Gaumont-Pathé Archives

Located in the north of Paris, these archives contain many early short films, mostly of reportage but also of ethnographic interest, though many remain to be fully identified and catalogued.

It is possible to view at least some of these films on-line by registering and establishing a password, but films may also be viewed at the archives themselves.

To access the site, click here


Musée Albert-Kahn

This museum was created to house the Archives de la planète, a collection of films and photographs assembled and mostly commissioned by the philanthropic banker Albert Kahn between 1912 and 1933. It is located in the grounds of his former mansion at Boulogne in southwest Paris, where he also developed a series of gardens, each dedicated to a particular national tradition. One of the most elaborate of these is the Japanese garden (see above).

The great majority of the films in the Musée Albert-Kahn are films of documentation, often taken from a single static vantage point using a wide-angle lens. The aim of the archive was to create a record of cultural phenomena around the world rather than provide the wherewithal for editable films with complex narratives. However, it does contain a number of gems, including the six hours of material shot in 1930 in Dahomey (today Bénin), much of it on vodoun religious ceremonies.

The filmic records in the archive were not intended for popular consumption, but for screening to elite audiences of the ‘opinion-formers’ of those days – leading politicians, academics, scientists, military figures, religious leaders. Kahn’s hope was that by exposing such influential figures to examples of cultural difference, he could promote the cause of world peace and understanding.

For a modest fee, most of its film collection is normally viewable on-line at the museum itself at Boulogne. However, it is currently closed and undergoing restoration, though it is due to re-open in March 2018.

Further details here.

CNC (Centre national du cinéma)

This has a large collection of early films of ethnographic interest, many of which have been digitized. The latter can be viewed for a modest fee at the Bibliothèque nationale François Mitterand (BnF) in central Paris, as well as at various points elsewhere in France.

Films that have not been digitized have to be viewed at the central film archive, located in a disused fort at Bois d’Arcy, close to Versailles and a 30-minute train ride from central Paris.

There is an on-line catalogue that can be consulted beforehand here.

© 2018 Paul Henley