Film Museum in Düsseldorf

The film museum has its own cinema, the “Black Box”, and four floors of exhibit space with displays of the history and aura of the movies. For example: “Film and Politics” is an exhibit on the third floor in between “Film and Money” and “Myths of the Present”.

Historic projectors in the film museum

In the 1940s and 50s movie theaters usually had two projectors standing side by side. When the first reel of the film was almost finished, a certain series of blips appeared in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, alerting the projectionist to start the second projector. The two ran side by side for a few seconds and then the first one was turned off, leaving the audience unaware (usually) that a change had taken place. As a child I sometimes tried to get myself invited into the projection booth so I could see how this worked.

An early attempt to add sound to movies

A few years ago the Frankfurt Opera had a brilliant production of Händel’s Julius Caesar in Egypt using numerous reels of 16 and 35 mm film as props in some of the scenes involving Cleopatra — which I thought was a great idea because she is known to modern audiences mainly as a film character. In one scene they had a genuine 16 mm projector set up, and the first thing I noticed was that nobody knew how to thread the film into it, not even the bass baritone who was supposed to be doing it. (Let me show you, Simon, before the next revival.)

Projector just like the one we had at home

It always seems strange to go to a museum and see things you used to use yourself. Some of the old 8 mm movie cameras and projectors on display at the film museum were just like the ones we used to have at home when I was a child.

More modern (and compact) than the camera my father had

I still have a box of old 8 mm films that we shot on vacations and family occasions. I suppose it would be possible to get them digitalized, but I suspect their historical value is rather limited.

Address of the film museum: Schulstraße 4, Düsseldorf
GPS 51°13’26.43″ North; 6°46’14.28″ East

My photos in this post are from 2009. I revised the text in 2018.

See also: Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.

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