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Research Guides

CIN201: Film Cultures 1: Art & Industry

A comprehensive guide to for finding the best primary source materials (1895-1968) for your Cinema Studies assignment.

Slides from 2023 In-Class Library Session

Assignment 2

Develop your skills as a film historian

The goal of this assignment is for you to have the experience of being the investigator and seek connections between primary sources, instead of reading other people's interpretations. Choose a topic or resource format that Interest YOU!

"A primary source is a document that was created at the time of the event or subject

you've chosen to study, or by people who were observers of, or participants in that event or topic."

- E.H. Brown - Writing about History, UofT Writing Advice

Primary Source Requirements

Read through the assignment prompt  provided by your instructor in Quercus and remember these key requirements and contact your TA or librarian for help. Your proposal must feature 3 primary source materials and the final assignment requires 5 primary source materials (minimum). 

Click on the tabs above to learn more: 

  1. Use date ranges to filter shape your search (1895-1968)
  2. Focus on primary source materials that you can access
  3. Limit use of secondary sources  
  4. Remember to cite your sources

 

Select a historical phenomenon that falls within the timeframe of this course (1895-1968) but try filtering by the most relevant date(s).

Your primary source materials must be created during the time period that you are examining. 

Working with Primary Sources

"A primary source is a document that was created at the time of the event or subject you've chosen to study, or by people who were observers of, or participants in that event or topic." - E.H. Brown - Writing about History, UofT Writing Advice

Criteria for your Assignment 

The goal of this assignment is for you to have the experience of being the investigator and seek connections between primary sources, instead of reading other people's interpretations.  If you need help or want to just brainstorm, definitely reach out to the librarian. 

The primary source resources need to meet the following criteria

TIME PERIOD

The materials were created during (or close to the time) you are examining. Pick the most relevant time period (e.g., specific date, phenomena or  a range of time)).

ACCESSBILITY:

You must be able to access primary sources tied to your topic in some form (e.g., digitally, physically, or as reproduction). Use the CIN201 guide to explore collections for inspiration based on TOPICS or PHYSICAL FORMATS.(e.g., articles, photographs, audio or moving images, film reviews, personal or business documents)

EVIDENCE:  

How do the primary source resources connections to your topic? Can they support or disprove your analysis and arguments?

 

Examples of Primary Source Materials 

To find primary sources, remember you need to restrict your search results to materials published close to the time of your film or event. If they are published later, they are secondary sources.   

Business Documents

  • Contracts, Annual Reports, Invoices
  • Memos, letters

Production and Marketing Materials

  • Scripts, Storyboards
  • Press Kits, Film Posters
  • Advertisements, Toys, Lobby Cards

Professional Association Documents

  • MPAA Production Code Administration Files
  • Audience Research Reports 

Personal Documents

  • Letters, Diaries, Scrapbooks, Autographs
  • Interviews, Speeches
  • Memoirs, Autobiographies (written with someone else)
  • Some secondary sources  that contain quotes or reproductions (e.g. diaries, photos, letters, etc.).

Government & Legal Documents

  • Reports, Court Cases
  • Documents in Archival Collections, e.g., J. Edgar Hoover and Radicalism in Hollywood (Media Commons in microfilm or online via Archives Unbound Collections)

Content in Newspapers & Magazines 

  • Newspapers, Trade Magazines, and Fan or Popular Magazines contain articles, original film reviews, photos, advertisements, etc. 

 

Secondary Sources are documents and creative works (images, film, audio) that analyse primary source materials and provide context on the circumstances that surround them. 

REMEMBER: The purpose of this assignment is to apply your own analysis and commentary on the topic or event so it is crucial to avoid the insights made by authors if you decide to use secondary sources.

Instead, use secondary sources to 

  • Identify facts, keywords or citations to help with your search strategies for primary source materials.
  • Find reproductions of primary sources (diaries, letters, photos, advertisements, business documents) and finding the citation information. or your assignment.

 For example, if you are interested in examining a film director or film, secondary sources could contain reproductions documents or objects, like marketing materials or excerpts from personal letters. 

Primary Sources VS Secondary Sources 

To find primary sources, remember to restrict publication date for your search results so you explore materials created or published close to the time of your film or event. 

