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Some of the delegates of the 1957 B.I.R.H.C. Congress in Paris.

Archival Documents about the B.I.R.H.C. and Historical Research

In 1952, shortly before the Amsterdam Congress, film historians and archivists met for two days on the initiative of Henri Langlois, with the aim of founding a Bureau International de la Recherche Historique Cinématographique (International Bureau of Historical Research into the Cinema, later known as B.I.R.H.C., its French acronym), bringing together national offices coordinated by the film archives affiliated to the FIAF network. The aims of this project were:

  • To bring the communities of film historians and archivists (some of whom were historians themselves) closer together;
  • To ensure that film archives could in future facilitate access by 'serious and scientific' historians to films, catalogues and other documentary resources held in their collections;
  • To draw up and publish together detailed filmographies and film analyses, and set up joint research projects and organise historical colloquia, in a spirit of mutual aid between two communities that were in great need of each other.

A first list, drawn up by French film historian Georges Sadoul, identified a few recognised historians in the main film-producing countries. These were contacted and asked whether they would like to join the work of the future Bureau.

In the following years, not a lot happened, due in particular to difficulties in financing the project, but the Bureau had its moment of glory in 1957, when Langlois decided to organize the second half of the FIAF Congress (the first part having taken place in Antibes) in Paris at the beginning of November, on the theme of historical research, and in the form of an eight-day colloquium officially organized by the B.I.R.H.C., of which Langlois was by now the secretary general. Among the participants were the filmmakers Alice Guy-Blaché, Abel Gance, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, Marcel L'Herbier, Joris Ivens, and Gerhard Lamprecht, as well as many eminent film historians from some forty countries, and archivists from FIAF-affiliated film archives, who reported on the situation of film history in the countries represented. The official aim of these meetings was "to allow the establishment of an objective history of the cinematic art, interpretations on the evolution of this art having almost always preceded access to exact sources, notably chronology, without which it is impossible for a historian to accomplish a scientific task". It confirmed the real will, within FIAF, to collaborate actively with historians, in order to allow the emergence of a history of the cinema based on a more professional and scientific methodology.

However, two events put a premature end to the B.I.R.H.C. in 1960: the death of the then B.I.R.H.C. President Prof. Joseph Gregor, and Langlois' sudden departure from FIAF. This ambitious project, even if it was quickly aborted and in the end achieved rather little in its few years of activity, can be seen as the forerunner to a number of new FIAF initiatives in  the 1960s that confirmed the Federation's new and sustained interest in historiographical issues. The 1961 congress in Budapest was largely devoted to the study of the work of Georges Méliès, with the presentation of research work and screenings of films from the collections of the member archives, led by Madeleine Malthête-Méliès, the filmmaker's granddaughter. The following year in Rome, the official theme of the congress was "Italian historical film and its past and present influence in other countries", giving rise to no less than 13 research reports by Italian and international archivists and historians. In 1962, FIAF even tried to revive the B.I.R.H.C. through the creation of an admittedly short-lived Commission for Historical Research. In the following decade, a number of important new initiatives, such as the publication of national and international filmographies and bibliographies, of film catalogues held by the FIAF archives, and of an international index to film periodicals, reaffirmed the will of the global community of film archives and archivists to play an active role in the writing of a history of cinema. The idea of organizing a historical symposium as part of the annual Congress, including discussions between film archivists and scholars, and film projections, also resurfaced in the early 1970s. It's not unreasonable to suggest that the organizers of the famous 1978 Brighton Symposium on "Cinema 1900-1906" were the direct sucessors of those involved in the B.I.R.H.C. two decades earlier.

This webpage gives you access to the main documents in our Archive about the B.I.R.H.C. (1952-1960), as well as about FIAF's short-lived Commission for Historical Research(1960-?), and about the Society for Film History Research - born in Britain out of the B.I.R.H.C. at the end of the 1950s.

Bureau International de la Recherche Historique Cinématographique - B.I.R.H.C.

