Not long ago, on National Home Movie Day, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held an open house for the screening of “regular” folks’ home movies during the day and a sold-out showing of vintage Hollywood films at night.
The unveiling last week of a nearly nearly ninety-year-old British film on which Alfred Hitchcock served as assistant director, art director, and co-scenarist was another exciting event in the recent parade of major archival discoveries. On Thursday night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held the premiere screening of The White Shadow (1924)—or at least, the first half of the feature, which is all that survives. This is just the latest archeological “find” to emerge from a partnership of the New Zealand Film Archive, the American archival community, and the National Film Preservation Foundation that, most notably, unearthed—
When I started doing research about film history, I counted myself lucky to live just outside Manhattan so I could visit the incomparable Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the Lincoln Center branch of the New York Public Library. I practically lived there when I was a teenager. On my first visit to California I discovered the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, another world-class resource. I felt bad for people who wanted to write about film but didn’t have access to these unique institutions.
A production sketch for Gone With The Wind drawn by the legendary Art director William Cameron Menzies. (Courtesy of AMPAS)
Now, like the Library of Congress and David Pierce’s Media History Digital Library (see article HERE), the Academy is beginning to scan some of its materials in order to make them available to scholars and film buffs online. Its first major endeavor is its—
Like anyone who’s spent much of his life in libraries and archives, hearing a young person claim that you can find “everything you need” to do research online is upsetting, to put it mildly. One can easily find simple information, and misinformation, but if you’ve devoted hours and days digging through vintage film publications or studio production files you know that acres of primary research materials don’t exist on the Internet.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have access to great collections like the ones held by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, or the New York Public Library in Manhattan, you’re limited to how many hours or days you can spend taking notes and making photocopies.
One dedicated film scholar and archivist is trying to change all that. David Pierce has initiated a privately-funded project called Media History Digital Library, which is described—
Like many other movie lovers and purists, I was upset when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it would be removing all honorary awards from its Oscar broadcast in 2010. This was often the highlight of the show for me, though I realize that it must have been boring for viewers who don’t care about movie history. The Academy promised it would stage an elegant event in November that would bestow even more honorary awards than usual in a given year.
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