Capturing Colour

Lead Research Organisation: University of Brighton
Department Name: Centre for Research & Development (Arts)


This KT project is devoted to the creation of a public exhibition and a related programme of events on the emergence of 'colour' in film and other media in Britain from the late 19thC to the 1930s. It is designed to enable the public to discover the wonder, beauty and history of this chromatic revolution as it spread across illustrated children's books, graphics, photographs, lantern slides and, especially, film. As such it is designed to take this relatively unknown history and 'unpack' it for public consumption through a carefully structured and crafted programme of activities designed to educate, fascinate and inspire. The exhibition will have a particular focus on Brighton & Hove because it was here that an important early film culture was based and it produced the first 'colour' motion pictures (Kinemacolor). This KT programme will be designed and delivered through structured interactions between Dr Frank Gray (the proposed KTF), Screen Archive South East (SASE) and Royal Pavilions & Museums, Brighton & Hove (RP&M). It has the support of the British Film Institute and the National Media Museum.

The exhibition's content will be drawn from SASE (lantern slides, colour moving images on Dufaycolor and Kodachrome), RP&M (e.g. film projectors, tinted and hand-coloured photographs, autochromes, lantern slides, Ives' photochromoscope, tinted postcards, illustrated books and the Kinemacolor collection), the British Film Institute (early European films in colour including Kinemacolor and Friese-Greene's Biocolour and key examples of Technicolor) and the National Media Museum (notably the Charles Urban papers, early colour film apparatus and early colour photographs especially Pfenninger's tricolour photographs of Brighton).

Dr Gray, through his work as an historian and as the Director of Screen Archive South East (SASE), provides the research context for this new KT enterprise. For twenty years and from his base at the University of Brighton, he has investigated systematically the cultural, economic and technological histories of early film production and consumption in Brighton and Hove from 1895-1914 through articles, contributions to major reference publications, conference papers and the curation of museum exhibitions and film festival programmes.

The public will be able to participate in this KT project by visiting the exhibition, reading the catalogue and attending the related events at the museum and the Duke of York's Cinema. The project is designed to be accessible, inclusive, educational and entertaining. The exhibition will have up to ten large-size flat screens for curated programmes of key films (using specially prepared DVDs). This will give the exhibition a dramatic, informative and engaging character. Some of the galleries will have an experiential quality, evoking the surprise and the wonder of colour. They will introduce visitors/audiences to this 'new' history and cultivate civic pride through the discovery of the city's pioneer film-makers and their contribution to world cinema.

For the KTF and SASE, it will promote their work to the public and develop a new understanding of the archive's colour collection. By collaborating with the museum, the KTF and the archive will gain invaluable experience working across a range of practices (curation, interpretation, display, publicity, marketing, the delivery of a public events programme and the process of project evaluation). For RP&M, the project will create an exhibition and a related programme of activities that will enable audiences to engage with objects from the museum collections in a new and exciting manner and cultivate a new curatorial understanding of a particular set of often 'hidden' objects in the city's collections.

Planned Impact

1. Who will benefit from this KT project and how will they benefit from it?

Intrinsic Value: The project's intrinsic value will be experienced by individuals and their engagement with the exhibition's sensual nature and its expression of aesthetic, social and historical values. These individuals will include: the local public and cultural tourists attracted to the subject, its historical associations and its relationship to the city's history; professionals (academics, teachers, curators, archivists, local historians) attracted to the subject and its relationship with optical and print technologies, art & design history and visual & popular culture; artists with interests in colour, film, place, time and technology. It may serve as the catalyst for the production of new creative work.

Instrumental Value: How will the project benefit communities, education and the economy?
Communities: residents of Brighton & Hove discovering a new history of film and share in the civic pride it engenders; both in the short-term and the long-term to recognise the value of the museum as a welcoming and engaging place for encountering history and education.
Education: to introduce teachers, children and young people to this history, the work of SASE and re-affirm the museum's educational significance.
Education (FE, HE and life-long learning): to introduce existing and potential students to this subject, promote and develop formal learning opportunities in the arts & humanities and serve as a catalyst for new research.
Museum and Archive Sector: Introduction to this history, demonstrate how to conceptualise and realise a screen heritage exhibition and champion film preservation.
Cultural tourism: Almost three-quarters of RP&M's visitors are from outside of the city and they all contribute to its economy.

Institutional Value: How will the project benefit the organisations that have created it?
RP&M: Develops insight into screen heritage and SASE; develops a new understanding of its own screen heritage collections; cultivates its visitor base and its experience of working with young people (a hard-to-reach group for this sector).
SASE: Develops a range of skills: transferring knowledge/research into the public domain, curatorial practices, working with young people and the evaluation of public events.
University of Brighton: Strengthens its relationship with RP&M and the City Council; increases its public profile; enables staff and students to gain special insight into the creation of a public exhibition; promotes its courses and enriches its research culture.