[1952-1960]


Before 1952

Discussion about the creation af an International Federation of Film Historians at the Executive Committee Meeting (27 September - 02 October 1951, Paris EC Minutes, p.28)


1952

Discussion on the creation of the International Bureau of Film History Research within FIAF at the Executive Committee Meeting(16-19 February 1952, Paris EC Minutes, p.18)

Letter from Henri Langlois to Ernest Lindgren about British delegates for the BIRHC Commission at the British Film Institute (22 April 1952)

Discussion on the creation of an organisation for Film History Research within FIAF at the Executive Committee Meeting (23-26 May 1952, Paris EC Report, p.5)

Report by Ernest Lindgren about the FIAF Executive Committee Meeting in Paris, 23/26 May 1952, mentionning Langlois' proposition on Historical Research (N.F.L. [National Film Library] 109, paper n°2a, p.1)

Letter from Farrokh Gaffary to Ove Brusendorff informing him about Langlois' vision of the BIRHC (16 September 1952)

Letter from Henri Langlois to the Ceskoslovensky Statni Film recounting the creation of the BIRHC and its provisional board (24 September 1952)

Amsterdam Congress Agenda : "Réunion du Bureau International de la Recherche Historique Cinématographique" (25 October 1952)

Constitutional meeting of the International Bureau of Historical Film Research (B.I.R.H.C.) (Amsterdam Congress, 25-26 October 1952)

Summary of the main points discussed at the FIAF Congress in Amsterdam, 27 October to 5 November 1952 (pp.1-3)[Formal establishment of the BIRHC].


1953

Discussion on the choice of a BIRHC representative in Berlin at the Executive Committee Meeting (6-9 February 1953, Paris EC Report, p.3)

Letter from Henri Langlois to Mr. Amiot (Dumont editions) about a FIAF and BIRHC publication retracing the History of the Cinema (Paris, 15 May 1953)

Discussion on the organisation of the "Bureau International de la Recherche Historique Cinématographique (BIRHC)" at the General Assembly Meeting (24 October - 02 November 1953, Vence Congress Minutes, pp. 3-6)


1954

Discussion on Historical Research at the General Assembly Meeting (11-16 October 1964, Lausanne Congress Draft Minutes, [82-87])


1955

Discussion on the BIRHC Wiesbaden Meeting at the Executive Committee Meeting (24-25 February 1955, Paris EC Minutes, pp.4-5)

Discussion on the BIRHC Bulletin at the Executive Committee Meeting (15-17 June 1955, Wiesbaden EC Minutes, p.1)

Presentation notes on "the BIRHC and its Bulletin" (24 June 1955)

Discussion on the Bureau of Historical Research at the Executive Committee (25 September 1995, Warsaw EC Minutes, p.1)

Discussion on the Report on the work of the Commission for Historical Research at the General Assembly Meeting (26-30 September 1955, Warsaw Congress Decisions, p.19)

News from the International Bureau of Historical Research and "Report by Monsieur Langlois in the Bureau of Historical Research (FIAF News Bulletin n°5, November 1955, p.4 & pp.10-13)

Excerpt from the Executive Secretary's Report 1954-1955 (p.1)

"Le Bureau International de Recherche Historique Cinématographique et son Bulletin", report by Gaffari (USSR, 1955)


1956

Discussion on the BIRHC Bulletin at the Executive Committee Meeting (21-22 January 1956, Paris EC Report, p.8)

Letter from Einar Lauritzen to Catherine Duncan about the set up of a Swedish Bureau of Film Historians and the BIRHC Bulletin (25 February 1956)

News from Historical Research (FIAF News Bulletin n°8, February-March 1956, p.9)

Letter from Catherine Duncan to N.A. Lebediev about BIRHC Bulletin materials and difficulties (7 March 1956)

Letter from Einar Lauritzen to Catherine Duncan about the set up of a Swedish Committee of Film Historical Research (16 April 1956)

Discussion on BIRHC at the Executive Committee Meeting (16-17 June 1956, Paris EC Minutes, pp.19-21)

Discussion on BIRHC at the Executive Committee Meeting (10-11 November 1956, Paris EC Minutes, pp.2-4)

Discussion on BIRHC and on the Historian Congress at the General Assembly Meeting (9-15 September 1956, Dubrovnik Congress Decisions, p.7 & pp.36-38)

Excerpt from the moral report of the Secretary General (1956, p.3)


1958

"Note pour le Secrétariat Exécutif de la FIAF" by Henri Langlois concerning the BIRHC (3 January 1958)

News from the BIRHC Congress (FIAF News Bulletin n°13, January-February 1958, pp.1-3)

List of decisions taken at the EC meeting in March in Brussels and points discussed : point 17 & 18 (Paris, 10-12 March 1958)

Discussion on the Report of the BIRHC at the Executive Committe Meeting (26-28 May 1958, London EC Minutes, p.36)

Letter from Jacques Ledoux to Marion Michelle about BIRHC or FIAF projects (24 June 1958)

