Over the summer, the UNLV University Libraries and the UNLV Department of Film received a $271,580 National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Award for their project, “Inventing Hollywood: Preserving and Providing Access to the Papers of Renegade Genius Howard Hughes.” A small team recently hired for the project will soon begin processing the collection, which is comprised of over 450 cubic feet of records. The collection spans nearly a half century and contains the corporate and production records for a number of Hughes’ film companies from the 1930s through the mid-1970s. including an impressive range of documents and artifacts related to the art, technology, economics, and social impact of American cinema.
Before the project could begin the collection had to be relocated across the UNLV campus, from the College of Fine Arts to UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives. This was not a simple process, nor was it done alone. It was also done in the middle of July on one of the hottest days of summer!
The majority of the collection has been housed in filing cabinets and bankers boxes since before the collection arrived at the Film Department in 1996. In order to preserve the collection's original organization, the filing cabinets and boxes were relocated to the third floor of the library by a professional moving team.
Some of the more fragile material, like the three-dimensional airplane models used in the production of the Hughes film Hell’s Angels, required great care to transport. The twenty-three airplanes, made of wood, metal, and thin wire, were used in the production of Hell’s Angels as models to stage the movie’s aerial fights. The objects measure up to thirty-one inches across, and some weigh over twenty pounds. These items were carefully packed up with close attention to support wings and other particularly fragile pieces and brought over by hand to the climate-controlled environment of the University Libraries.
Now that the collection has landed safely in the grant project workspace, the team will begin surveying the collection to gain a better understanding of the types of the materials in the collection. They will also be tasked with rehousing the material into acid-free boxes and folders to preserve the materials so that researchers may safely access them in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room of Lied Library.
If you are interested in learning more about this project and the Howard Hughes Motion Picture Papers, stay tuned for more updates coming soon! You will meet the project team, get behind-the-scenes looks into processing the collection, and gain insight into some of the unique documents and artifacts in the Howard Hughes Motion Picture Papers.
Photographs by Aaron Mayes and NEH project staff.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.