In the 1930s, Iris Barry, one of the founders of what would later become MoMA’s Department of Film, went to Hollywood to persuade film industry leaders to donate their film prints—a radical idea at the time, when films were seen to have little value beyond their initial theatrical releases. Barry made an impassioned plea by demonstrating their artistic significance and the fragility of the film medium, and her efforts resulted in donations from Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century-Fox, Samuel Goldwyn, Walt Disney, and Douglas Fairbanks, among others. It was around that time that the international film community began to pay attention to institutional archival work. In 1938 MoMA became one of the founding members of the International Federation of Film Archives/Fédération internationale des archives du film (FIAF), one year after receiving a special Academy Award “for its significant work in collecting films . . . and for the first time making available to the public the means of studying the historical and aesthetic development of the motion picture as one of the major arts.”
MoMA’s commitment to preserving and exhibiting celluloid material continues today, despite the widespread transition to digital filmmaking. The 2023 edition of our recurring A View from the Vaults series features film prints in 16mm and 35mm acquired since 2010—from a variety of sources, including filmmakers and distributors—by such directors Jane Campion, Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami, Christopher Nolan, Jia Zhangke, Park Chan-wook, and Lynne Ramsay, and others.
Organized by the Department of Film.