The Founding of Film in Museums

How to Cite

Moriarty, P. (2024). The Founding of Film in Museums: The Influence of Museum Philosophy on the Creation of Their First Film Libraries and Archives. International Journal of Librarianship, 9(2), 4–16.
Received 2023-11-30
Accepted 2024-04-08
Published 2024-06-20


In 1935, Librarian John E. Abbott of the Museum of Modern Art wrote this of the contemporary status of film preservation: “the situation is as though there existed a great interest in painting on the part of the public, but that almost no painting were ever exhibited save those executed within the previous twelve months.” In the early twentieth century, film collections were not sought after by museums, because the relevance of film to museum mandates had not yet been defined. In this paper, we refer to the creation of some of the first museum film libraries and archives, in order to examine the effort of their establishment within a museum, and the philosophical challenges and appeals that must be addressed when these mediums meet, in the interplay between archival and museological theory. We shall briefly review the beginning of film museums, and then discuss where the nature and priorities of museums most affected these pioneering film libraries and archives. These influences manifest in the rationale of why films should be collected, in the details of what should be acquired, and in the practical and philosophical challenges that are not commonly found in other information institutions, but are characteristic of museum work.


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