Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar At The Library

Did Sunday night's show leave you eager to learn more about movies? The 81st Annual Academy Awards might be in the history books, but that doesn't mean you have to wait until next year to satisfy your motion picture curiosity. Aspiring cinematographers, wannabe film critics, and movie fans everywhere can turn to these unique libraries to discover the wonders of the cinema.

As the official library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Margaret Herrick Library is considered "The World's Preeminent Cinema Research Facility." The Herrick Library's collection focuses on the development of motion picture as both an art form and an industry. A visit to the Herrick Library, located in Beverly Hills, might uncover anything from screenplays and production design sketches to the personal papers of Alfred Hitchcock. Although almost all of the library's collection is available to the public, all of the Herrick Library materials are non-circulating.

No stranger to preservation and research, the Library of Congress operates its own institution devoted to cinema. The Motion Picture and Television Reading Room is a project of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS) of the Library of Congress. The reading room contains descriptive materials about motion pictures that date back to Thomas Edison's Kinetoscopic Records from the 1890's. Different in scope from the Hollywood-focused collection of the Academy's Herrick Library, the Motion Picture and Television Reading Room collects and documents films that trace the everyday history of America, mostly from the first half of the 20th Century. While the reading room is located in Washington, D.C., many of the MBRS' historic films are viewable online.

Lastly, located right in our own backyard, the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research is an internationally recognized facility devoted to collecting the papers and A/V materials of key personnel across all facets of US audio/visual/stage culture. A joint project of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Communication Arts department of UW-Madison, the WCFTR is a gold mine of historic television footage, classic manuscripts from Broadway, landmarks of independent cinema, and a window to Hollywood's Golden Age. Where else but the WCFTR can you find the financial records of none other than Spartacus himself, Kirk Douglas?

Image "Neon" courtesy Flickr user Hitchster:

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