Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

MoMA's (Still) Missing Film Stills? Not Exactly.

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik January 11, 2012 at 7:52PM

In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art closed off its venerable Film Stills Achive--an essential resource for archivists and academics--and fired its chief staffers Mary Corliss and Terry Geesken, causing rancor among cinephiles everywhere. I covered the story for the Village Voice almost exactly ten years ago this week ("Freeze Frame"). Now Time Magazine critic (and Mary's husband) Richard Corliss has resurrected the issue of the Archive, and its relocation to MoMA's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center in Hamlin, PA, also known as the "bunker." On Wednesday, he wrote a column, protesting the continuing "inaccessible" nature of the archive's some 4 million photographs.
0

In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art closed off its venerable Film Stills Achive--an essential resource for archivists and academics--and fired its chief staffers Mary Corliss and Terry Geesken, causing rancor among cinephiles everywhere. I covered the story for the Village Voice almost exactly ten years ago this week ("Freeze Frame"). Now Time Magazine critic (and Mary's husband) Richard Corliss has resurrected the issue of the Archive, and its relocation to MoMA's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center in Hamlin, PA, also known as the "bunker." On Wednesday, he wrote a column, protesting the continuing "inaccessible" nature of the archive's some 4 million photographs.

A decade ago, Mary Corliss told me: "The Hamlin facility was never supposed to be a place where you could retrieve materials instantly," she said. "When you have something that is such a jewel, it belongs to the world; it doesn't belong in dead storage."

While this may be true to an extent, and the ready availability of photos from the collection is certainly not what it used to be, I have to report that Corliss exaggerates the state of the photos in his current column. While what happened to Corliss and Geesken remains unforgivenable, and appeared to be largely motivated by anti-union busting (read the Voice story), the photos are not exactly unattainable, although they may be a hassle to get to (Hamlin is more than two hours from the city).

Though MoMA Film Chief Rajendra Roy told me the Archive will never return to 53rd Street, the photos are still accessible via appointment in Hamlin through the highly capable Film Collections Manager, Katie Trainor, who New Yorkers might remember as the manager of the IFC Center.

"Katie handles all incoming requests and they are vetted by curators," Roy told me via email. "Access will always be challenging," he admitted. "But it is safely and securely kept, in an organized manner."

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Bob Connors: The thing to remember is the video has some actual data but it's conclusions are far fetched and inaccurate. This is a Progressive propaghand…

Who is "Politizane" and What's Next for the Income Inequality Viral Video

Mar 21th, 2015 8:47am

By Ostlee: This makes very sad reading - i feel for the people of Maldives. Everyone should boycott the island as a holiday destination until Nasheed…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 13th, 2015 5:35pm

By Ahmed Shahid: Release the first democratically elected president. The only president of Maldives who has reached the people of Maldives, heard them and…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 12th, 2015 9:37am

By Hanne Neve: Please take care of your country and the climate by freeing your real selektet president.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 11th, 2015 9:09am

By Iqbal: Please release President Nasheed

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 10:27pm

By Martha Robertson: I strongly urge the immediate release of Nasheed!

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 9:37pm

By Ned Rollins: Bad business, going to bite you.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 3:47pm

By John Painter: The guy isnt a terrorist.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 12:00pm

By Sofia Vera: I support Presdient Nasheed and add my name to this letter of support for his release.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 11:14am

By Margarett R Mulkey: A civilized society is required of the current government of the Maldives. The world is watching injustice and crimes, and many realized thes…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 10:53am