In June, a coalition of designers announced the formation of a Center for Film & TV Design, an organization whose goals include maintaining an archive of research materials, preserving designers' drawings, sketches, models, and other documentation, and eventually opening a museum and library to house and exhibit its collections. The non-profit center, which will encompass production design, art direction, illustration, set design, costume design, and other disciplines, also plans to conduct seminars and conferences and publish design texts.
"We've been talking about it on and off for 20 years," says production designer Michael Baugh, who is chairman of the center. "Now's the time to make it happen." Baugh says that the center will fill a void left by the shutting down of various studio libraries and archives over the past 20 or 30 years. Books and documents have been dispersed to often inaccessible locations, and sometimes forgotten; the center hopes to gather these diffuse holdings together, and provide a place for future materials to go.
"During the heyday of the studios, every studio had a wonderful library," says Baugh. "Over the years, most of them have been dissipated in some way or another. We lost the Universal research library a couple of years ago, when it was sold to a collector in northern California. Warner Bros. gave their research library to the city of Burbank 20 years ago, and they've subsequently gotten it back, but their management staff is down from four people to one. A lot of the MGM library was sold off, and what's left is now part of the Warner Bros. library. Fox still has a very good library."
There are sympathetic custodians out there, like George Lucas, who owns the Paramount library, and Francis Ford Coppola, who is in possession of RKO's. But nothing is permanently safe from the auction block. One of the best collections, the Lillian Michelson Research Library, which contains 7,000 books, 100,000 periodicals, and 1.5 million clippings, stills, and photographs, is currently housed at DreamWorks, but no one knows how long that arrangement is guaranteed. The Center for Film & TV Design hopes to obtain it.
In addition, Baugh says, "Everybody's got their own research library in one form or another; I went through mine the other day and realized that I have over 1,000 books. As designers retire or die, those libraries just disappear. It's very important that this not continue to be lost. The second part of it is that we all do sketches and models and have various artifacts from work we do. I'm doing this wonderful show in Toronto right now, a miniseries for CBS about Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who was a spy. I'm going to bring these things home and they're going to go in my garage. There's no real home for it. The universities try to keep a little bit, but they're not really accessible. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has a nice collection, but if it's an Oscar-winning picture they're not really interested." The center plans to accept tax-deductible donations of such materials, preserve and catalogue them, and make them accessible to other designers.
At this point, the Center for Film & TV Design operates out of the Art Directors Guild offices, though the organization is also supported by the Costume Designers Guild, the Set Decorators' Society of America, and the Illustrators Guild. Plans for a facility are in the very early stages. "We going to go about funding in a whole raft of different ways," says Baugh. "The initial funding and support for it will be done as it has been so far, by donation from individual designers. We will begin to seek some corporate funding, both from the studios and sources outside the industry. And as we get more and more projects going, and mount exhibitions, I think the finding's going to be a little bit easier to come by."