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How was the Flat Graphics Collection acquired?

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

It might be better to ask, "how is the flat graphics collection acquired?" The Center's collection of flat graphics is open, which means we continue to add to it. We accept, but never purchase, donations of photographs and other promotional materials related to film, theater, and television.

Items in the Center's flat graphics collection usually come from one of two sources. Some are donated by collectors who amass visual materials and memorabilia related to the film, theater, and television industries. The bulk of our stills and clippings collections, for instance, was donated by Daniel Blum (rhymes with Plum). Blum was editor of film and theatre annual books, including Theatre World and Screen World, and kept extensive still photograph and clipping files on Hollywood personalities and films. We also routinely receive donations, large and small, of photographs and promotional materials related to our collections found at garage sales or in home closets.

Other flat graphics holdings are donated by creators—by the person(s) or corporation(s) who made and used them. When producers like Walter Wanger or Fred Coe, directors like Otto Preminger or Emile de Antonio, actors like Ralph Bellamy or Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, or companies like United Artists or the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) donate their papers to the WCFTR, their collections often include still photographs and flat graphics. Because each type of material has special access and preservation needs, manuscripts, audiovisual materials, and flat graphics are all stored separately at the WCFTR. The latter find their home in the flat graphics collections, stored alongside materials donated by collectors.

In cases where the donor's name is relevant, and provides meaningful context to a given item or items, the Center labels the item(s) in question "Ex-Coll" (short for ex-collection). Film stills donated by Emile de Antonio, arguably the creator of those images, are therefore labeled, "Ex-coll de Antonio." In a somewhat different example, stills donated by publisher Daniel Blum are labeled "Ex-coll Blum," since his name might point the way to published materials containing those stills.

Because the volume of visual materials donated by United Artists was so large, and because the provenance of the collection was important to preserve, a subset of the flat graphics collection was created to house materials from the United Artists collection. These are designated by call numbers that begin, "UA." Thus, United Artists still positives are known as UA series 5.6.

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