From Shadows to Studios: A Journey through the Kent Museum of the Moving Image

Our fellow Co-Director/ Co-Curator Rosie Taylor has been away from the South West of late. After a spell in the South East, helping set up the new Kent Museum of the Moving Image, she managed to secure a place to study at the most prestigious L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman Museum, in Rochester, New York. 

Having departed from our shores at the end of the summer, Rosie has kept in touch with news of her exploits and education in upstate New York. She’s also taken the time to give us a write-up of her experiences in Kent, the results of which will be coming to a head with the opening of the new Museum of the Moving Image Museum later in Spring 2018.

But, the Museum will open for a very special Christmas preview period from 15th to 31st December (Fridays to Sundays, 12-7 pm). 

Over to Rosie for more details on that, and her valuable work there!KentMuseumOfTheMovingImage

In spring of 2017 I spent three months working on the development of the Kent Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) in Deal; a small, vibrant seaside town on the Kent Coast. This new Museum is the inspiring vision of David Francis OBE and Dr Joss Marsh, both of whom have had prolific careers in moving image history.

Building on the collections which used to make up the Museum of the Moving Image in London, which sadly closed in 1999, the some forty-thousand plus items in the Kent MOMI are the result of a lifetime of collecting by David, who’s career spans over fifty years in film preservation. In this time he held the important positions of Curator of the BFI National Film Archive, and later Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress.

Combined with the passion of Dr Joss Marsh (formerly Associate Professor of Victorian Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and Director of the internationally renowned Dickens Project, public research project out of Santa Cruz, California), Kent MOMI is one of the richest and most eclectic moving image collections held both nationally and internationally.

The Museum holds over one hundred magic lantern slides, lantern slide cameras and projectors, and houses a large collection of cameras and film projectors from throughout the history of the moving image. It is also home to an assorted selection of rare silent film press books, films stills, publicity photographs and posters, and holds items of local importance relating to the heritage of Deal and Kent. This is but a small portion of the extensive collection I was fortunate enough to explore and work with during my three months at the Museum.

My role was primarily working on the Art of the Ealing Poster exhibit; one of the major opening exhibitions, showcasing an extensive collection of original posters of Ealing films from the golden age of the Studio under producer Michael Balcon. However, one of the most exciting opening exhibitions will be on the history of shadows, charting the development of shadows within moving image history, from cave paintings and shadow puppetry, to German Expressionist cinema and Film Noir. Items on show will include original shadow puppets, Silhouettes and shadowgraphs, interactive exhibits, as well as a selection digitised materials from the collections and literary holdings.

No museum would be complete without a research centre, and Kent MOMI certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Its Research Centre includes a comprehensive collection of books, periodicals, film magazines and other publications on cinema, pre-cinema, and Victorian visual culture. David collected every book published on cinema up until the mid-1970’s, when book publications on cinema soared, and it became impossible to collect everything. After this his collecting became more selective, but still prolific and extensive. And he is still collecting! Add to this the exhaustive Victorian literary collections of Dr Joss Marsh, and the result is a rich resource of moving image literature, a large amount of which is now long out of print. The Research Centre has already attracted significant scholars to use it’s resources, and my own use of the Research Centre, both for my work at the Museum and personal research projects, proved indispensable.

David and Joss are warm and welcoming people, who’s passion and enthusiasm has enabled this unique and important body of moving image history to once again be accessible to the public, researchers, and historians. Its importance cannot be overstated, and I encourage everyone to visit the Museum given the chance. It won’t disappoint.

Rosie Taylor

Kent MOMI is located at 41 Stanhope Road, Deal, CT14 6AD. 

The Museum is now looking for volunteers! Help is needed with a wide variety of activities: Front Desk, guiding & helping Visitors, Research & Exhibition preparation, Photography, Cataloguing, Cleaning and Restoration of museum objects, Typing, Leafleting, Gardening, Tea-making, etc. etc. Please contact joss@kentmomi.org.

The Museum opens with four exhibitions. On the ground floor, “35,00 Years to Catch a Shadow: A Reflective Exhibition” challenges visitors to explore the Phenomenon, Arts, and Technologies of the Shadow.

Three exhibitions unfold in the Museum’s large upstairs galleries. One comes to Kent-MOMI courtesy of the Vinten family—a major Britain producer of cinema and television cameras. Another tells the story of “The Royal Polytechnic Institution and Multi-Media Victorian London”.

The Museum’s fourth exhibition expands over three galleries, and spills over into corridors and the Museum’s Viewing Room: “Passport to Ealing: The Films and their Posters, 1938-1958”, a major retrospective of a unique moment in cinema history, when great British films and great poster art converged.

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