Schlemmer Frame Collection
The Schlemmer Frame Collection is the property of Edith Schlemmer, the former chief archivist of the Austrian Film Museum. Mrs. Schlemmer had received it in the 1960s as a donation from an anonymous collector, and decided to make it available to the Film Museum for purposes of research and publication.
This little treasure is constituted by 2254 frames and fragments of films, mostly silent and mostly from the period between 1910 and 1920, many of which are believed lost. The frames came into the archive in 67 small envelopes - most of them self built with semi-transparent paper. Some envelopes reported imaginary descriptions or titles, like Griechen, containing ancient Roman or Greek subjects, or Wild West, referring to frames extracted from western movies. Other typological groups were entitled Kinderaufnahmen (a series of images of children) or Farbaufnahmen (mainly constituted by stencil-colored frames). Some frames were grouped with the name of a lead actor or actress. Finally, 10 envelopes carried the (approximate) Austrian distribution title of the film in question. More than 50% of the nitrate frames were preserved in envelopes without any data, in a system that, at a first analysis, could only be characterized as casual or chaotic.
The Schlemmer Collection has now been digitized and ordered, with the aim of identifying and cataloging the individual items as well as preserving the original order. At present, 35% of the collection have been identified. The process of research and identification is ongoing and will presumably continue for several years. As a parallel endeavour, a visual database of these beautiful images has been created and can be accessed here (see Identified Films and Unidentified Films).
Although many film archives are in possession of these types of collections, it is the first time that one of them receives such detailed attention from researchers. The aim of the Austrian Film Museum is to make these images accessible to the larger public, to enable everyone to enjoy the colors and photography of early cinema, to constitute a historical resource for archivists and researchers, and to enlarge the debate about open archives and "orphan" collections held in those archives.