Wesleyan Cinema Archives Receives NEH Challenge Grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Cinema Archives with a $425,000 challenge grant.

Wesleyan’s Center for Film Studies Cinema Archives has long been acknowledged as one of the most vital collections and educational resources of its kind in the world. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has approved a $425,000 challenge grant to the archives. Support from NEH, which requires a three to one match with private gifts, will ensure that the archives continue to grow and flourish.

The four-year NEH grant will help endow a full-time curatorial position for the Cinema Archives, a collection which includes the personal papers and other materials of such seminal film icons as Frank Capra, Elia Kazan, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Ingrid Bergman, among others.

“Our Archive is a little gem,” says Jeanine Basinger, Chair and Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator, Wesleyan Cinema Archives. “We house some of the most important primary documents in film history, and our students are allowed to use these materials in their studies.  However, the real importance lies in the fact that our Archive is also vital to a wide range of other liberal arts researchers. For instance, Frank Capra was not only a famous film director.  He also made science documentaries and was head of the U.S. Office of War Information during World War II.  Ingrid Bergman made films in America, but also Sweden, German, Italy and France. Elia Kazan is a major figure in both film and theatre, and also a successful novelist.”

The curator will be responsible for obtaining new acquisitions, overseeing cataloging and processing, and expand the Archives’ ability to exhibit and provide educational access to its moving image papers and artifacts. Another integral component of the position is to promote public access to the collections by making its materials available through study guides, collection profiles, Web sites, stand-alone databases, and exhibition catalogues. The position includes an academic appointment as adjunct faculty member, as well.

The NEH grant will only partially endow the position and, because it is a matching grant, Wesleyan will be responsible for raising an additional $1.275 million to ensure the position is completely endowed.

“It’s wonderful to have NEH support,” Basinger says. “It’s a level of recognition and respect that endorses our mission in the teaching of film history. It also inspires us to meet the challenge it represents. The grant is very gratifying, and we’re thrilled.”

Along with being the home of the Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives, Wesleyan’s Center for Film Studies also houses Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department, the 418-seat, state-of-the-art, Goldsmith Family Cinema, 118-seat Powell Family Cinema, the Bay Production Wing, the Whedon Mezzanine, the Rick Nicita Gallery and the Tuft Atrium.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent, grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. Wesleyan’s grant is among $21 million in grants for 215 humanities projects announced by NEH in December.