2. What will be done to ensure that they (the beneficiaries) benefit from this research?

This free exhibition will run from November 2010 to March 2011. In 2007-8 the Museum had 75,554 visitors for the same period. Survey information from this year for visitors from the UK indicated 26% with BN postcodes and 74% with other UK postcodes. We estimate over 40,000 visitors for this project's exhibition. RP&M's Marketing & Audience Development Team, using its extensive experience, will produce a full marketing plan to promote the exhibition across the UK with particular emphasis on the South East and London. Using tools such as MOSAIC and demographic mapping, it will target its work at a range of potential audiences/visitors:

General audience: local and national press campaigns, flyer distribution in Sussex and London, poster campaign.
Specific target audiences: young people - using social networking sites; C2DE audience groups - demographic mapping targeted distribution, local press.
Specialist audiences: via direct mail and email lists (especially HE, FE, MLA, arts organisations), cinema advertising at Duke of York's Cinema, Brighton.

We will evaluate the project in terms of the visitor experience and the events programme. Summative evaluation will be measured


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Gray F (2016) Capturing colour: public heritage and Screen Archive South East in Early Popular Visual Culture

Description The exhibition was devoted to the emergence of 'colour' in moving images from the 1890s to the digital present with particular emphasis on hand-colouring, stencilling and additive processes at the beginning of the 20thC. It grew systematically out of Gray's long involvement with the study of the history of early film production and consumption in Brighton from 1895-1914. The film-makers George Albert Smith and James Williamson provide a focus for this research. Internationally, they are known as part of the "Brighton School" and positioned as being at the forefront of Britain's contribution to the birth of film language. Germane to the Capturing Colour project was the fact that they also made distinctive contributions to the development of coloured film. Williamson employed both tinting and hand-colouring for dramatic effect and experimented with Frederic Ives's tri-colour process for the magic lantern. Smith developed, in conjunction with the entrepreneur Charles Urban, the colour additive system known as Kinemacolor. It was the first commercially successful colour motion picture process and was heralded as a genuine technological triumph of the Edwardian era.
Exploitation Route Four activities from 2011-13 demonstrate the on-going interest in the findings presented through the Capturing Colour exhibition:

In July 2011 Gray's paper on the work of film archives within the museum context (which used Capturing Colour as its exemplar) was selected for inclusion within the conference 'Moving Image and Institution: Cinema and the Museum in the 21st Century' organised by the University of Cambridge's Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

In 2012 Gray was invited to serve on the Academic Advisory Group for the three-year research project entitled 'Colour in the 1920s: Cinema and its Intermedial Contexts' at the University of Bristol. It is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

In 2012 Gray was invited by BBC TV as an early film expert to contribute to a documentary on the world's earliest colour moving pictures. Entitled, 'The Race for Colour', it was screened on BBC1 on 17 September 2012.

In May 2013 Gray was invited to contribute a paper to a one day conference for archivists and historians entitled Restoration / Preservation. Held at the British Film Institute's Southbank complex in London and organised by Focal International (the Federation of Commercial Audio-Visual Archives), Gray (as Director of Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton) spoke about and contributed to the debate on the nature of the film restoration and drew upon the digital restoration work conducted by the Capturing Colour project on a set of surviving Kinemacolor films.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Drawing upon Frank Gray's research on early English cinema, this AHRC-funded project was dedicated to his curation of the exhibition, Capturing Colour: Film, Invention & Wonder (Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, December 2010 - March 2011). It explored the quest for colour on film and the objects (e.g. cameras and projectors, lantern slides, posters, films) were drawn from the collections of the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Screen Archive South East, British Film Institute and the National Media Museum. This was the first public exhibition on this subject and it attracted over 50,000 visitors. As an inclusive project, a team of young people from Brighton schools were involved as guest curators, designing panels and activities that reflected their interests in this history and the exhibition's content. An allied project for children explored the meanings of colour and the nature of colour mixing. The project was made possible by funding from the AHRC (£53K) and its Knowledge Transfer Fellowship scheme, the UK Film Council (£20K) and Renaissance (£28K).
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description Restoration / Preservation Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In May 2013 Gray was invited to contribute a paper to a one day conference for archivists and historians entitled Restoration / Preservation. Held at the British Film Institute's Southbank complex in London and organised by Focal International (the Federation of Commercial Audio-Visual Archives), Gray (as Director of Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton) spoke about and contributed to the debate on the nature of film restoration and drew upon the digital restoration work conducted by the Capturing Colour project on a set of surviving Kinemacolor films.

On-going discussion on the importance of this issue with archive professions in the UK and Europe.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013