History of the archive
The Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute is one of the oldest film archives in the world, as it originates from Svenska Filmsamfundet (The Swedish Film Society) founded in October, 1933. The collections of the Svenska Filmsamfundet gained an independent status in 1940, and was renamed Filmhistoriska samlingarna (The Film Historic Collections). The collections were held at Tekniska museet (The National Museum of Science and Technology) in Stockholm. The Film Historic Collections became a member of the international federation of film archives, FIAF, in 1946. The collections were donated to the then newly-established Swedish Film Institute in 1964.
An article on the history of the archive (pdf) was published in Journal of Film Preservation commemorating the 75th anniversary in 2008.
History in brief
The Swedish Film Society is founded on October 31st, 1933. The original members of the society’s working commission were Bengt Idestam-Almquist, Arne Bornebusch, Gustaf Molander, Per-Axel Branner, E W Olson, Nils Beyer and Ragnar Allberg. Other members of the society included writers Eyvind Johnson and Artur Lundkvist.
A commission for the creation of a film museum is appointed and includes Vilhelm Bryde, Gotthard Johansson, Per-Axel Branner, Gustaf Berg and Julius Jaenzon. The collecting of non-film material begins immediately.
The Swedish Film Society acquires facilities at the National Museum of Science and Technology.
The society’s collections get an independent status and is renamed The Film Historic Collections. Einar Lauritzen is the first curator.
The Film Historic Collections becomes a member of the international federation of film archives, FIAF. The commercial film industry in Sweden begins to give annual financial support to The Film Historic Collections on the initiative of Carl-Anders Dymling, managing director of the major production company Svensk Filmindustri.
The Film Historic Collections becomes an independent foundation, with the Swedish Film Society as one of the founders. The mission of the society itself is from now on restricted to the organising of screenings, lectures and debates. (The Swedish Film Society is re-organised into Svenska Filmakademin (The Swedish Film Academy) in 1967, with Gösta Werner being the academy’s first president.
The Film Historic Collections hosts the FIAF congress.
An agreement is reached between the Film Historic Collections and the Swedish Film Institute, and the entire collection is donated to the Institute on March 16th, 1964. The facilities remain at the National Museum of Science and Technology. The collections are integrated with the Documentation department of the Swedish Film Institute, established in 1963. The collections are then divided into three units, the clippings archive, the archival film collections (which begin to organize regular screenings) and the documentation department.
The project of duplicating Swedish feature films from the nitrate era (1897-1953) is launched. 29 feature films are duplicated in the first year.
The Archival Film Collections begins to acquire classics of Soviet cinema, thanks to an agreement with Gosfilmofond in Moscow. The design of the institute’s new facilities is completed. The archival screenings become a separate department of the institute.
The Archival Film Collections continue to grow, and the proper cataloguing of the collections is started. The collections hold some 1000 titles. New staff is hired in order to increase the number of duplications of nitrate films.
48 nitrate features are duplicated, among them 18 from the silent era. An out-of-use ammunitions depot in Glasberga is rented in order to house the increasing number of acquired nitrate elements.
A cost-sharing agreement with the national broadcasting corporation Sveriges Radio is reached on the duplication of films produced by AB Wivefilm.
The new facilities at Filmhuset are ready to take into use in October 1970. The Archival Film Collections get its first cold storage vault which holds a temperature of -5ºC and a relative humidity of 35%.
An inventory of existing elements to Nordic feature films from the nitrate era is made, as well as a preservation plan, in order to apply for common funding from the Nordic Council. The application is rejected, but the preservation plan for the Swedish material has since been the guide for the duplication carried out by the archive.
Ten previously thought lost films are found by the Archival Film Collections. 14 silent films and 53 sound features from the nitrate era are duplicated onto safety stock.
Computer processing of the holdings catalogue is initiated.
The catalogue is transferred to microfiche using OCR-technology. The catalogue now includes approximately 75% of the estimated holdings.
The Swedish Film Institute acquires the Hollywood film laboratory in Rotebro.
Common regulations on voluntary deposit are established by the Swedish Film Institute and Föreningen Sveriges Filmproducenter (The Swedish Association of Film Producers).
The Film Institute becomes part-owner to the Film-Labor laboratory.
Government funding for restoration and duplication is withdrawn.