Letter from Marion Michelle to Jacques Ladoux about the BIRHC and micro-films (25 June 1958)

Letter from Henri Langlois to Jacques Ledoux about the BIRHC (7 July 1958)

News from the BIRHC (FIAF News Bulletin n°14, July 1958, pp.24-27)

Letter from Jacques Ledoux about the organisation of the BIRHC meeitng and the "Confrontation of the best films of all time" (22 August 1958)

Letter from Marion Michelle to Jacques Ledoux about the BIRHC problems (18 September 1958)

Letter from Marion Michelle to Jacques Ledoux about the organisation and participants of the BIRHC meeting in Brussels (8 October 1958)

BIRHC Meeting Agenda (Brussels, 10-13 October 1958) [French]

BIRHC Meeting Minutes (Brussels, 13 October 1958) [French]

Brussels Preliminary Meeting: BIRHC Executive Committee (Brussels/Charleroi, 16 October 1958) [French]

Decisions concerning the BIRHC taken at the General Assembly Meeting (20-26 October 1958, Prague Congress Decisions, p.5)

Report of the Centro de Investigaciones de la Historia del Cine Argentino at the 2nd BIRHC Congress (October 1958)

Executive Secretary's report on the activities of the Secretariat from November 1957 to October 1958 (p.3 & p.8)

Letter from Marion Michelle to Agnes Bleier Brody about the BIRHC membership fees (24 November 1958)

Notes for the report of the BIRHC to the FIAF Congress in Prague (1958)


1959

Letter from Marion Michelle to Lotte Eisner about the organisation of a BIRHC manifestation during the Stockholm Congress (11 May 1959)

Discussion on the BIRHC at the Executive Committee Meeting (Paris EC Minutes, 16 May 1959, morning, pp.1-3; 17 May 1959, morning, pp.2-5; 17 May 1959, afternoon, pp.11-14)

Letter from Ernest Lindgren (Chairman of FIAF EC) to Pr. Joseph Gregor (BIRHC President) asking him to propose a practical plan of organisation for the Bureau (25 May 1959)

Letter from Joseph Gregor to Ernest Lindgren responding to his letter from the 25th May 1959 (20 June 1959)

Letter from Ernest Lindgren to André Thirifays about a "BIRHC London Group" called the British Society for Film History Research (28 August 1959)

Proposition for an organisation, by Pr. Joseph Gregor, BIRHC President (Vienna, August 1959)

Letter from Joseph Gregor to Henri Langlois informing him of the proposition for a BIRHC organisation he sent to Lindgren (11 August 1959) [French]

Discussion on the BIRHC at the Executive Committee Meeting (17 September 1959, morning, Stockholm EC Minutes, pp.1-6)

Minutes of the meeting of the Swedish section of BIRHC (Stockholm, 21 September 1959)

Letter from Jerzy Toeplitz (FIAF President) to Pr. Gregor about his proposition for a BIRHC re-organisation (Stockholm, 28 September 1959)

Letter from Henri Langlois to Pr. Gregor giving Langlois' opinion on Gregor's proposed BIRHC modifications (28 December 1959)

"The Benefit of Historical Film-Research" by Jan de Vaal (1959)

Report of the Centro de Investigación de la Historia del Cine Argentino at the 3rd BIRHC Congress (1959)

Letterhead containing the BIRHC "logo" [c. 1959]


Commission for Historical Research

[1962-?]


1962

Discussion on the available information about films historians with the aim of creating a commission at the Executive Committee Meeting (24-26 Novemner 1962, Geneva EC Report, p.5)


1963

Draft letter and questionnaire concerning the Historical Research Commission (1963)

Discussion on Toeplitz's question on film research commissions in various countries at the Executive Committee Meeting (17-19 March 1963, Warsaw EC Report, p.7)

Questionnaire concerning Commissions of Historical Cinematographic Research (March 1963)

Report on the Study of International Collaboration between Historians to the FIAF General Assembly (Belgrade, June 1963) [French]

Minutes of the Commission for Historical Research (Leipzig, 19 November 1963)


1965

Discussion on the Historical Research Commission at the Executive Committee Meeting (28-30 March 1965, Vienna EC Minutes, p.6)


Society for Film History Research (UK)

[1959-?]


1963

Society for Film History Research Newsletter n°19 (November 1963);

Society for Film History Research Newsletter n°20 (December 1963);

Report from the Society for Film History Research, by John Minchinton, Chairman of the Society for Film History Research (1963)

Constitution [1963]

Brochure [1963]

List of Members (1963)