New Historic Film Archive (and Costumes) Now Online

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Given that costume designers sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve, it’s nice to be able to tell you about a new authoritative archive that emphasizes the historical import of this often under-valued craft. Earlier this week I received notice that the  Margaret Herrick Library (of the Los Angeles based Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences: i.e. OSCAR!) had finally released its online archive of Production Art.

It’s not the entirety of the Graphic Arts collection, but much to my delight, it includes a good deal of film costume art! Of the 5,300 records in the database, nearly half include images.  The database also includes “production design drawings, animation art, storyboards and paintings” and date from the 1920s to the present day.

It’s a huge resource for film costume historians, and thankfully provides credit for both costume designers, as well as illustrators (often two different individuals).  As Library Director Linda Mehr notes:

“We’re very happy to be able to make this database more widely available to researchers, students and film enthusiasts. . . . Our hope is that it will bring much-deserved attention to the costume and production designers, sketch artists, animators, and other artists who have contributed so much to filmmaking.”

"The Spanish Dancer", 1923 by Howard Greer (via AMPAS)

To give you just a quick snapshot of what’s available: The database includes nearly 40 records for Gilbert Adrian; 20 for Milo Anderson; almost 30 for Travis Banton; 70 for Marjorie Best; 19 for Howard Greer and many, many more.

Not surprisingly, my interest is in the illustrations by Natacha Rambova, Gilbert Adrian, Georges Barbier and Erte (and of course those depicting Rudolph Valentino and Alla Nazimova).

Though most images are rights-protected (i.e. you can see them on your computer screen, but can’t insert them into a blog post or save them to your computer), a few have been cleared for media purposes. Those interested in information on additional materials (or to make an appointment to view an item that does not yet include a reference image) are encouraged to contact graphic arts librarian Anne Coco at acoco@oscars.org. A full list of their databases is available here.

AMPAS Production Art Database

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