Monday, September 17, 2012

The Herrick Library: Hollywood history hidden in plain sight

The Margaret Herrick Library on busy La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Ever wonder where the ephemeral materials of Hollywood go after their moment in the spotlight? Why, to the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills.

The library was established in 1928 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is named for its first librarian, Margaret Herrick. Herrick oversaw the collection from 1936 to 1943 and later served as the Academy's director. She held the directorship for nearly thirty years and is an unsung heroine of Hollywood -- you can read more about her, here.

The reading room

The Herrick, as it's more casually known, is used by researchers from around the world, all of whom must visit the facility in person as it's a non-circulating reference collection. But that's really no hardshipit's a gorgeous place.

Built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the 1928 structure was originally a water treatment plant. The Academy took ownership in 1991, and has since been giving treatment to some of the film industries most wonderful (and often little known) treasures. I knew of its magazine and book collections but until the tour, I had no idea that they actually have an in-house conservation department and a collection of posters and other objects. The Herrick's latest push has been, as with so many libraries, digitizing its collections. Spend some time exploring the site, they've done a bang up job!

My visit backstage, so to speak, was courtesy of friends at the ARLIS, the Art Libraries Society of North America, who kindly let me tag along with them. Below are a few images and highlights from the tour (pardon the slight blur of some... we were moving through pretty quickly):


A few stills from the collection laid out for us to see.

Throughout the offices and storage facilities are wonderful blow-ups of film stills from the archive.

This was my favorite! Wasn't sure who she was, but a friend from the film history site Cinema Gumbo identified her as Bette Davis. Thanks, JM!

Miles of storage shelving, but it's a vast collection and will out-grow this space soon.

Jimmy Stewart and Elvis Presley... together forever.

Anne Coco, the graphic arts librarian, shares a few items from the collection.

The poster collection is really the jewel in the Herrick's crown.

A rare poster from the 1927 production Wings.

This was particularly wonderful to see in the conservation lab: a newly repaired model airplane used in Wings. You can see them in the original trailer, here!

And, proving Hollywood is nothing without its fans, an album of Mary Pickford-related clippings created by a star-struck moviegoer and given to the library.