If the materials are published or created later than the time period being studied, they are secondary sources because they provide analysis of that subject or event and may have access to information and context that was not available at the time.  

  • Articles and reviews published at contemporary time to a film’s release are primary sources and reflect the attitudes and information of that time period. Articles and reviews published later (e.g.  stemming from an anniversary or re-release of a film) are secondary sources
  • Manuals and handbooks published during your select time period are primary sources because they reflect the current practice and policies. Scholarly books or articles addressing how these resources were used in the past or adapted over time are secondary sources and should only be used for fact or access to archival materials. 

Remember Cite your Sources

Carefully review your assignment instructions (available in Quercus) and contact your TAs, instructor, or the Cinema Studies Librarian with questions about identifying a research topic and finding primary source materials. 

For this class, you are expected to use Chicago or MLA Citation Style. Check the CIN201 Quercus for the modules on Writing & Citing with Primary Sources (You & Your Sources). 

 

Keep Track of the Relevant Details for your Citations

Be sure that you know what information needed to cite the types of resource

  • Name of special collection
  • Unique identifiers (e.g., Document ID or episode number)
  • Stable links 
    • Double check that URLs for your citations will work for your TAs and instructor.
    • Look for 'permalinks' and ask for help if you are unsure. 

Search Tips for CIN201 Research Project

Get Started Searching

CIN201 SEARCH TIPS for Film History Essay

Use the buttons on the sides to move through the tips (PDF version is available)

  1. Choose a Topic
  2. Develop Your Research Questions
  3. Where to Look for Primary Source Materials
  4. Keywords for your Searches
  5. Filtering Dates (1895-1968)

Choose a Topic Infographic (readable PDF is available)

Choose a Topic

PDF version, p.2

FIND INSPIRATION / CHOOSE TOPICS

  • Let The Sources Guide You (Primary source materials are your evidence!)
  • What Can You Access? 
  • Choosing Thematic VS Specific Topics 
  • Above all else CHOOSE SOMETHING YOU FIND INTERESTING! 

Infographic of ways to come up with research question with primary sources

Brainstorm Your Research Questions

PDF version, p. 3

IDENTIFY YOUR RESEARCH TOPIC / QUESTION
1. Cover the Ws (Who, What, When and Where questions)
2. What's the significance? (How or Why questions)
3. Creating Your Question 

What Kind of Evidence Do You Need & Can Access? (Primary Source Materials)
 

 

Infographic of Where to Look for Primary Source Materials

Look for Strategically for Primary Source Materials

PDF version, p. 4

WHERE TO LOOK 

  • Get started with CIN201 Research Guide 
  • Research Databases through UofT (newspapers, magazines and more from that time period)
  • Film-Focused Collections (Media History Digital Library, Margaret Herrick Collections, Film Archives)
  • Use Secondary Sources for keywords and images, but focus on your own analysis. 

Identify Keywords for Searches

PDF version, p. 5

KEYWORDS

  • What are they? 
  • Variations of Keywords (Synonyms, slang, language for the time period) 
  • Combining your keywords 

Filter your Results by Dates

PDF version, p.6

FILTER BY DATE #1

  • Remember the date requirements (1895-1968)
  • Look at Smaller Time Ranges 
  • Example of Chronology for Film Production for Selecting Dates

Use the Date Filters in eResources

PDF version, p. 7 

FILTER BY DATE #2 - Use the tools 

  • Filter by Publication Date / Date of Publication
  • ProQuest Database
  • The Lantern (Media History Digital Library)
  • Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections (Oscars)

Finding Primary Source Materials

Explore Special Collections by Theme

On this page, find primary source collections organized by categories: 

  • Different themes (e.g, Stars, Film Industry, Individual Films, Technology, National Cinemas)
  • Types of materials (e.g., Newspapers, Magazines, Marketing Materials, Photographs and Audio, etc.)

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

Search Tips for Specific Databases

See navigation menu on left for more search tips: 

  • ProQuest Platform (Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive and Performing Arts Periodicals Database, newspapers, industry, popular, and fan magazines)
  • Media History Digital Library
  • Internet Archive Platform
  • Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections (Academy of Arts & Sciences - Oscars)
  • Gale Archives Unbound (Production Code Records, FBI files, Cultural and Historical Archives)
  • MPPDA Digital Archive (Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America files from 1922-1939)
  • CineFiles (Berkeley) 
  • Rarebit (online animation research archive) and Animation Kiosk based at Innis College Library 

Dates are Important! 

