Moving Image Institute, Entry 4

For decades, the great visionary of film preservation and exhibition, Henri Langlois, dreamed of building a museum of the cinema despite exorbitant costs and dwindling resources, so he obsessively collected scripts, props, costumes, models, art work, and defunct equipment in the hopes of providing a space to honor the hallowed detritus of film production. He’d be thrilled that many archives and museums exist today, including the Museum of the Moving Image (dedicated to film, TV, and digital media), which is currently doubling in size and set for a major reopening in 2009. The expanded museum will include a 242-monitor installation, a garden and cafe, a 264-seat theater with orchestra pit (for silent films), a screening room for educational programs, a video art ampitheater, and much more. (Click on the link for design renderings.)

The Museum was founded by Rochelle Slovin in 1981 and moved into its present location in 1988, fostering two different audiences for its many treasures: family and student visitors for its interactive exhibits and installations (like Gregory Barsamian’s amazing “Feral Fount”) and artifacts (including rare industrial age projectors that are still operational), and cinephiles seeking rare and groundbreaking retrospectives on figures such as Jerry Lewis (’88), Ken Jacobs (’89), David Cronenberg (’92), and modern horror (2007). The chief curator of the film programs is David Schwartz, who received a rare National Society of Film Critics award last year for organizing the first complete Jacques Rivette retrospective (including the 13-hour Out 1) in the US.

The Museum also has significant resources online, including its Pinewood Dialogues, which offers MP3 recordings and transcripts of 68 notable filmmakers, critics, and celebrities.

One of the Museum’s most exciting projects, however, is set to launch June 3 (with a press conference in the lobby of the New York Times): The Moving Image Source, an intended hub for online cinephilia supervised by Dennis Lim, which will include coverage of worldwide retrospectives and archival screenings, publish original writing that coincides with exhibitions in the news, and much more. Lim says they’ve amassed 300-400 online resources for a research database that will be available to the site’s visitors. Bookmark it now…

I can attest to the comprehensive nature and high quality of the Musuem’s exhibitions, which are currently closed for the renovation, and to the knowledge and friendliness of the staff. The Moving Image Institute was a relaxed but fully engaged event that grappled with the rise of the Internet and the future direction of the film-critical industry, and it was a pleasure to attend.

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