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The Film & Media Archive co-sponsored a screening of the award-winning documentary, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth last fall. The film has continued to be screened at festivals and theaters across the country and now an exhibition on the Pruitt-Igoe site opens in St. Louis. The exhibition is sponsored by the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. This exhibition and event presents the winner and 31 finalists in Pruitt Igoe Now an ideas competition that explored the potential of the currently vacant 33-acre site of the former housing project.
Entrants in Pruitt Igoe Now came from a wide variety of disciplines and explored futures that included design intervention, urban redevelopment, agriculture, cultural memorialization and forest management. The program includes remarks from Bob Hansman, Associate Professor of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis and a competition juror, artist and cultural activist Juan William Chavez, creator of the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary, Michael Allen, Director of the Preservation Research Office and competition manager, Nora Wendl, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Portland State University and finalists in the competition.
This year marks the centennial of Gordon Parks’ birth. Parks was a prolific artist and worked as a photographer, musician, writer, and filmmaker. The Gordon Parks Foundation is hosting several events and exhibits to commemorate his life and work. Parks was born in Fort Scott, KS and went on to make his mark in several fields. He began working as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington D.C. where he produced a now iconic image “American Gothic,” featuring an African American woman, Ella Watson who worked on a cleaning crew at the FSA. The Film & Media Archive owns a print of this work along with correspondence from Parks to filmmaker Henry Hampton.
Parks went on to work for Life magazine where he did documentary photo essays, including “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” which explored the world of segregation in color photographs. Parks chose to focus on the everyday life of an African American family in Mobile, Alabama. In an essay in the New York Times which features images from this series the writer, Maurice Berger observes,
As the holistic depiction of black life in the rural South in the “Segregation Series” demonstrates, the aspirations, responsibilities, vocations, and rituals of the Thornton family were no different from those of white Americans. Yet, these religious and law-abiding people, and others like them, were persecuted. It is this incongruity, made visible by Mr. Parks’s photographs, which may have appealed to the empathy and fairness of some of Life’s white readers. It challenged them to reconsider both their attitudes about segregation and the stereotypes they assigned to people who were little different from them.
The Film & Media Archive hold three filmed interviews with Gordon Parks. He was filmed for two Blackside productions, Eyes on the Prize and Malcolm X: Make It Plain, and for one film in the William Miles Collection, I Remember Harlem. For Parks’ interview for Malcolm X: Make It Plain, he described how he met and interviewed Malcolm X when he was working as a reporter and photographer at Life magazine. This meeting led to a friendship, and Malcolm eventually asked Parks to be godfather to his daughter, Qubilah. A typescript page from this interview transcript can be seen below.
For more information on any of these interviews, please contact the Film and Media Archive.
As of July 2012, approximately one million feet of film from the Dana Brown Collection have been rehoused, tested for vinegar syndrome, and are resting comfortably in our climate/humidity controlled vault. In addition to film, the Dana Brown Collection contains original audio material, scripts, and correspondence. Researchers will find a rich source of material in this collection about the cultural history of the mid-to-late twentieth century as well as an environmental record of natural areas throughout Africa and Asia.
An exhibit introducing the recently acquired Dana Brown Collection is now on view at the Film and Media Archive. Some images from the collection can be seen below. The Archive is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 – 5:00. For more information, please contact us.
The date of June 30, 2012 marks a significant turning point at Washington University Libraries. Dean of Libraries, Shirley K. Baker, who served the library for 23 years has retired. Dean Baker has led the library through numerous technological and physical changes including the renovation of Olin Library.
In 1989, Shirley Baker came to Washington University from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was the associate director of libraries for public services. Dean Baker’s accomplishments are many and varied but some highlights include the renovation and expansion of Olin Library and the construction of the new Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library and the Rettner Earth & Planetary Sciences Library. A noteworthy point is that during the renovation of Olin Library the library remained open and there was no drop in service to faculty and students.
In addition to expanding and improving existing structures and departments, Dean Baker also created several new departments and was instrumental in bringing major new collections to the University. Under Baker’s leadership, the Film & Media Archive was created with the acquisition of the Henry Hampton Collection, the Digital Library Services department was created to support digitization of the library’s collections and promote digital scholarship, and the Modern Graphic History Library was created in Special Collections.
Dean Baker was highly active in the field of librarianship among her many professional activities she was a board member and president of the Association of Research Libraries and a founder and twice president of MOBIUS, the highly successful resource-sharing consortium in Missouri. In anticipation of retirement, Dean Baker has created a blog, Leadership Arts & Crafts to document the work she is doing on her forthcoming book, Leadership: The Art & Craft of Making Things Happen. We look forward to reading more and wish Dean Baker a happy and enjoyable retirement.