productions but with English, French, Dutch or other titles. Determining the uniqueness of the film could be a problem. The solution was to go to the published filmographies prepared by Henri Bousquet. But these had the original release title, not the title used for release in the U. S., U. K. or elsewhere. The solution was to create a computer entries from Bousquet’s filmographies and add the additional titles, as available.

A few months before her death Susan had contacted Ms. Salmon and asked if she was interested in the copy of this file that Susan had. They were to meet in Pordenone in 2013 but Susan’s arrival was delayed and they couldn’t meet. The following October I mentioned this to Sabine Link who thought Ms. Salmon would still be interested. She was so I sent Susan’s file to Sabine who passed it on to Ms. Salmon. Last Summer the Fondation used an intern to begin entering Susan’s data. By this time Mark Williams and the computer staff at Dartmouth had become involved. They had transferred all of the data files on Susan’s computer (she had worked with Quadra’s Star system) and Mark was studying the files to see how they would fit with the Media Ecology Project. In Pordenone last October Mark and I met with Ms. Salmon, Sabine, Frank Kessler and Celine Ruivo Collections Director, Cinematheque Francaise to discuss the Pathe data. It was a very successful meeting as it put Mark in contact with Ms. Salmon and, I believe, encouraged the Fondation to continue the project. Mark and Ms. Salmon have had information exchanges and Susan’s data is now accessible through the Fondation’s website.

I haven’t done a great deal of searching in the Fondation’s filmographic file, but the tests that I have done confirm that the data is accessible and the Fondation’s website is an online resource of great value to historians interested in early cinema.

In a related matter, Derek Long and Eric Hoyt, U. of Wisconsin and Media History Digital Library have had the data file which I prepared from Einar Lauritzen and Gunnar Lundquist’s American Film Index, 1908-1915 and 1916-1920 and have now massaged the data into a trial format. So the filmographic information for some 32,000 American productions are now online in a database called ECHO for Early Cinema History Online. Their interest in the Lauritzen files also resulted in a couple of academic papers.

This is progress, and it all began at Domitor 2014.

Best

Paul