Use the Date / Year of Publication Filter to Narrow your Results

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1968.

 

Choosing Keywords - Language Matters!

Primary source materials often come in the format of digital copies of printed and writen documents, photographs and artworks, or audiovisual materials. When you submit a keyword search, databases reads the details in the item record (e.g., title, author, format) but it also reads the text displayed on the scanned pages. It's important to use the language that is relevant to that time period and location, but also select language that would be used for different types of audiences.

For example, a contract disputes with a studio would be described in different ways if searching within fan magazines, newspapers, trade / industry magazines, or court transcripts

Build your Search Strategies

Connect Search Terms with Boolean Operators 

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search e.g., Paramount and Hepburn)
  • OR (widens your search e.g., blacklist or communist, MGM or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
  • NOT (exclude results that include this term)
  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases, compound words, or exact searches)
    •  "Wait Until Dark" AND "Audrey Hepburn"
    • "studio system" AND "Warner"  

Use the Language of the Time Period

Remember that searching historical scans of publications you need to use the language that would be most appropriate for that time period. 

 

Think about Format 

Identify Formats that will have the Most Relevant Information for your Research 

Industry / Trade Magazines

Don't forget there are different types of content within newspapers and magazines

  • Articles 
    • Reviews (e.g., films, books, theatre, even restaurants)
    • Opinion pieces - Editorials (opinion pieces by editor of publication), Letters to the Editor (written by the public and the publication prints them)
    • Front Page / Cover Story, Feature Articles 
    • Regular Columns (e.g,. gossip columns, business updates) 
  • Advertisements (often companies or organizations can include text & images)
    • classified ads (posted by individual people seeking buy or find something, promoting their own services or small businesses),
  • Contests or Competitions  
  • Images (e.g., Photos, Artwork, Illustrations, Cartoons)

 

Build your Search Strategies

Connect Search Terms with Boolean Operators 

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search e.g., Paramount and Hepburn)
  • OR (widens your search e.g., blacklist or communist, MGM or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
  • NOT (exclude results that include this term)
  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases, compound words, or exact searches)
    •  "Wait Until Dark" AND "Audrey Hepburn"
    • "studio system" AND "Warner"  

Use the Language of the Time Period

Remember that searching historical scans of publications you need to use the language that would be most appropriate for that time period. 

Break Your Search Results into Chunks

If you end up with huge number of results, choose one theme, format, publication title, or specific date for a smaller pools of results to review. 

 

Narrow to Specific Dates or Date Ranges

Use the Date / Year of Publication Filter to Narrow your Results

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

 

Think about Format 

Identify Formats that will have the Most Relevant Information for your Research 

Newspapers & Magazines

Don't forget there are different types of content within newspapers and magazines

  • Articles 
    • Reviews (e.g., films, books, theatre, even restaurants)
    • Opinion pieces - Editorials (opinion pieces by editor of publication), Letters to the Editor (written by the public and the publication prints them)
    • Front Page / Cover Story, Feature Articles 
    • Regular Columns (e.g,. gossip columns, business updates) 
  • Advertisements (often companies or organizations can include text & images)
    • classified ads (posted by individual people seeking buy or find something, promoting their own services or small businesses),
  • Contests or Competitions  
  • Images (e.g., Photos, Artwork, Illustrations, Cartoons)

Film Industry (business docs, Production Code, Gov docs)

Picture house interior

  • Government / Legal
  • Production Code
  • Audience / Spectators
  • Exhibitors (promotion, movie theatres displays & posters) 
  • Film Studios / Production (financial documents, distribution plans) 
  • National Cinemas
  • Marketing
  • Professional Associations
  • Trade Publications

 

 

 

 

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Also see CineFiles (UC Berkeley) tab for more marketing materials, including press kits, exhibitor manuals, distributors materials. CineFiles (UC Berkeley) CineFiles is an ongoing project of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)'s Film Library and Study Center.

