you’re co-curator of Cinema Archives. When did you come to Wesleyan and were
you hired in as co-curator?
A: I came to
Wesleyan in 1990 as the associate curator. I was promoted to co-curator in
Q: Where do
you have degrees from, and in what?
A: I received
my B.A. and M.A. in history, both from UConn.
coming to Wesleyan, what were you doing, or what led to working in cinema
A: I was a
business archivist working for two of the insurance companies in Hartford.
Also, as a freelancer, I was writing histories of companies and institutions
celebrating milestone anniversaries. The work was interesting enough, but
the unique opportunity to work at the Cinema Archives allowed me to combine
my interests in film, history, and archives management.
Q: The Cinema
Archives provide a home for Wesleyan’s growing collections related to motion
picture, television and history. What about this fascinates you?
A: I think
what is most fascinating about the collections, which you might think deal
only with film and television history, is that they actually illuminate so
many other areas and disciplines. For example, the Frank Capra Collection
includes material on his World War II activities of great interest to
political scientists and historians. In the Elia Kazan Collection, there is
correspondence among James Baldwin, Alex Haley and Kazan that discusses
Malcolm X. Our Omnibus television series papers have original source
material relating to John F. Kennedy, Thomas Hart Benton, Albert Einstein,
and many other mid-20th-century giants. The Cinema Archives really fits in
with Wesleyan’s long liberal arts tradition.
Q: Who uses
the Cinema Archives?
A: We serve a
large array of users with many interests: biographers, documentary film and
television producers, museum exhibition curators, students,
genealogists, you name it. Several weeks ago, for instance, some of our
photographs of James Dean on the set of East of Eden were featured on
an American Masters documentary on PBS. Unlike a library, we do not
permit casual browsing, but we welcome serious inquiries from all parties.
The archives is open by appointment only.
Q: Who is
featured in the Archives?
A: Among the
more famous individuals, we have the collections of Ingrid Bergman, Frank
Capra, Jonathan Demme, Clint Eastwood, Federico Fellini, Elia Kazan, Martin
Scorsese, and John Waters, plus a number of others.
Q: So, what
would someone find, say if they want more information on Elia Kazan?
A: The Kazan
Collection is an amazing resource. Let’s say you were doing a research topic
on perhaps his most famous film, On the Waterfront. You could examine
different drafts of the script as it evolved; Kazan’s personal, heavily
annotated shooting script; his production notebook, in which he outlined his
thoughts and feelings about the project as he developed it; correspondence
from the scriptwriter, Budd Schulberg, and other key players; and other
production materials. By the time you got done, you would have a tremendous
insight into the finished work not to mention what was going on inside
Q: How does
the Cinema Archives acquire its collections? Do you collect moving image
materials, or mostly paper materials?
through the personal contacts of Curator and Film Studies Dept. Chair
Jeanine Basinger. We do not collect moving image materials as such. Although
we do have some of that kind of thing within the collections, we are
primarily a paper-based archive.
Q: Who do you
A: That’s a
funny question—I don’t think anyone has put that to me quite that way
before. I work closely with Curator Jeanine Basinger on things like policy
issues, donor relations and collection development. Our archivist, Joan
Miller, is an indispensable member of our team and she and I collaborate on
such matters as processing the materials, exhibitions, and reference and access topics.
Q: How do you
exhibit materials and are there any upcoming events?
we lend materials to other institutions for exhibition. We also install
shows in the Rick Nicita Gallery in the new Center for Film Studies. Through
June 21, there’s an exhibition on Kazan’s film and novel, America America.
After that, we’ll be hanging a show of classic movie posters and this fall,
we’re planning an exhibition on Ingrid Bergman in Hollywood.
Q: Of all
materials there, what’s your favorite and why?
A: I’ll make
reference to the familiar saw that that’s like asking which is your favorite
child—but I will say we have some things that really stand out for me, such
as the Oscars that Ingrid Bergman won; a great self-caricature that Orson Welles sent to Kazan as a Christmas greeting; and the tremendous pink
cockroach dress Ricki Lake wore in the John Waters film, Hairspray.
Q: Do you
have an interest in cinema outside of work?
A: Sure, but
I don’t go as often as perhaps I should. Working with such knowledgeable
faculty and students—we talk about movies all the time over here—makes me
constantly aware of so many movies that I ought to see, new and old, foreign
and domestic, so that I spend a lot of time watching DVDs and old movie
channels at home.
Q: What are
your hobbies unrelated to cinema?
interested in the magnet that Paris was for artists, writers, musicians, and
other cultural figures in the 1920s. I play and compose music from time to
time. On weekends, I take long bicycle rides with my wife through
the New England countryside.
Q: Is there
anything else I should know about you or the Cinema Archives?
Besides working for the Cinema Archives, I spend a great deal of time
assisting with the running of the Center for Film Studies. I’m also an
advisor to the Wesleyan Film Series. And one more thing I forgot to mention
earlier: I collect scenes from movies in which archivists, archives, and
historical records are depicted. So if you see one, please let me know.