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Our Featured Collections

Young Gary Cooper in a cowboy hat, lighting a cigarette.
Gary Cooper: from our Photos and Flat Graphics Featured Collection

In the 21st century libraries and archives face enormous changes brought on by the advent of the digital era.  Digitization delivers both opportunities and challenges.  Enhanced possibilities for making information available in digital forms, whether online or in easily shared formats, promise a new era of accessibility, but it also creates problems never before faced by archivists accustomed to geographically situated collections of papers in boxes on shelves.  And information disseminated on the web can sometimes be extremely valuable, but how to tell legitimate, grounded information from the spurious and trivial?

In 2007 the WCFTR developed a pilot project to test the waters of the digital era.  Funded by a generous gift from UW alumnus Stephen Jarchow, we embarked on an expanded website (the one you're reading now) that would use the unique characteristics of the WCFTR – an archive closely connected to one of the leading film and media studies graduate programs in the country –  to provide a special kind of digital access to our collections:  authoritative scholarly websites focused on WCFTR collections that combine well-researched information with digitized selections of primary-source materials from our archives.

We began with one of our earliest and most forward-looking donors, the legendary Hollywood star and producer Kirk Douglas. In the spring of 2009, we added new features on acclaimed costume designer Edith Head, and on early radio pioneers in Madison, Wisconsin. And in addition to our new Stills and Flat Graphics Database, now searchable online, you can view nine glamorous slide shows taken from our collection, with notations and commentary on stars, films, and television productions

Short essays on the careers of these significant figures and on their cultural impact have been researched and written by Film and Media Studies faculty and graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carefully selected documents and visual materials enhance and illustrate the information, and links to other key electronic resources and published information are provided throughout. We intend these exhibits to serve both as an introduction to important contributors to American culture and as an authoritative scholarly resource for scholars and the general public.

We intend to expand our featured collections over the next few years to focus on many other significant figures in American cultural history. We hope these pages will not only supply reliable and fascinating information but will lead scholars and researchers to come to Madison to pursue their investigations further.

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