 

Explore the digitized records belonging to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):  

Film-focused content can be found in various special and archival collections.

  • Start with more generic searches to see the range of materials that are available in the collections 
    •  "motion picture" OR film OR movie OR film OR cinema OR "moving picture"

Cinefile online database contains scanned images of reviews, press kits, film festival and repertory theater program notes, newspaper articles, and other ephemera.  Some documents are restricted due to copyright and require a free account for access. In the top right corner of the page, a login link will allow you to connect (or set up) your free Cinefile account. Read about CineFiles accounts, our privacy policy, and more.  

Cinefile Search Tips

  • Submit a keywords search using the search toolbar or click on "Advanced Search" 
  • Search filters can be found on the left side of the page, definitely explore "Document Type" to see the range of BAMPFA's digitized materials. 
  • Be sure to limit the date range. Click on Document: publication year and enter the beginning and end date. 

Search collections based on 'Document: type' and 'Document: publication year'

  • press kits (limited to date range 1924-1968, filtered in chronological order)
  • exhibitor manual (limited to date range 1924-1968, filtered in chronological order)
  • distributors materials (limited to date range 1924-1968, filtered in chronological order)
  • exhibitor manuals (limited to date range 1920-1968 but more results for 1940s onward, filtered in chronological order)
  • program notes  (limited to date range 1924-1968 but more results for 1950s-1960s, filtered in chronological order)
  • booklet (limited to date range 1924-1968 but more results for 1950s-1960s, filtered in alphabetical order)

 

Screenshot of bampfa's cinefiles website highlighting search filters on left side, search field in top middle of page, link to Advanced Search and Login link in the top right corner of the website

 

Stars, Directors & Filmmakers

Photograph of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks

IMPORTANT - these materials must be created or from the time period you are examining, (e.g., an interview at the time of the film's release, not 20 years later) 

  • Fan magazines, newspapers articles, trade / industry magazines & yearbooks
  • Film industury materials (headshots, studio press releases, Production Code records) and Marketing for films (e.g., movie posters, lobby cards, merchandise)
  • Personal letters, Personal documents, scrapbooks, diaries, photo albums, 
  • Business or Legal documents (e.g., contracts, court cases, business correspondence, FBI profiles). 
  • Interviews (print, audio, or film)  

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Filters are your Friend 

Use the Date / Year of Publication Filter to Narrow your Results

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

 

Build your Search Strategies

Connect Search Terms with Boolean Operators 

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search e.g., Paramount and Hepburn)
  • OR (widens your search e.g., blacklist or communist, MGM or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
  • NOT (exclude results that include this term)
  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases, compound words, or exact searches)
    •  "Wait Until Dark" AND "Audrey Hepburn"
    • "studio system" AND "Warner"  

Use the Language of the Time Period

Remember that searching historical scans of publications you need to use the language that would be most appropriate for that time period. 

 

Think about Format 

Identify Formats that will have the Most Relevant Information for your Research 

Industry / Trade Magazines

Don't forget there are different types of content within newspapers and magazines

  • Articles 
    • Reviews (e.g., films, books, theatre, even restaurants)
    • Opinion pieces - Editorials (opinion pieces by editor of publication), Letters to the Editor (written by the public and the publication prints them)
    • Front Page / Cover Story, Feature Articles 
    • Regular Columns (e.g,. gossip columns, business updates) 
  • Advertisements (often companies or organizations can include text & images)
    • classified ads (posted by individual people seeking buy or find something, promoting their own services or small businesses),
  • Contests or Competitions  
  • Images (e.g., Photos, Artwork, Illustrations, Cartoons)

Fan Magazines

Film Industry Materials

Collections tied to Individual Film Performers

Directors

Producers, Scriptwriters, Composers & more

Individual Films & Film Reviews

Film Indexes contain profiles on specific film titles, key figures in the film industry (directors, actors, composers, writers, etc.), and particular companies. You will find one record for the films unless there have been remakes of the work.

AFI Catalog (1893+) 

The AFI Catalog, the premier, authoritative resource of American film information, covers the history of American cinema comprehensively from 1893 to 1993, with full or short records for films from 1994-2015. New records are added each year by the AFI's editorial team.

