She will be missed: Christine Whittaker, 1942-2017

 

It is with great sadness that I must on behalf of the IAMHIST Council tell members that our friend and former president Christine Whittaker has died. Christine was a long-term member of IAMHIST who served as president from 2001 to 2004.  She brought much to our organization as one of the most prominent members with a background in practice rather than academia. 

Christine – née Smith — was born on 22 December 1942 in the Northumberland town of Corbridge, on Hadrian’s Wall.  She was educated at the University of Leeds where she read French and German.  Her initial hope was to work for the Foreign Office as a translator, but when they turned her down she went to work for the BBC.  Her first job was at the BBC World Service with a unit broadcasting in French to Canada.  She moved within the corporation to the current affairs outfit based at Lime Grove where she worked on a program called 24 Hours, but it was when she moved to a third post at the feature/documentary unit at Kensington House.  Her projects included a series of helicopter-films called Bird’s-Eye View (1969-1971) some episodes of which were written and narrated by the great English poet Sir John Betjeman, with whom Christine enjoyed working.  Others working on the series included two crazy Polish pilots, the distinguished producer/director Edward Mirzoeff and a cameraman named Graham Whittaker whom she married in 1972.  Christine and Mirzoeff worked together with Betjeman on two more films – Metro-Land (1973) and A Passion For Churches (1974), both of which are now considered classics. While at Kensington House Christine found her forte.  Her tasks included researching a series of short films about major events in World War Two including the attack on the Tirpitz and the Norwegian resistance raid on the Nazi Heavy Water Plant all of which required her to locate archive film to illustrate the story.  The process of finding historical film became her great professional passion and she became very good at it.  In due course Christine received full credit as ‘producer (archives)’ in a string of major BBC projects.  Her CV included some of the gems of television history including a history of work called All our Working Lives (1984), the path-breaking history of women’s experience in the twentieth century Out of the Dolls House (1988) of which she was especially proud and the Emmy-award winning The People’s Century, (1995-97).  Her work was often featured in the Timewatch strand of historical documentaries which ran for many years on BBC 2.  She was much admired by her colleagues in the television industry and by those who provided the film she used.  In 2006 she was honored with a lifetime achievement award by FOCAL (the Federation of Commercial Audio Visual Libraries).

At IAMHIST Christine provided leadership during a time of change.  She was kind and generous with her help to younger scholars and practitioners alike as a regular participant in master classes and she worked hard to maintain the presence of top-level practitioners at IAMHIST conferences.  She was saddened by the changes in historical television and the decline of the in-house production teams of which she’d been part, and often shared a sense that she had been fortunate to be part of a golden age at the BBC.  Christine took a great interest in the wider lives of her IAMHIST colleagues and always enjoyed meeting their families and children.  Christine had two children, Georgina and Jack, and in recent years became a grandmother also.  Her final years were marked by a struggle first with Parkinson’s Disease and then with cancer; she died of complications arising from these conditions with her family close by on 16 August.  She will be much missed and our thoughts go out to Graham, Georgina, Jack and all her family at this sad time.  Colleagues who wish to mark her passing might consider donating in her name to the Meadow House Hospice [link], who took care of her during her final weeks.  The hospice mailing address is Macmillan Nursing, Meadow House Hospice, Uxbridge Road, Southall, Middlesex, UB1 3HW.

Nick Cull

President, IAMHIST.

Karel Dibbets (1947-2017) will also be missed – a sad year

It is with great sadness that we have to inform of yet another great loss, the passing away on May 28th of our dear friend, colleague and former teacher Karel Dibbets (1947-2017). Karel was one of the initiators of what to some still may ring a bell: Dutch IAMHIST, what would become the Dutch Association for History, Image and Sound. Together with Bert Hogenkamp and many others he organized the XV IAMHIST conference in Amsterdam in 1993 and published the proceedings with the corresponding title Film and the First World War in 1994. Probably most known, however, Karel is for his work on the pioneering database and encyclopedia Cinema Context.

“Professional expertise: Asparagus with salmon” was the first thing I learned about Karel from his profile page, after I had enrolled for a course about Dutch film culture that he was teaching at the University of Amsterdam. It didn’t tell me much about him back then, but it tells a lot about as I have gotten to know him over the past one and a half decades: bon vivant, witty, modest. He enjoyed great food, fine art, music and gezelligheid as much as he enjoyed his work.

Many of us remember Karel as a dedicated and visionary scholar and historian. In 1971, he graduated at the film academy, but soon turned to the University of Amsterdam to study Economic and social history. This step in fact marked the beginning of a long academic career at the University of Amsterdam – a career that, as Karel himself joked about upon his early retirement in 2011, did not exactly follow the standard path. He graduated in Economic and social history 1982, helped establishing a new department for Film- and TV studies, obtained his PhD in 1993, and would keep his position as assistant professor until his retirement.

