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Collection Development Policy

Cinema and Media Studies

Cinema and Media Studies

Cinema and Media Studies
Nancy Spiegel
May 2009


Brief Overview of the Collection

  •  History: Motion pictures have been an intellectual concern on the University of Chicago campus since the early 20th century. Even before the development of an academic program centered on film, researchers studied the medium through various humanities and social science disciplines. The founding in 1998 of the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies created a greater demand for a strong cinema collection, and increased the visibility of visual media studies within the Library and the University.
  • Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized:  The collection covers the history and development of world cinema, from the silent era to the present, with an emphasis on the United States and the major European, Russian, Latin American, East Asian and South Asian cinemas. Holdings in the history of film, film criticism, and film theory are particularly strong.  Less collecting emphasis is placed on the techniques and craft of film production or on the scientific aspects of filmmaking.

  • Description of academic program: The Committee on Cinema and Media program offers a BA, MA and PhD.  In addition, the collection supports students obtaining a Masters of Arts in the Humanities (MAPH). Faculty and students involved with one or more of the University's interdisciplinary centers, such as the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture; the Center for Gender Studies; or the Center for East Asian Studies, also rely heavily on the cinema collection.

  • Audience/Purpose:  The collection supports the curricular and research programs of the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies, which includes faculty in the departments of Art History, English Languages and Literatures; Romance Languages and Literatures; East Asian Languages and Civilization; Germanic Studies and Visual Arts. The collection also supports the undergraduate teaching programs of the College Core curriculum, and the work of faculty and students in other disciplines who study aspects of visual, or mass and media culture. A secondary purpose of the cinema collection is to serve the cultural and recreational interests of the University community at large.

Collecting guidelines

Levels of selection (comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement.

  • Reference works and periodicals (PN 1993-PN1993.3) Journals, annual publications, such as yearbooks, film dictionaries and encyclopedias, are  collected on a research level in western languages.

  • Film Criticism, History, and Theory (PN1994-1995) Included here are works of classic and contemporary theory, aesthetics, subcultural media practices, and early cinema. Titles are collected intensively, on a research level in western languages, with a strong emphasis on literature in English, French, Italian, and Spanish-language titles from Latin America.. 

  • Motion picture authorship (PN 1996) The history and theory of screenwriting and film editing are collected on an instructional support level. Practical guides to the craft of screenwriting are collected on a basic information level.

  • Feature films (PN 1997) The film collection attempts to document the overall history and development of motion pictures with representative examples of work from  key directors, experimental cinema, silent film, classic Hollywood cinema, documentary, European art cinema and video art. Given the current volume of new releases, and the ongoing need for retrospective collection building, the current level of commitment to this collection is at the instructional support level.   

  • Biographical works, checklists, directories. (PN 1998) Collected on an instructional support level in English and a basic information level in foreign languages.

  • Motion picture industry, genres (PN 1999)  Collected on a research level in Western languages.

Type of materials included and excluded: Critical and theoretical studies, filmographies, screenplays, exhibition catalogs and reference sources are all actively acquired. These include journals, monographs and series, in print and online. The collection excludes popular compilations (One Hundred Films You Must See Before You Die), as well as most materials on practical technique and “how to” books. Unrevised dissertations available online through the Library’s subscription to Proquest Digital Theses and Dissertations are also excluded.

Films are acquired to support the research and teaching needs of faculty and students in Cinema and Media Studies and related disciplines. Where possible, the CMS bibliographer will acquire “cinematic” titles needed for teaching in the Core or other non-CMS courses, and for faculty and student research across the curriculum.

Since visual media studies is a broadly multidisciplinary undertaking, selectors from across the Library contribute to the strengthening of the film collection. Non-cinematic films (documentaries, ethnographic film, etc.) are generally acquired by the relevant subject or area studies bibliographer. 

The film collection is supplemented by several strong campus collections, the University of Film Studies Center, the Center for East Asian Studies' Film Library, the South Asia Outreach Library, and the D’Angelo Law Library’s collection of recreational film on legal themes.

Physical formats included and excluded: All formats are considered. For film, the U.S. NTSC standard is the preferred. The Library purchases films in PAL (European) and rarely, in SECAM (Asian) standards when titles are not available in NTSC.  16 mm prints are considered out of scope for the collection. The library has the capability to play back all DVD standards, VHS, and laser discs. The library is not able to support the use of ¾ video, or beta.

Publication dates collected: Emphasis is given to the acquisition of current titles, but appropriate earlier imprints are acquired, when possible, to fill gaps or support new areas of research and teaching. Rare titles, especially early periodicals, are selected in collaboration with the Head of Rare Books.

: Titles are chosen for their importance regardless of language, but  English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish are preferred. English translations of important works are purchased selectively; French, German or Italian translations of works originally published in languages likely to be less familiar to patrons are also considered selectively.  Books, microfilm sets and films published in Eastern Europe, China, Korea and Japan, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa are acquired by the relevant bibliographer.

Geographical range: The emphasis is on titles published in Western Europe, North America and Latin America. Materials from Africa are acquired on a selective basis, in coordination with the selector for African Studies.

Chronological span: Titles covering the late 19th-century to the present are collected. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Related University of Chicago collections:

The Special Collections Research Center collects original documentation on motion pictures and the motion picture industry, including archival film and various kinds of memorabilia. Doc Films, celebrating its sixty-ninth anniversary in 2009, is the oldest continuously running student film society in the country. Its archives are also held by SCRC.

The Gerald Mast Film Archive at the University of Chicago Film Studies Center significantly augments the Library’s collection, and its holdings influence our collection development decisions.  

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

Other libraries in Chicago that complement the University of Chicago’s film collections include the Video Databank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (performance art) and Northwestern University’s Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center, to which students have access. The Chicago Public Library offers hundreds of downloadable, recreational videos to library card holders.

Subject Specialist

Profile Photo
Nancy Spiegel
Bibliographer for Art and Cinema
Bibliographer for History
Regenstein Library Room 463