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The Past Is a Moving PicturePreserving the Twentieth Century on Film$
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Janna Jones

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813041926

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813041926.001.0001

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What to Show the World

What to Show the World

(p.25) 1 What to Show the World
The Past Is a Moving Picture

Janna Jones

University Press of Florida

During the 1920s through the 1940s, leaders in the film industry and some of the country's most powerful cultural institutions recognized cinema's potential as a nationalistic tool for boosting the United States' cultural and political identity. This chapter argues that the origins of the film archive were guided by historicism's impulses. During this time, film archiving was primarily defined by the institutional attempts of the Library of Congress, the National Archives and the Museum of Modern Art to build national film collections for the purpose of enhancing the reputation of the United States to both its own citizens and to the rest of the world. The various attempts at creating national film collections during the first wave of the archive were not entirely successful but they did create both the public awareness and a new rhetoric to help save the country's early cinema. While the nationalistic undercurrent of the archive's first generation eventually faded, the first wave's collecting and rhetorical contributions helped to build the foundation for the contemporary United States film archive.

Keywords:   Nationalism, Museum of Modern Art, National Archives, Film archive, Film collecting, Cultural identity, Political identity

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