The facilities in Rotebro are extended and up-graded. The new facilities include new cold storage vaults, with a capacity of holding 10 000 films. The larger part of the vault is reserved for original elements to Swedish post-1953 films, and preservation elements to Swedish pre-1953 films.
A group of experts found the Colour Film Preservation Group in order to solve the problem of the increased number of faded films shot on colour stock in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.
The previously thought lost Havsgamar (1916) by Victor Sjöström is discovered in the Joye collection at the National Film Archive in London.
The Archival Film Collections hosts a meeting of FIAF’s Cataloguing Commission.
The archive holdings now include more than 8000 titles.
Thanks to a grant from the National Bank of Sweden the project of making an inventory and catalogue short and non-fiction films from the nitrate era gets under way.
Deposit of preservation elements by contractual obligation by producers to new Swedish films is launched. The regulations are based on advice from the Colour Film Preservation Group.
28 non-fiction nitrate shorts are restored and duplicated thanks to additional, external funding from Arkivet för Ljud och Bild (The National Archive for Recorded Sound and Moving Images) and Industriförbundet (The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise).
The Swedish Film Institute hosts the FIAF Congress, the most well-attended congress ever with more than 240 delegates.
The FICA-treatment of films, a preservation method developed by Colour Film Preservation Group, is taken into use at Rotebro. All new inter-positives are preserved using the FICA method.
The Swedish Film Institute becomes the sole owner of the Film-Labor laboratory.
The first Swedish colour feature Klockorna i Gamla Sta’n (1946) – a cinemacolor two-strip process – is restored.
The Swedish Film Institute begins its co-operation to establish a national film archive in Bangkok.
In collaboration with Cinematheque française a record number of 151 Swedish films are screened in Paris; the biggest-ever manifestation of Swedish cinema heritage abroad.
Swedish pre-1918 silent films are screened at Le Giornate del cinema Muto in Pordenone. The films directed by Georg af Klercker is seen as a major re-discovery.
The lost Mauritz Stiller film Vingarne (1916) resurfaces in Norway.
The work of establishing the film archive in Bangkok continues. An inventory of existing elements (at the archive and elsewhere) to all Swedish post-1950 films begins.
The Archival Film Collections is for the first time encountered with a print affected by the vinegar syndrome.
The Film-Labor laboratory is sold and merged with the Film-Teknik laboratory.
The collections now include 12 600 titles, and existing vaults in Filmhuset and Rotebro are full. Plans for an extension of the Rotebro facilities are made. The Archival Film Collections presents its work at a one-day seminar held at the Göteborg Film Festival.
A project to create a database is launched.
More than 3 000 Swedish non-fiction and short films from the nitrate era have been catalogued.
The building of a new vault in Rotebro, with a capacity of holding more than 13 000 prints of feature-length films, is finished.
The prototype of the database is ready to take into use, and the microfiche catalogue of the holdings is scrapped.
Preservation officer Inga Adolfsson receives the annual Ingmar Bergman award.
Sista skriket (“The Last Cry”) – a play by Ingmar Bergman – is premiered in Bio Victor in Filmhuset with Björn Granath playing Georg af Klercker and Ingvar Kjellson playing Charles Magnusson. The future income from the play is donated to the Archival Film Collections by Bergman.
The database proper is launched. Information on all films released in Swedish theatres is entered in the database, as well as the actual holdings of the Archival Film Collections and the Stills and Poster archive.
Tests are made in order to see if it is possible to restore the severely faded Ingen mans kvinna (1953). The results are disappointing. Two films are duplicated where digital means are used to restore the sound.
A lengthy fragment of the lost Mauritz Stiller film Balettprimadonnan (1916) resurfaces in Zaragoza, Spain.
Additional funding of SEK 12,5 million is granted by parliament to the Swedish Film Institute for the preservation of Swedish feature films shot on colour stock 1952-1979.
Hemsöborna (1955), Änglar, finns dom? (1961) and En kärlekshistoria (1970) are among the first films preserved with the new, additional funding. New inter-positives and new viewing prints are made from the film’s original negatives. Some of the funding is used to acquire equipment for using digital inter-mediate means in the duplication process.
Production company Sandrew AB deposits original negatives to all films made 1953-1969 with the archive.
Lobbying with the ministry of culture for funding to collect and preserve non-professional films on small gauges is initiated.
The cataloguing of the back-log of viewing prints in the collection is completed. The duplication of all existing feature films from the nitrate era is completed.
