In the early decades of film history, film was neither appreciated as an art form nor as a significant document; thus, little attention was paid to its preservation. Film was just another piece of merchandise, a consumer product which was customarily thrown away or recycled after its first use in the cinema. Even Thomas Alva Edison called his own creation a "useless invention".
Those works which weren't immediately destroyed usually met with a dire fate sooner or later. Early celluloid (so-called "nitrate film") is highly inflammable and, if not stored at cool temperatures and carefully regulated humidity levels, it decays and eventually literally crumbles to dust. This explains why many films from the 1890s to the 1940s (and even later) have survived only in fragmentary form. Working closely with historians from various fields, the Film Museum endeavours to identify such films and to search for additional materials throughout the world.
The resulting knowledge has benefited both academic projects (dissertations, book and DVD publications) and film or television productions (such as historical documentaries) or museum exhibitions. Last but not least, the results of such research add to our ongoing presentation and educational programmes.
Research in the collections of the Film Museum is possible for scientific, artistic and commercial purposes. Since the 1960s, many scholars, artists and filmmakers, as well as commercial media enterprises have been using the material of the museum in varied ways.
Requests for information on the film collection (film searches, viewing options) for research purposes should be directed to
Requests for information on the ephemeral paper and documents collection for research purposes should be directed to
Requests for information on the stills collection for research purposes should be directed to
Requests for information on the commercial use of film (related) materials to