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George Eastman House receives Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources

Rochester, N.Y., February 13, 2014—George Eastman House is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) through the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. The grant award of $155,900 will be used to hire two project archivists to process and create finding aids for the manuscript collections of four filmmakers.

The project, “Documenting Their Films: Hidden Collections of Four Independent Filmmakers,” will focus on arranging and describing the manuscript collections of Douglass Crockwell, Leo Hurwitz, James Reese, and Lothar Wolff. George Eastman House holds the films and papers of each of these filmmakers, which together provide context to the finished works and insight into the men who made them.

“We are truly excited and honored to receive funding for this project, which will help bring to light and contextualize the work of these remarkable filmmakers,” said Nancy Kauffman, archivist in the moving image department of George Eastman House and project manager for the project. “These manuscript collections provide a wealth of primary source material for scholars of documentary, experimental, avant-garde, and industrial films. Creating finding aids and making them available online will increase awareness of these collections and enable scholars to further study and expand their understanding of these artists and their works.” 

Douglass Crockwell was a commercial illustrator and a contemporary of Norman Rockwell, a filmmaker of abstract animation, and a collector of mutoscope reels. Fascinated with the mechanics of the mutoscope and the automation of images, he designed a new mutoscope viewer for his own works and experimented with the use of color in mutoscope reels of his own creation. Leo Hurwitz played a significant role in the radical cooperative documentary filmmaking movement of the 1930’s, collaborating with important artists such as Paul Strand and Ralph Steiner. Blacklisted during the McCarthy era, Hurwitz persisted in documenting on film some of the greatest social upheavals of the twentieth century, including the American civil rights movement, and later directed the televised Adolf Eichmann war crimes trial. James Reese produced industrial films for General Electric and later, as a university professor, made ethnographic and naturalist films in Western New York and Mexico. Finally, Lothar Wolff was a chief editor and assistant producer for the landmark March of Time series. In his own words a “scientific moron,” he made a series of films on the sun, moon, Earth, and solar system for National Geographic and the National Academy of Sciences.

These filmmakers’ manuscript collections include original correspondence, notes, scripts, financial records, photographs and photo albums, drawings, patents, audio tapes, flip books, mutoscope reels, plaques and awards, newspaper clippings and other personal effects. The finding aids will be written and encoded according to current archival standards in order to facilitate and increase their discovery in an online environment.

In addition to Kauffman and the two project archivists, the project team consists of Jared Case, head of collection information, research, and access, and Caroline Yeager, assistant curator in the museum’s moving image department.

CLIR’s Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program funds projects that enable institutions to process collections that have not been cataloged previously, thus leaving them unknown and hidden to scholars and researchers outside of the institution. George Eastman House is one of twenty-two recipients nationwide to receive funding from CLIR in its 2013 grant cycle.

About George Eastman House

George Eastman House holds unparalleled collections, totaling more than four million objects, of photographs, motion pictures, cameras and technology, and photographically illustrated books. Established as an independent non-profit institution in 1947, it is the world’s oldest photography museum and third largest film archive in the United States. The museum is in Rochester, NY, and includes the National Historic Landmark house and gardens of George Eastman, the philanthropist and father of popular photography and motion picture film. Learn more at eastmanhouse.org.

About CLIR

CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. CLIR administers this national grant program with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information about CLIR and the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program, visit clir.org/hiddencollections