Pictures in your head and new tenants

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Impressive: In 1959, an administration building, two storey laboratories and a filming hall were built on the Nonnenstieg in Göttingen. In 1960, the director’s villa, the electrician’s house and the caretaker’s house were built for the Institute of Scientific Film (IWF). The area covered 32,000 square meters, or around four football fields. Demolition began in 2019. ©private/nh

One conference concerns the former Institute for Scientific Film (IWF). Its history and meaning are illuminated.

Gottingen – A conference could hardly be more appropriate: As the last tenants move into the building of the former headquarters of the International Monetary Fund on Nonnenstieg in Gottingen, a contemporary witness tells the story and importance of the International Monetary Fund in a conference on Saturday November 18.

For decades, a building complex characterized the upper Nonnenstieg in the eastern district of Göttingen: An important media institution was located at Nonnenstieg 72: the Institute for Scientific Film (IWF).

The media institution was founded in 1956

The end of the internationally respected media institution founded in 1956 came gradually: the IMF was liquidated between 2008 and 2010 and has been in liquidation since 2011. The buildings remained empty until the refugees found temporary accommodation in 2015. Demolition began in 2019.

On the Nonnenstieg in Göttingen: More than 200 rental apartments have been built on the former site of the Institute for Scientific Film (IWF).
On the Nonnenstieg in Göttingen: More than 200 rental apartments have been built on the former site of the Institute for Scientific Film (IWF). ©Thomas Copytz

Now there are modern condominiums there. The last apartments in the complex built by Wertgrund of Munich are about to move in these days. Now they model the image on Nonnenstieg. For older people, the image of the International Monetary Fund remains the most memorable image in their minds.

Great importance of the former institute

But Werner Große’s conference is not only aimed at this audience. He talks about the International Monetary Fund, the importance of science film, the Göttingen Institute and the people of Göttingen. Conference title: “What remains of the IMF and the scientific film?” The event on Saturday 18 November at Startraum Göttingen is part of the anniversary program “75 years of the film city of Göttingen” initiated by the Göttingen Film Office.

Werner Große is an expert on science films.
Werner Große is an expert on science films. © private/nh

Werner Große is predestined to talk about cinema, and in particular scientific cinema, in Göttingen. He was an employee of the Institute for Scientific Film for 37 years. “I was married to the International Monetary Fund,” says the 77-year-old, who still teaches at TU Braunschweig.

Scientific cinema has a tradition

Scientific cinema, however, has a tradition in the scientific city of Göttingen: after escaping from Berlin, a dozen film experts, led by Gotthard Wolf, dealt with the topic in Göttingen. Wolf arrived in 1945 with a truck and some employees from Berlin via Höckelheim to Göttingen. In his baggage: cameras and films, lots of talent and skill.

In Berlin, the team shot technical research footage at the Reich Institute for Film and Image in Science and Education (RWU). He set up a makeshift production facility in Göttingen. In the end, not at all predictable at the time, he created an institution “that was second to none,” as Große writes. According to Alexander Zguridi, Göttingen and especially the International Monetary Fund should become the “Mecca of science films” in the coming decades.

Global recognition

On April 1, 1956, what we would now call “StartUp” became the Institute for Scientific Film (IWF) – and Gotthard Wolf became its director. The institute has established itself and has been recognized as “the most representative example of such an organization in the world”, as demonstrated by a UNESCO report. A success that, in retrospect, Große himself defines as “extraordinary”.

Thousands of scientific films were made in Nonnenstieg, which were produced, evaluated, published and made available to science there.

State-funded service institute

Many people in the region were aware of all this, but viewers in general had no connection with it. The International Monetary Fund was conceived as a service institution for science and was therefore financed by the state.

The films and images fascinated even non-experts, but at the same time the main task of the IWF was to correctly convey complex search results in images and texts. With high product demands, as underlined by Werner Große, who also highlights the differences compared to the scientific explanations that are popular today thanks to new media and technologies, including via YouTube videos.

Use of material in fragments

Another problem according to Große is the use of fragments of material taken out of the context of the films, even from old IMF films. Große once came across parts of IWF footage on a video wall in a nightclub in Spain. “Incredible!”

By the way, he knows all the IMF films. Ultimately, Werner Große at the IMF was responsible for the final acceptance, in which he was involved. Among the facility’s treasures are numerous films by world-renowned behavioral scientists Konrad Lorenz and Irenaeus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, as well as recordings with Göttingen Nobel Prize winners Otto Hahn and Werner Heisenberg.

Painful end for the institute

The end of the IMF, painful for many, including Werner Große, is unknown to many of the inhabitants of the new buildings. One more reason to attend his conference.

Info: Werner Große: “What remains of the IMF and the scientific film?”, Saturday 18 November, 6 pm, StartRaum, Friedrichstraße 3-4, 37073 Göttingen, admission: eight euros, reduced price six euros. (Thomas Copytz)

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