About this Campaign

On 11 November 2014, the filmmaker, emeritus professor of the Offenbach University of Art and Design, and historian of film and film technology Helmut Herbst published in the trade magazine «Kameramann» his essay «Who's Afraid of Vinegar Syndrome?» His leading sentence reads: «If politicians should continue to ignore the rampant chemical deterioration of our film heritage, then we should anticipate the lost of most films in the years to come.»

Many readers understood Herbst's article as an alert, and it motivated film historians Jeanpaul Goergen and Klaus Kreimeier to turn toward a broader public with the «Film Heritage in Danger» campaign.

Together with Herbst and on the basis of his article, they wrote a call to cultural producers, academics and journalists, which was submitted at the end of November as a petition to the German Bundestag and, at the same time, addressed to the Minister of Culture and Media and published on the Internet platform change.org.

By the end of the initial signing period on 13 January 2014, the petition to the German Bundestag had 419 signatures. On change.org our petition from November 2013 to November 2014 has been signed by over 5,500 people.

With the Internet site «Film Heritage in Danger», the initiators wish to

  • raise awareness about the acute crisis in our film archives and persuade policy makers in federal and state governments to take a much more active role than before in the permanent preservation of our threatened film heritage. To preserve over a century of film history, both via conventional means as well as with the new possibilities of digitization, the necessary financial resources and sufficiently qualified personnel must be provided.
  • point out that only the digitization of this film heritage ensures its visibility in cinemas that have been upgraded to new technology. A comprehensive digitization will facilitate access to the historical film material and will encourage participation in this cultural heritage.
  • convey on this webpage information, materials and suggestions regarding the professional debate among archivists, curators, film technicians, filmmakers, and academics about their experiences and problems with film archival and digitization.

Digitization is not the panacea that, with one dose, will be able to solve the problems of the natural decomposition of film material and the access to the historical film heritage. The best possible archival and backup of the analog material is still necessary. Yet digitization is the most advanced technological process we have at this time to keep the analog-produced films for the general public of the future under the current conditions of media change.

Storing our cultural heritage is a complex process that at present is only being discussed and controlled by experts. This specialist debate requires a larger public because: «Never has it been so simple to radically wipe out a significant part of our culture over a few decades. You only have to see nothing, hear nothing, and – as earlier – not speak of it.» (Helmut Herbst)

Translation: Evan Torner

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