Ancient History Film Archive: Tom Stern Collection
University of Göttingen
Humboldtallee 21
37073 Göttingen
Collections Homepage

Opening hours and guided tours: by appointment

Dr. Martin Lindner
Tel.: +49 551 39-24719
E-Mail: Dr. Martin Lindner

In summer 2017, the Department of Ancient History in Göttingen acquired the filmic estate of the archaeologist, film scholar and museum educator Tom Stern (1958-2016). His career included excavations in south-eastern Turkey and Syria as well as campaigns of underwater archaeology at the Lake Dwelling Museum in Unteruhldingen on Lake Constance. At the Ruhr Museum in Essen, he helped design internationally shown exhibitions and taught classes on archaeological film at the universities of Cologne and Bochum. He was also a founding member – and for a time vice-chairman – of the archaeology film festival "Cinarchea" and contributed his expertise to film productions.

Over decades, Tom Stern compiled what is probably the most extensive private collection of documentary, school and propaganda films on prehistoric, ancient historical and archaeological topics. In addition, his estate contains hundreds of thematically related feature films, series and commercials. In addition, there are unpublished film collages, festival contributions and his own recordings for lectures and exhibitions as well as accompanying promotional material and screening equipment.

The oldest films from the estate date back to the 1920s, the most recent were made around 2010. In recent years, the holdings have been expanded through donations, which have also allowed more recent productions to find their way in. The films are stored on a variety of media - from film reels to magnetic tapes to optical data storage media. The medium-term goal is to digitise the examples that are particularly worthy of preservation and those that are endangered. In the long term, the complete collection is to be digitised and made searchable via the Göttingen University Catalogue.

Thanks to a donation from the film scholar and documentary filmmaker Kurt Denzer (1939-2021), the collection now boasts an extensive special library. In the summer of 2023, the holdings, which have been further expanded since then, were supplemented by the book estate of Tom Stern and a new user room was set up.

The collection's work focuses on film as a form of communicating scientific knowledge: the transformation of documentary film on ancient topics as a historical-cultural phenomenon, its historical and medial framework conditions as well as national or regional traditions and the appropriation of ancient topics in popular narratives.

In the coming years, the cataloguing of the Stern Collection will be advanced, among other things, within the work of student project groups. At the same time, the collection will be expanded as a teaching and learning archive for events in classical studies and can be used by students, researchers and external interested parties. Other services offered include courses for teachers, film screenings with commentary in local cinemas or workshops for memorial sites, history associations and many more.

Martin Lindner

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