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Annotated Bibliography Project


A major task of the history and conservation group was the creation of an annotated bibliography.

Principally managed by Amanda McQueen, the primary research assistant for the history and conservation group, the bibliography was designed to be a relatively comprehensive, cross–disciplinary collection of literature on cellulose nitrate that could help all members of the grant project develop a stronger historical background that could inform our chemical research.

Starting with the preliminary bibliography compiled by Dr. Heather Heckman and submitted as part of the initial grant application, we gathered sources from a variety of communities:

  • archivists and conservators
  • chemists and polymer scientists
  • historians
  • film industry practitioners
  • safety or standards organizations
  • government agencies.

The bibliography thus contains a diverse set of sources, including peer-reviewed, trade and popular press articles; historical accounts; literature reviews; websites and forum postings; conference proceedings; practitioner handbooks; safety standards; and government publications.

Each bibliographic entry was classified by type and by the community from which it originated, and each was furnished with an abstract, an annotation, and relevant keyword tags. The annotations were undertaken by two Communication Arts graduate students, with the aid of graduate students studying archiving and conservation under Katie Mullen, Director of Preservation at the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS). Later editing of the entries was done by Catherine Hannula, a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Studies. Our aim was to provide as comprehensive a collection of nitrate-related literature as possible, but we also wanted to determine the accuracy and usefulness of these sources.

How to Use our Annotated Bibliography

From the start, we intended the annotated bibliography be a useful resource for the broader public. By bringing together literature from a variety of disciplines, we have created a repository of information that can guide future scientific study and facilitate future conversation between the different communities that handle and study cellulose nitrate.

At this time, the bibliography contains 228 annotated sources. The bibliography is searchable and entries can be sorted by author, title, type, or year. You can access the annotated bibliography here:

Online Bibliography

Each source contains an abstract that gives a neutral summary of its content. When possible, the abstract was taken from the source itself; otherwise, it was written by one of the graduate student researchers working on the project.

Each source also contains an annotation that describes how relevant each source is to the overall goal of the grant project and points out any particularly noteworthy elements of its content.

Finally, the history and conservation group and the chemistry group together developed an extensive list of possible keywords covering a wide range of topics related to the larger goals and research questions of the grant project. Each entry was then tagged with as many of these keywords as was applicable. The full list of keywords can be found here, but the major topics include:

    • type of cellulose nitrate (e.g. motion picture film, sheet film, lacquer or adhesive)
    • nitration level
    • plasticizers
    • film processing and handling
    • historical film fires
    • parameters of chemical studies
    • analytical techniques
    • mechanisms for decomposition
    • variables affecting decomposition and flammability
    • brown powder
    • public relations

In the online version of the annotated bibliography, these keywords allow users to filter the entries and pull up only those that discuss a particular topic of interest. A legend at the top of each page helpfully explains the abbreviations used.

Though we recognize there is more literature out there - particularly in non-English languages - what we have gathered so far offers a number of useful starting places for those interested in researching cellulose nitrate.

We hope that this bibliography can continue to grow. If you know of any additional sources on cellulose nitrate that we have overlooked and that should be added to this bibliography, please let us know at