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Department of Film Studies

SNSF Agora: Presentation and Visualization of Historical Film Colors

Cooperation Partners

Fotomuseum Winterthur

Nadine Wietlisbach, Director,
Doris Gassert, Research Curator, Fotomuseum Winterthur

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur

John Canciani, Director
Andreas Bühlmann, Programmer


Dr. Eva Hielscher, Curator

BA Josua Fröhlich, Developed ColorMania App.


  Whenever the current research projects on film colors come up in conversation with
laypersons or even film critics, the response is usually puzzled: Film colors? Why film
colors? Their reactions make it obvious that there is little awareness of the topic, and
that this lack of awareness is mostly due to the public’s lack of experience with the film material itself. The demonstration and the sensory experience of film’s materiality are thus at the core of the Agora project Presentation and Visualization of Historical Film Colors. The project aims to introduce and to establish a set of activities related to the materiality and aesthetics of film colors, drawing on the recent research projects on film colors, and on the digitization of archival films that have gained a high level of attention among academics and archivists.

Historical film prints offer a precious sensory richness that is also very appealing to
laypersons. The online depiction of film materials on the interactive digital humanities
platform Timeline of Historical Film Colors has been unanimously praised for its
comprehensive and attractive display of technical information and aesthetics. However, its impact remains limited to virtual access.

To overcome this limitation, the present Agora project intends to build a bridge from
virtual to real presentations of color film and digitized historical films, through the
following activities:

  • Planning and executing an exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur that connects the presentation of the materiality of color in photography and film in various modes.
  • Screenings of color film fragments and entire historical color films in the context of
    film festivals and museums as well as selected public cinemas.
  • Developing a smartphone app that visualizes the connection of exhibition objects to the larger scientific context already in operation, including the two highly prolific
    research projects SNSF Filmfarben and ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.
  • Connecting the app to the crowdsourcing platform for film color analysis that is
    currently being executed in the framework of ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.
  • Offering an educational package to teachers.
  • Workshop on coloring films manually through hand coloring, tinting or toning.
  • Online quiz to engage the audience in acquiring knowledge.

At a variety of recent international conferences on either historical films or digital
humanities, it became clear that many archives and scholars are striving for better
ways to reach out to the public using attractive displays of their research or their
holdings. Until now, however, experience in these areas has been sparse. Beyond its
main goals, the present Agora project thus aims to establish a model study on how to
exhibit film in a museum context – by both connecting it to previous practices, and by
developing innovative educational activities.

It is the aim of the Agora project to provide an understanding and appreciation of the
film heritage and its appealing aesthetics to a wider audience, especially among
children and youth. To this date, moving images provide the most immediate and
universal access to knowledge and to the past. Movie fandom and the corresponding
enthusiasm need to be addressed by the Agora project.

There is also a political dimension to this project: To raise awareness for the necessity
of preserving the film heritage in its authentic form, to digitize it using a sophisticated
approach, and to make it available for future generations.
Workshop Virage und Tonung



Swiss National Science Foundation, program Agora for scientific communication.


Online Publications




Weiterführende Informationen

Color Mania

Color Mania. The Material of Color in Photography and Film

More about Color Mania. The Material of Color in Photography and Film

Edited by Barbara Flückiger, Eva Hielscher, Nadine Wietlisbach, in collaboration with Fotomuseum Winterthur, Lars Müller Publishers.
With contributions by Michelle Beutler, Noemi Daugaard, Josephine Diecke, Evelyn Echle, Barbara Flueckiger, Eirik Frisvold Hanssen, Eva Hielscher, Thilo Koenig, Joëlle Kost, Franziska Kunze, Bregt Lameris, David Pfluger, Ulrich Ruedel, Mona Schubert, Simon Spiegel, Olivia Kristina Stutz, Giorgio Trumpy, Martin Weiss, Nadine Wietlisbach
Design: Meierkolb

240 pages, 122 illustrations

2020, 978-3-03778-607-9, English and 978-3-03778-606-2, German

Color Mania, Fotomuseum Winterthur

Exhibition Color Mania, Fotomuseum Winterthur

Impressions from the Exhibition Color Mania, Fotomuseum Winterthur