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Discover the rich history of MoMA Film Department

The Museum of Modern Art, also known as MoMA, is widely regarded as one of the world's largest and most influential museums in the world. It has six curatorial departments at MoMA. Each of these departments is responsible for the development, restoration, and display of the particular field. The departments at MoMA are Architecture and Design, Drawings and Prints, Film, Media and Performance, Painting and Sculpture, and Photography.

MoMA Film Department

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Since its inception in 1929, The Museum of Modern Art has been at the forefront of film preservation and curation, shaping the way we perceive and appreciate the cinematic medium. In 1935, the museum established its Film Library, marking a significant step in its commitment to cinema. John Hay Whitney, a Museum Trustee and film producer, served as the first chairman of the Museum's Film Library from 1935 to 1951. Alongside cinema curator Iris Barry, Whitney curated a remarkable collection of films. The success of Whitney's collection was evident when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded MoMA in 1937, recognizing its impact on the film world.

Today, MoMA's Film Department boasts a collection of over 30,000 films and 1.5 million film stills, making it the strongest international film collection in the United States. The collection includes original negatives from the Biograph and Edison companies, as well as the world's largest collection of films by D. W. Griffith.

The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center

The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, an US$11.2 million state-of-the-art storage facility in Hamlin, Pennsylvania, opened on June 20, 1996. The Preservation Center provides a scalable system of temperature and humidity-controlled vaults that may grow with the collection. The collection enables the Museum to continue to offer a world-class research and exhibition program to the general public, scholars, and filmmakers. Individual films have been examined by filmmakers at every level, from writers, directors, and producers to costume designers, production assistants, and grips, as part of this program in its various versions has provided an education for modern artists in all mediums.

MoMA Film Study Center

The Department of Film at MoMA houses a wealth of primary sources on film figures and issues. By appointment only, they can be viewed at the Film Study Center. The Film Study Center is a wonderful place to be if you are looking to gather more knowledge about the history of films for academic purposes or simply out of curiosity.

Circulating Film Library

MoMA Film Library

The Circulating Library at MoMA’s Film Department, established in 1935, collects films showcasing the historical and artistic evolution of cinema, aiming to establish it as a significant art form. Initially, the library offered a circulating collection at affordable rates to colleges, museums, and other educational institutions.

Today, the Circulating Library remains unique, providing access to films by renowned independent filmmakers not easily found on 16mm. It has expanded its outreach to include regional and international film festivals, Museum exhibitions, and other film organizations that can still screen 16mm film, thus enhancing the accessibility of its exceptional collection. The library currently offers only 16mm prints for rental, including distribution prints used in movie theaters. It houses the Warhol 16mm collection and Richard Serra titles, working closely with rights holders.

MoMA Film exhibitions

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The following screenings and exhibitions would be of interest to you if you are a film buff:

  1. To Save and Project: This festival returns for its 20th year to present newly preserved and restored films from around the world. It will run from January 11 to February 4, 2024.
  2. Doc Fortnight: In its 23rd year, this festival will highlight the next crop of innovative nonfiction films. It will take place from February 22 to March 7, 2024.
  3. New Directors/New Films: The 53rd edition of this festival, co-presented by Film at Lincoln Center and MoMA, will bring new work by emerging directors to the silver screen. It will run from April 3 to 14, 2024.
  4. Silent Movie Week: Returning for its second year, this new annual series will bring seven silent-film restorations to MoMA over the course of one week, from July 31 to August 6, 2024.
  5. The Contenders: This popular annual film series will return on November 7, 2024, and continue into January 2025, featuring the Department’s picks for the year’s standout films.

Virtual Cinema

MoMA's celebrated film programming is now available for you to watch at home, with new films landing weekly and exclusive director Q&As, and it is all included with a MoMA membership. You can just sign up for the membership and stream rare and revered films online from all over the world on a weekly basis.




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Visitor tips for MoMA Film Department

  • Be sure to check out the rare collections like Biograph and Edison negatives, and the D. W. Griffith collection on your visit.
  • At the Circulating Library, discover rare films by independent filmmakers that are not easily found on 16mm film.
  • Attend the Film Department’s celebrated festivals of Film Preservation, Nonfiction Films, and Films by Emerging Directors.
  • Check out the film and media schedule for movie screenings to see if there is anything that interests you.

Freqently asked questions about MoMA Film Department

When did the MoMA Film department start?

The MoMA Film Department was established in 1935.

How big is the MoMA Film collection?

The MoMA Film Department collection includes more than 30,000 films and 1.5 million film stills.

What are the different kinds of works that are a part of the MoMA film collection?

The MoMA Film Department collection includes films and movie stills from numerous rare and legendary works of the modern era.

Name some of the filmmakers whose works are a part of the MoMA Film collections?

Some of the filmmakers whose works can be found at MoMA are Andy Warhol, D. W. Griffith, Fred Halsted, and Chris Cunningham.

Are there any film screenings at MoMA Film Department?

Yes, MoMA hosts various film screenings, including ongoing series like ‘Modern Mondays’.

Are there film festivals at MoMA Film Department?

MoMA hosts several film festivals every year. This year, look out for ‘To Save and Project’, ‘Doc Fortnight’, and ‘New Directors/New Films’.