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George Eastman Museum to premiere Dreaming in Color: The Davide Turconi Collection of Early Cinema

Jan 09th, 2018

George Eastman Museum to premiere
Dreaming in Color: The Davide Turconi Collection of Early Cinema
The museum will exhibit digital reproductions of the unique collection of original 35mm nitrate frames from the late 19th century to early 20th century; Curator’s gallery talk this Saturday, January 13 at 1 p.m.

Rochester, N.Y., January 9, 2017Dreaming in Color: The Davide Turconi Collection of Early Cinema will open at the George Eastman Museum on January 13. Dreaming in Color is dedicated to a unique collection of more than 23,000 original nitrate frames of 35mm films dating from the early years of cinema (1897–1915). The frames were gathered by Italian film historian Davide Turconi (1911–2005) in the 1960s from a large collection of films acquired by Jesuit priest Josef-Alexis Joye (1852–1919).

“It is extremely difficult to exhibit and preserve early color film images accurately, which is what makes the Turconi collection so unique,” said Joshua Yumibe, exhibition curator. “Because of the way Turconi made and stored his clippings, the images have maintained most of their original color. This exhibition gives people an opportunity to access the wonderful world of color from the early 20th century, both at the Eastman Museum and through the online Davide Turconi Project.”

Approximately six hundred frames from the collection are digitally reproduced in this exhibition, organized into nine slideshows examining different aspects of the material: film genres such as travelogues, fairy tales, and magic tricks; technical aspects including splice marks, intertitles, and dazzling color; and the sometimes beautiful decay found in certain archival frames.

“The Davide Turconi Collection is a treasure of early cinema and an unparalleled resource for scholarly study,” said Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator, Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum. “By presenting it for the first time to a broader audience, the museum is fulfilling Turconi’s vision of film history as a catalyst for rediscovering the beauty and creative achievements of our cinematic ancestors."

In the early 1900s, Joye began to collect films and incorporate them into his lectures at his educational institution, the Borromäum, in Basel, Switzerland. After Joye left Basel in 1911, the films remained at the Borromäum until the 1950s. At the time of Turconi’s discovery of the collection in Zurich where they had been moved, the prints were in various stages of chemical decay. Fearing that eventually no trace would remain of these precious films, Turconi took brief clips (typically two or three frames) from each of them, thus preserving an invaluable documentation on the color techniques used by film production companies at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Today, the Turconi and Joye collections are a primary source for the study of early cinema, and of color technology in particular. The George Eastman Museum acquired the Turconi collection in the 1990s, and a massive digitization project was completed after twelve years of painstaking work and can be accessed at cinetecadelfriuli.org/progettoturconi. The complete surviving films from the Joye collection are now at the British Film Institute in London.

Support for the exhibition Dreaming in Color: The Davide Turconi Collection of Early Cinema is generously provided by the Michigan State University Foundation.

Public Programming
Curator’s Gallery Talk
Saturday, January 13, 1 p.m.
Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator of the Moving Image Department, will lead a gallery talk in the exhibition Dreaming in Color. The talk is free for members, and included with museum admission.

Playing in Color [Family Event]
Sunday, February 18, 10 a.m.
The Eastman Museum has teamed up with Ray Ray Mitrano from WAYO Play for a live radio broadcast from the museum’s Discovery Room, where there will be all-ages hands-on activities that explore projection with light and color inspired by the early color of film clippings in the exhibition, Dreaming in Color. The event is free for members, and included with museum admission.

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