Eight colour feature-length films are duplicated and preserved.
The digital restoration of Eldfågeln (1952) begins.
A print of the previously lost Värmlänningarne (1921) is acquired from Gosfilmofond in Moscow.
The restoration of En djungelsaga (1957) is completed and is screened to great acclaim at the Göteborg Film Festival.
A gala screening of the preserved Giliap (1975) in Filmhuset is attended by the Minister of Culture.
The new film agreement between the government and the commercial industry grants an additional SEK 5 million to the preservation of colour films.
New vaults with automated paster noster-shelves are built in Rotebro, with a capacity of housing 4 000 viewing prints.
The preservation of original negatives to the Swedish items in the Paramount news-reels (1925-33) begins.
A large number of prints of Vietnamese films are repatriated to the Vietnam Film Institute in Hanoi.
The digital restoration of Eldfågeln (1952) is completed.
A retrospective of all surviving films directed by Mauritz Stiller is screened at Cinemateket, including many new prints. The newly-restored Herr Arnes pengar (1919) is screened three times accompanied by a live score for an ensemble of six musicians composed by Matti Bye. The retrospective goes on tour and is screened at FIAF archives around Europe, North and South America.
The government assigns the task of establishing a new archive for non-professional films on small gauges to the Swedish Film Institute. Staff is hired to the new archive, which will become an integrated part of the Institute’s heritage department.
Plans for a new vault for nitrate films in Grängesberg are adopted.
A bilateral exchange programme with the Vietnam Film Institute is launched.
Cinémathèque Française in Paris announces that a lengthy fragment of Dödskyssen (1916) by Victor Sjöström is preserved in Paris. The element is lent to Stockholm, where the restoration is completed in June.
The FIAF congress is for the first time ever co-hosted by two archives, the Swedish Film Institute and Suomen elokuva-arkisto in Helsinki. The symposium on the preservation of colour films is held in Stockholm, where Ingmar Bergman receives the FIAF Award. Head of department Jan-Erik Billinger is elected onto the FIAF’s executive committee.
A tinted nitrate print of the lost Mauritz Stiller film Hämnaren (1915) is discovered by Stiftung Deutsches Kinemathek in their nitrate vaults in Koblenz. The nitrate is given to the Archival Film Collections who completes the restoration of the film in June.
Hämnaren (1915)and Dödskyssen (1916) are screened at Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna together with other rare Stiller and Sjöström films. Sjöström’s Körkarlen (1921) is screened at the Piazza Maggiore during the festival accompanied by composer Matti Bye and his ensemble.
Via the Swedish foreign ministry the Archival Film Collections receives a collection of some 240 films from the United Nations relating to Dag Hammarskjöld’s time as General Secretary 1953-61. The collection is transferred to DigiBeta for research purposes at the National Library of Sweden.
A Victor Sjöström retrospective including all surviving films by the director is screened at Cinemateket in October. Many films are screened in new prints. The retrospective is later in the year screened in Helsinki.
All filmographic information on Swedish films in the Institute’s database is made available on-line at www.svenskfilmdatabas.se
The collections now include elements to more than 20 000 films.
Head of department Jan-Erik Billinger presents the exchange programme on film archiving with the Vietnam Film Institute during the FIAF congress in Hanoi.
The Archival Film Collections curates a programme of rarely seen Ingmar Bergman material – including trailers, alternative versions and behind-the-scenes footage – at Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna.
All identified nitrate elements in the collections are retroactively catalogued and entered into the database.
The Victor Sjöström retrospective goes on tour and is screened at FIAF archives in New York, Berkeley, Montréal, Toronto, London, Munich, Lisbon and Madrid.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Greta Garbo’s birth new prints of her Swedish films (including shorts and fragments) are struck which later in the year are screened at Cinemateket, at Göteborg Film Festival and at FIAF archives in London, New York, Los Angeles and Lisbon.
Einar Lauritzen dies on June 8th at the age of 92. Lauritzen was the curator of the Film Historic Collections, and also served as the treasurer of FIAF for many years.
Jan-Erik Billinger is elected vice-president of FIAF at the congress in Ljubljana.
A tinted nitrate print of Victor Sjöström’s Terje Vigen (1917) with German inter-titles are re-discovered in the collections, and is the source for a new restoration of the film.
