Two videos have turned up online this week which take us on tours of two enterprising small cinema museums.
This video from Swissinfo.ch reports on the Lichtspiel cinema in Bern, Switzerland, which also operates as an archive and museum. The interviewee is the cinema’s director, David Landorf, who describes the thrill of opening any film can, champions the simplicity of cinema technology, and shows us such treasures as a Scopitone (a sort of video jukebox), a Mutoscope and a cine fader (you stuck it on front of a camera lens and opened or closed it for automatic fades).
Secondly, The Guardian has produced a behind-the-scenes look at the Cinema Museum in London, based around an interview with its founder Ronald Grant, taking him from his days selling film stills in Portobello Road to guardian of a precious collection of Britain’s cinema heritage, still seeking a secure home. There’s a great selection of photographs of Ronald in years past sporting a fine assortment of hairstyles.
There’s a palpable sense in both videos of cinemas as living things, of something that dies when a cinema closes down. Out of this comes the essential, life-giving task for these museums of maintaining not just the artefacts but the memory of the cinema as something central to twentieth-century lives. Cinema museums must be about people more than they are about projectors.