Cinema Archives Awarded NEH Grant for New Curator Position

By Emma Gross, Contributing Writer
Monday, February 6, 2012

The Center For Film Studies Cinema Archives was awarded a $425,000 challenge grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in December. The University received the largest four-year grant offered by the NEH, and the money will fund a permanent curatorial position for the Cinema Archives.

“We are thrilled to be supported by the NEH and very excited for what this grant means for the future of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives,” said Film Studies Department Chair Jeanine Basinger.

The Center for Film Studies Archives maintains a vast collection, which includes the work of many influential film icons such as Frank Capra, Elia Kazan, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and Ingrid Bergman.

“This award is an endorsement of the quality of our archives and the high level of management we have taken to catalogue and care for the works in our collection,” Basinger said.

The NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The grant will provide $425,000, and the University is required to match three times the amount given, or $1.25 million.

“The NEH wants to invest in solid, secure institutions,” Basinger said. “One of the ways to guarantee this is through a matching grant. If you can’t match what the NEH gives you, you are counting too much on their money.”

Basinger applied for the grant under the NEH’s archiving category in the fall of 2011. The NEH reviews applications from various film archives across the country and selects from a pool that includes many large universities such as the University of Southern California, University of Wisconsin, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

“The category provides major funding for archival work,” Basinger said. “This type of grant is extremely competitive. The money is usually given to a major institution. Wesleyan is the only small liberal arts college with such significant film archives.”

Basinger acknowledged that President Michael Roth encouraged her to apply for the grant.

“To receive a grant of this size is an incredible honor,” she said. “I am particularly grateful to Michael Roth for pushing me to apply for the grant. It was his idea that we go for it. I am very glad he made the suggestion.”

Roth expressed his excitement about the grant and said it will benefit students, faculty, and researchers who use the archives.

“The Cinema Archives has grown over the last decade under the great stewardship of Jeanine Basinger and the Film Studies faculty,” he said. “As our collections have expanded, we need more professional, full-time curatorial work.”

The curator will be responsible for obtaining, cataloging, and processing new materials for the Archives. It will also entail promoting access to the collections through databases, websites, and exhibition catalogues, and it will include an appointment as an adjunct faculty member. The Center for Film Studies is currently looking to fill this position and plans to have a curator in place for the next academic school year.

“We are looking for a person who will bring fresh ideas to the archives and who can lead us in a new direction in the future,” Basinger said.