Film Index International (1900+) 

Film Index International is produced in collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI) and provides in-depth indexing of over 125,000 films from the first silent movies to the latest blockbusters and biographical information for more than 900,000 personalities. It includes records on films from over 170 countries and has extensive coverage of international film awards and prizes. Its rich content also includes searchable plot summaries, full cast and crew lists as well as references to periodical articles on film and film-makers.

When searching in online databases or publications for film titles or directors, place quotation marks at both ends of the title or name. Using quotation marks instructs many databases to  search solely for particular words that are in that exact order, but be careful of spelling.

e.g., "Within Our Gates" AND "Oscar Micheaux"

Film Reviews can be found in newspapers, scholarly journals, popular magazines and industry or trade magazines.

  • Use the Publication Date filter to narrow your search result to the time period you are examining
  • Some databases have a Document Type filter that allows you to select "Reviews". 
  • Be care with film adaptions and exclude book reviews with the same title by adding the name of the director or an actor to your search. 
     

Have any questions or aren't able to find resourcescontact Cinema Studies Librarian Kate Johnson

Additional Sources for Newspaper Reviews curated by locations, audiences or time periods: 

Also scroll down to explore the National Cinemas and Newspapers sections of this guide. 

Technology

Early motion picture camera illustration

Check out the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers's SMPTE journals (see next tab)

Newspapers can also be great source for news on technology: Proquest Historical Newspapers 

Media History Digital Library's Technical Journals Collection (1916-1965) covers "... improvements in film stocks, sound recording, color reproduction, cameras, lenses, lighting and other hardware." 

 

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The following engineering journals were published by professional association for Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Use them to find the cutting edge research on technology for your time period,  but remember to identify keywords from that time period, not current terminology or brand names. 

Browse by Year 

These articles are accessed through Media History Digital Library's Lantern platform. Remember to be careful when downloading unless it is a single page. Often several issues from one year are saved together in a volume and sometime multiple years are grouped together.

The links below were crafted in the Lantern Advance Search inteface (Title =  "Society of Motion picture Engineers" OR "Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers").

  • Remember to limit the publication dates to the relevent time period.
  • Click on advanced search button to add more keywords for your topic. 

Be aware that this publication's title changed over time, and use the date filter. 

IEEE Database

Access IEEE's Advanced Search

To limit your search to Moving Image Engineering journals, combine two methods: 

  • Search By Publisher
  • Limit + Date Range

This will pull in search results from all the journals published by SMPTE within a time span

  1. Enter SMPTE in the search field. 
  2. Use the dropdown menu in that row, select Publisher
  3. In the next row(s), add keyword(s) for your search (e.g., sound, "film projector", Vitascope, flammable)
  4. Under Publication Date, choose Specify Date Range to 1895-1968 (or time period applicable for your topic) and enter the date range by typing or using the slider. 

screen shot of IEE search interface with publisher search for SMPTE with a limited date range

 

Click on the SMPTE Journals (Motion Picture Engineering tab to search a wider range of years for technical journals with filters. including document formats. 

If interested in Film Music, please see the Audiovisuals Section and click on Audio/Music tab.

Click on the SMPTE Journals (Society of Motion Picture Technology & Engineering) tab to search a wider range of years for technical journals with filters. including document formats.

National Cinemas

Asia

Australasia 

Latin America

North America 

Europe

Newspapers

Don't forget that you can explore newspapers from different countries, regions, and cities. Newspapers have a long history of being the first place where people could find out what was going on in the world or their local community. 

  • Different Types of Articles
    • Cover / Front page articles
    • Feature articles
    • Film reviews
    • Gossip or industry news columns
    • Editorials (written by the editor of the publication), opinon pieces
  • Letters to the editor
  • Advertisements, classifieds
  • Cartoons, Photographs
  • Listings of events or screenings 
  • National Audiences

Specific Newspapers

Magazines (Fan, Trade / Industry, Popular Culture)

Early logo of Billboard magazine

  • Fan magazine
  • Popular culture and general society
  • Trade magazine
  • Images
  • Articles
  • Quizzes
  • Opinion pieces

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Audiovisuals

Still of a movie monster carrying a woman

  • Film / Video 
  • Audio
  • Photographs
  • Marketing materials

 

 

 

 

 

 

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