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Mon Jan 20, 2020, 12:38 PM

George Lucas' New Museum Acquires Major Archive of African American Film History

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a new cultural institution co-founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas, has acquired a major collection of memorabilia documenting the history of African American film from 1904 to 2019.

Dubbed the Separate Cinema Archive, the trove derives its name from the “race films” produced for African American audiences during the first half of the 20th century. Created by independent production companies outside of the “mainstream” film industry, the movies featured all-African American casts and created “a parallel universe of black films, with its own stars and traditions,” according to a statement.

The archive contains more than 37,000 objects, including posters, film stills, scripts and a reference library collected by film historian John Duke Kisch over the course of some 40 years. Kisch housed the archive in Poughkeepsie, New York, storing containers of memorabilia raised on blocks and wheels to protect them from floods, reported the New York Times’ Eve M. Kahn in 2014. At the time, curators from “major institutions” had visited the archive, which was for sale at an undisclosed seven-figure price.

A major component of the Separate Cinema Archive is its collection of movie posters, a selection of which Kisch published in a 2014 book. The posters form a timeline of 100 years of production styles, from simple silkscreens to complex paintings and abstract designs.

“The film posters in the archive constitute their own distinctive art form. Profoundly narrative in nature, they distill the essence of a story into one single image,” Lucas Museum film curator Ryan Linkof tells the Art Newspaper’s Wallace Ludel. “Taken together, the materials in the archive illustrate the widespread influence of African American cinema on society and culture.”


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