Film in Cambridge

Part of the cinema section in the MML Library

Film is an ever popular subject, and as such it is hardly any surprise that Film Studies are flourishing. Modules and courses on film have been taught at Cambridge University since the 1970s, but with the beginning of this academic year, the Modern and Medieval Languages Faculty (MML) also offers the possibility of gaining a PhD in the subject. To reflect the offer of a PhD in Film and Screen Studies, the long-standing MPhil in Screen and Media Cultures has also been renamed to match the title of the PhD programme. In addition, the Centre for Film and Screen is also based in the MML Faculty, with John David Rhodes as its director. However, film is not exclusively taught at the MML Faculty, but for example also across programmes in English, Architecture and Art History. As a consequence, several Faculty libraries as well as College libraries actively collect films, while the main University Library itself does not.

Due to the particular focus on film within the MML Faculty, the MML Library currently owns the largest collection of films with almost 5000 items and keeps growing. However, libraries such as the English Faculty Library, FAMES or the Judge Business School Library also have substantial film collections. The situation for supporting material is slightly different, as the main UL does collect secondary material for film as well. Readers of this blog might be aware that the UL holds two very extensive special collections of print material on the subject (the A.G. Parker Film History Collection and the Walter Schobert cinema collection), but it also holds books, periodicals and scores.

The Shakespeare film collection in the English Faculty Library

The Shakespeare film collection in the English Faculty Library

I recently changed jobs and moved from the Collections and Academic Liaison Department in the main University Library to the MML Library as Research Support Librarian. My new responsibilities also include managing the film and cinema collections in MML. This is not as straightforward as one might think. Being based within the MML faculty, my main focus naturally lies with the material needed to support the MML-taught film modules and courses, including the MPhil in Film and Screen Studies. However, with the introduction of the PhD within the faculty, the boundaries between material for taught courses and material needed to support research get ever blurrier. The fact that the UL itself, which generally provides most of the needed research material for the Arts and Humanities within Cambridge, does not collect films at all, just adds another layer of complication to the mix. With the material being scattered over several faculty and college libraries as well as the UL, there is a very pressing need for overarching liaison to efficiently build the collections on the subject within Cambridge, but also to help students and researchers to navigate those and ensure that they can access the material they need.

To this end, there is now a designated page within Moodle, the University’s virtual learning environment, for Film and Screen, gathering various databases and links to primary resources related to the subject. The site is currently only accessible to members of the  University with a research or study interest in film, and access can be requested by emailing me. Additionally, I have also created a new LibGuide for Film & Screen Studies that has recently gone online and is accessible to everyone. The guide gives an overview of the various libraries that hold collections relevant to the field and describes these holdings in order to make it easier for the readers to find the material they are looking for. It also includes links to various databases and e-resources of interest. However, it is still very much a work in progress and, so far, doesn’t include any information on the holdings of films or secondary material in College Libraries. Ultimately, it’s aim is to give a detailed overview of all the relevant resources to Film Studies in Cambridge, but gathering all that information takes time. I very much encourage feedback about the LibGuide, positive or constructive, and suggestions or further recommendations are also always welcome.

Part of the film collection in the MML Library

Stephanie Palek

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