The Desmet dossier

The archive of Jean Desmet (1875 - 1956) is one of the main components of the Eye collection, for two reasons: it contains many unique materials, and it is quite large. Desmet was a leading film-industry entrepreneur in the 1910s. This was the age when film, which began as a fairground attraction, was beginning to assume a place of its own: in the cinema.

Desmet was one of the pioneering early cinema operators in the Netherlands, and he also documented and preserved almost everything that had to do with his business: not only bookkeeping and films, but also posters, advertisements, and memos.

This resulted in an extraordinary archive, which received worldwide recognition in 2011 when UNESCO included it in its Memory of the World Register.

With photos, letters, posters, and films from this archive, here we tell the story of Jean Desmet and his film legacy.
It begins on the fairground...