Domitor, the International Society for the Study of Early Cinema, is an association for people interested in cinema from its emergence to its institutionalization around 1915. The organization strives to explore new methods of historical research and understanding by promoting the international exchange of information, documents, and ideas. Recognizing that the work of the world’s film archives has made accessible a growing body of early films and research materials pertaining to early cinema, Domitor also seeks to promote close relationships between scholars and archivists. Domitor is not an acronym: it revives the name that the father of the Lumière brothers once proposed for their projector of motion pictures.
Domitor was launched in October 1985 in Pordenone, Italy, during the silent film festival “Le Giornate del Cinema Muto” by its five founding members: Stephen Bottomore of the United Kingdom, Paolo Cherchi Usai of Italy, André Gaudreault of Canada, Tom Gunning of the United States, and Emmanuelle Toulet of France. Domitor’s annual General Assembly is now held at the Pordenone festival every October.
Domitor memberships are individual or institutional, and are open to anyone with a serious interest in early cinema. At present, there are about 250 members from over 30 countries. Members receive access to a listserv, which provides news, in French and English, of conferences, events and publications of interest to its members, and which also provides a forum for exchange of research requests and information. In addition, Domitor hosts this website as a portal for research on early cinema. Domitor also offers an annual Student Essay Award to the best essay on early cinema submitted by a student. The association is governed by an elected Executive Committee of nine (to twelve) members, who name the officers. For further information, see Membership and Governance.
One of Domitor’s most important activities is the organization of biennial international conferences on aspects of early cinema. The first such conference was held in Québec at the Musée de la Civilisation in June 1990 on the topic of “Religion and Early Cinema.” Subsequent conferences were held in Lausanne (1992), New York (1994), Paris (1996), Washington (1998), Udine (2000), Montreal (2002), Utrecht (2004), Anne Arbor, Michigan (2006), Perpignan/Girona (2008), Toronto (2010), Brighton (2012), Chicago and Evanston, Illinois (2014), Stockholm (2016), Rochester (2018). The 2020 conference will be held in Paris, France.
For further information on Domitor conferences, see Conferences.
Domitor also arranges publication of the conference proceedings. Other Domitor publications include a Bibliographie internationale due cinéma des premiers temps (listing writings on early cinema by Domitor members), edited by Emmanuelle Toulet in 1987, and a revised edition, edited by Elena Dagrada in 1995. In 1989, Domitor helped to organize symposiums for the Lisbon congress of the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF) on “Cataloging and Filmographic Research: Tracing the Past” and “Brighton Ten Years After,” a summary of developments in historiography that followed the ground-breaking FIAF Symposium of “Cinema 1900-1906” held in Brighton, England in 1978. For a recollection of this important conference from Jan-Christopher Horak, see the UCLA Library Archive Blog. For further information on Domitor proceedings, see Proceedings.