May 19, 2022

Michigan State University Professor Oversees Massive Digitization Project of Rare Film Collection

From Michigan St. University:

Once threatened by chemical decay and decomposition, an important and rare film collection from the early years of cinema is now available to the public online thanks to a massive preservation and digitization project overseen by Joshua Yumibe, director of the Film Studies Program and associate professor in Michigan State University’s Department of English.

The collection consists of 23,491 original 35-millimeter nitrate film clippings, usually two to three frames each, dating mostly from 1897 to 1915. It is the collection of Italian film historian Davide Turconi, who acquired the extensive collection from the films amassed by Josef-Alexis Joye, a Jesuit priest from Basel, Switzerland, at the beginning of the 20th century.


Yumibe took over management of the digitization project in 2003 while still a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. The collection served as one of the key studies for Yumibe’s research into early color cinema. In 2011, after 12 years, the Turconi Collection Database was completed.

The Turconi Collection Database is the largest of its kind currently available and is a primary source for the study of early cinema and color technology. It is available for free online with the financial support of the George Eastman Museum, the Le Giornate del Cinema Muto and the Cineteca del Friuli.


For the first time, the public can see this rare collection in person, which is now on display at the George Eastman Museum thanks to the efforts of Yumibe, who curated the Dreaming in Color: The Davide Turconi Collection of Early Cinema exhibit, and the MSU Foundation, a key sponsor, which helped with funding through a Humanities and Arts Research Program grant.

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Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.