The touring Victor Sjöström retrospective ends with screenings at FIAF archives in Barcelona, Valencia and São Paulo, where the screenings are co-hosted by the São Paulo International Film Festival. The festival’s critics’ jury gives the retrospective a special award.
At the Göteborg International Film Festival newly-restored prints of Terje Vigen (1917) and Expedition Röda Havet (1956) are screened, as is a curated programme with non-fiction shorts shot in the Göteborg area.
New prints of Terje Vigen (1917) and Erotikon (1920) are screened at Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna with live music accompaniment by composer Matti Bye and his ensemble.
The new nitrate vault in Grängesberg is ready to take in use.
Cinémathèque Française in Paris informs that they have found the original camera negative to one of the first-ever Swedish features, I lifvets vår (1912), starring Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller and Georg af Klercker.
Filmographic information to all films (also non-Swedish) in the database is made available on-line at www.svenskfilmdatabas.se, now holding information on more than 60 000 films and 300 000 people.
A tinted nitrate print with French inter-titles of the lost Mauritz Stiller film Madame de Thèbes (1915) is accessed by the Archival Film Collections, and the restoration of the film is completed in April. The film is screened later in the year at Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna.
New prints of Norrtullsligan (1922) and Reklamfilm PUB Greta Garbo (1921) are screened in the retrospective City Girls at the Berlin Film Festival.
A collection of more than 5 500 reels of nitrate – mainly negatives to Swedish news-reels – are repatriated from the George Eastman House and archived at the vaults in Grängesberg.
A written collection policy is adopted by the Swedish Film Institute’s board of directors and is posted on the Institute’s website.
In collaboration with copyright holder Svensk Filmindustri a dvd box set of Swedish silent cinema classics is released in November. The edition includes restored versions of Körkarlen (1921), Häxan (1922), Herr Arnes pengar (1919), Erotikon (1920), Terje Vigen (1917) and Gösta Berlings saga (1924), as well as a bonus features including shorts, fragments and stills.
The restoration of I lifvets vår (1912) is completed, and screened at Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna, along with the recently discovered and preserved Mary Pickford film The Dawn of a Tomorrow (1915). The dvd box set of Swedish silent cinema classics is given a special mention at the festival’s dvd awards.
The 75th anniversary of the archive and the library collections was celebrated during a week in late October and early November with a screenings of preserved and restored films from our own collections and from other archives, introductions by film-makers, scholars and archivists and round-table discussions on the future of film preservation
The Women and the Silent Screen V conference is organized by the Department of Cinema Studies of Stockholm University at the premises of the Film institute. Among films screened during the conference are new restored prints of Flickan i frack (Karin Swanström, 1926) and the Mary Pickford film Dawn of a Tomorrow (1915).
25 silent films from the collections are screened in a tribute to Swedish silent cinema at the Österreichisches Filmmuseum in Vienna in November. Erotikon (1920), Körkarlen (1921) and Häxan (1922) are accompanied by live music composed and performed by the Matti Bye ensemble.
41 swedish silent films from the collections are screened at Cinémathèque Royale in Brussels in September. Gur recently preserved films are included in the Dave and Project preservation festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in November.
The restoration of the long lost Karusellen (1925) is completed thanks to an element preserved and rediscovered at Gosfilmofond In Moscow. A new print of the film is screened at Le giornate del cinema muto in Pordenone in October. The preservation of Swedish engineer Sven A:son Berglund’s 1922 sound-on-film experiment is completed.
The Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute is in focus during the 4th edition of Cinemateca Brasileira’s Jornada Brasileira do Cinema Silencioso in São Paulo in August. 27 films are screened, the work of the archive is presented in round-tables and lectures. The screenings are accompanied by an exhibition of digital copies of stills originating from the collections of glass plates in the SFI Stills and Poster Archive.
The dvd anthology Filmens första år (“The first years of cinema”) with more than 40 shorts and excerpts from feature films – Swedish and international – from 1895 to 1929 is completed and used in school curriculums throughout Sweden.
A project to digitize 400 Swedish films only existing on video tape is initiated in December.
The Film Archive in Grängesberg – responsible for the preservation of non-theatrical films on small gauges – is moved from the Swedish Film Institute to the National Library of Sweden.