Karel was never satisfied with superficial answers (and questions), he loved to engage in critical discussions and his sharp-sighted questions and remarks were thought-provoking and inspiring. For Karel, history was not one-dimensional, but complex, and it was the historian’s task to unravel this complexity. At the end of the 1970s, when Karel was a student, he performed a complex analysis of chain formation in the Dutch cinema sector, the type of analysis that we now commonly refer to as social network analysis. Yet the innovative aspect of this study also lay in the way it was carried out: long before the term digital had entered the standard vocabulary of humanists and historians, Karel used to punch cards and computational calculation to deal with the enormous datasets he had created and to solve (at least part of) his questions. The resulting thesis from 1980 “Cinema chains in the Netherlands: economic concentration and geographical expansion of an industry, 1928 – 1977” (in Dutch) is still highly insightful for cinema historians in the Netherlands.

With this research, though innovative and visionary in itself, Karel paved the way for something even bigger, something that would become his life time achievement: the Cinema Context database. Karel always emphasized that Cinema Context is much more than just a database or encyclopedia for information on cinemas and film programs. To him Cinema Context was most and foremost a research tool, which would allow for generating and answering complex research questions about Dutch film culture, including patterns of film distribution and networks of cinemas, distributors and exhibitors. It is only during the last couple of years that this true potential of Cinema Context has begun to be recognized and that it has undergone a radical improvement, partly by initiatives by researchers of the CREATE project under the supervision of Julia Noordegraaf. In my last talk with Karel only a few weeks ago, he showed how happy and grateful he was to find his legacy in capable hands.

Karel’s legacy of course, extends this by far. Next to countless publications on Dutch film culture, including his dissertation from 1993 about the introduction of the talkies in the Netherlands, it is also the projects and collaborations he initiated as well as the inspiring talks for which he will be remembered and which will undoubtedly result in further compelling research questions and projects. Karel was able to push colleagues and students alike to take that extra step, seek for explanations, think out of the box.

Karel did not enjoy being center stage and if an illness had taken over his live, he would not allow her to dominate his conversations. During the last weeks at the hospital, there was a coming and going of family, friends and colleagues. Although exhausting, talks about future projects and plans fulfilled him with joy.

Karel, his wit and vision will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.

 

Kathleen Lotze (Utrecht University)

 

 

IAMHIST seeks a new webmaster and online community manager

As Katharina Niemeyer will be HJFRT book review editor from July 2017 on, IAMHIST seeks a new webmaster and online community manager who could begin her/his work after the IAMHIST Paris conference.

Your profile

– a scholar or media practitioner who is interested in media history/media and history and in IAMHIST-activities (www.IAMHIST.org).

– you should be available for at least two years

– you are very familiar with WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and other social online media

– you are fluent in English

– you are in touch with a number of networks in the fields of media studies, media history, history …

– you are reliable and communicative

Advantages

– you will be affiliated to the IAMHIST council during two years (http://IAMHIST.org/about-us/IAMHIST-council/) and you will be invited to the council meetings.

– you will receive free IAMHIST membership during 2 years, http://IAMHIST.org/membership/)

– you will receive a small stipend per year

– you will build a wide network in the field of media and history/media history

Information and what you would have to do

– On average, being webmaster and community manager means up to 3 cumulated hours of work per week (sometimes more, sometimes less; also depending on special events etc.).

– You are of course free to divide your own time, but it is important to be flexible and available when it comes to special or important IAMHIST events (deadline reminder, prize announcements etc.).

– There is a transition period of two months during which the former and the new online community manager will work together.

– Register to several newsletters related to media history and media studies and filtering the announcements you receive by selecting those that are relevant for IAMHIST

– At least 1-2 times per month: Posting calls for papers, interesting publications, open positions etc. on the IAMHIST website (those filtered from the newsletters or those you receive from colleagues via mail)

– sharing the published posts via IAMHIST twitter (https://twitter.com/IAMHIST) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/IAMHIST/)

– posting special IAMHIST events in exchange with the council members (masterclass, conferences etc.)

– updating the website in general (new members, council members, IAMHIST events etc.) in exchange with council members

– answering/forwarding mails received via the IAMHIST contact form on the website

– give input about the online strategy of IAMHIST to the council

– present an annual website and community management report for the council meeting

– special community management during IAMHIST events: shares on Facebook or tweets

– co-administration of the Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/IAMHIST/)

If you are interested in applying for this position, please send a mail with a short motivation statement and CV to:

IAMHIST.web@gmail.com / Deadline: May 15th, 2017.

 

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