Responding to the theme of this conference, my lecture asks why an attention to sound and aurality is crucial for the broader project of film and media history. Taking up the specific question of sound archiving, I will argue, offers new pathways for revis ing our historical understanding of how media, such as film, came to be valued, stored and preserved. Starting from the 1900s, sound archives were identified as an ideal model for early advocates of cinema, who called for the establishment of centralized institutions dedicated to film preservation. Yet until now, sound archiving has remained a rather - neglected field, which would also benefit from a comparative understanding of media archival practice and further exchange with the established field of Film Preservation Studies.
What can we learn from these entangled media histories? How can sound archival histories expand the agenda of film and media history? And how can the study of archival collections sharpen our understanding of past creative practices a nd production settings? Drawing from recent research with European cases, I will outline the necessity for fleshing out cross- medial and comparative approaches to media archival history. At the same time, it is imperative to “provincialize” the European archives under discussion here, take stock of their position within global, often imperialist, media systems, and engage with calls to “decolonize” the archive and its modes of knowledge production
Carolyn Birdsall is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her publications include Nazi Soundscapes (2012), Doing Memory Research (with D. Drozdzewski, 2018) and “Listening to the Archives: Sound Data in the Humanities and Sciences” (2019, with V. Tkaczyk). Since 2019, she is the principal investigator of a five year project, TRACE (Tracking Radio Archival Collections in Europe, 1930- 1960), which is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.