The minister of culture inaugurates www.filmarkivet.se, a collaboration between the Swedish Film Institute and the National Library of Sweden, where films from the collections are made available free of charge as streaming files. Films posted on the site are mainly films rarely given access to, such as short and documentary films, newsreels, advertising films and other forms of commissioned films. At the launch 319 films were available /65% originating from the Archival Film Collections and 35% from the collections of the National Library of Sweden). A two-day academic conference about the site and internet access is held at Filmhuset in December.
The retrospective section of the 2011 Internationale Filmfestspiele in Berlin is devoted to Ingmar Bergman, with 13 prints coming from the Archival Film Collections. Coinciding with the retrospective was an exhibition on Bergman, curated by the Deutsche Kinemathek, Museum für Film und Fernsehen. Many items in the exhibition were provided by the Swedish Film Institute’s non-film collection, including costumes, stills, letters and manuscripts.
New vaults at the Institute’s facilities in Rotebro are ready to take into use. The new vaults are necessary to accommodate for the increasing number of deposits of distribution prints.
The last full-scale photochemical laboratory in Sweden, Nordisk Film Post Production Stockholm, closes down in September. In December the Institute decides to acquire equipment and staff from the folding laboratory to set up up our own operation in order to secure the possibility of having necessary duplication activities carried out.
The restoration of the previously thought lost Gränsfolken (Stiller, 1913) –unearthed in a church in Poland – is completed and the film is shown at Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna in July and in Stockholm on October 27, the UNESCO World Day for the Audiovisual Heritage.
The new laboratory in Rotebro is up and running, and the first print is developed in June.
The first D-cinema elements arrive at the archive when a DCDM (Digital Cinema Distribution Master) and an unencrypted DCP (Digital Cinema Package) is deposited by contractual obligation. Before the end of the year 42 digital elements to 26 new Swedish films are deposited.
The first DCP from our analogue collections (Midvinterblot, 1946) is made in December, originating from a 2K scan of a 35mm inter-positive.
The contractual deposit of analogue preservation elements comes to a complete halt, and all elements on new Swedish films arrives to the archive in the form of digital files, according to detailed specifications revised in 2012. Long-term digital preservation in the form of robotized tape libraries are put in place.
The digitization of the analogue film heritage is initiated and digital masters and digital theatrical copies (DCPs) are created on 18 films in the collections. A seminar on the importance and urgency of digitizing analogue film heritage is organized in April, with experts from the European film archive federation ACE and the commission of the European Union. In September, the government announces that an additional SEK 40 million is allocated to the Swedish Film Institute to digitize 500 films during the period 2014-18.
At this year’s edition of Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna a new print of Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru / The Outlaw and His wife (1918) is screened. The Swedish Film Institute had commissioned a score from composer Matti Bye, who performs the music with his ensemble at a screening on the Piazza Maggiore in front of almost 2,000 spectators. A print of Ingeborg Holm (1913) is also screened at the festival, again with live music performed by Matti Bye.
A highly appreciated programme called Sealed Lips, with nine lesser known Swedish films from the latter half of the 1920s, was curated and presented at Le Giornate del cinema muto in Pordenone in October.
The annual archival weekend Länge leve filmen! ("Long live film!") takes place in October, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Swedish Film Institute. Among the films screened are new preservations on 35mm, as well as some of the first DCP's created within the frame of the Institute's digitization project.
At the FIAF congress in Barcelona in April, curator Jon Wengström is elected on the Executive Committee, and later in the year appointed Treasurer.
The Film Institute decides to use the additional digitization funding to set up its own digitization operation. Nine people are hired to work with preparation, scanning, grading, image and sound restoration, synching and archiving, and new facilities are built in Filmhuset. A curatorial policy is adopted to ensure the work is done according to best practice, and a policy for the work of the selection committee is also adopted.
In October the Film Institute hosted the annual Nordic archive meeting , which was devoted to issues on programming, digitization and access, database structures and national filmographies. The Film Institute also hosted the annual fall meeting of the FIAF Executive Committee.
The digitally restored Joe Hill (Bo Widerberg, 1971) is premiered at Cannes Classics in May.
The centenary of Ingrid Bergman’s birth is commemorated with a special section at the Il cinema ritrovato festival in Bologna, and by numerous retrospectives all over the world, for instance in Paris and Munich.
The centenary of actor-director Hasse Ekman’s birth is highlighted by a retrospective at MoMA in New York in September.
Published 21 August 2015