Their primary purpose is to serve the scholarly mission of the archive. But Michele Hilmes, director of the Citizen Kane, Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, The Ed Sullivan Show, Rita Hayworth, Gary Cooper and other files.
The new exhibits represent a tiny fraction of the center's holdings. But what a sampling: The 20 or so Foreign Correspondent images include Hitchcock on set, a raincoat and umbrella shielding him from the elements; and John Wayne visiting lead actor Joel McCrea during production.
In the radio exhibit, there are articles on early broadcast experimentation at the University of Wisconsin, WHA's early years, key figures in the Wisconsin School of the Air, and the launch of WIBA as Madison's first commercial station. The Edith Head exhibit, meanwhile, is dominated by a selection of the Oscar-winning costume designer's watercolors and sketches, many of them annotated in the margins and accompanied by photos of the costumes on the stars who wore them in some of the 1,000-plus movies on which she worked.
Sorting, appraising and scanning these materials has been a painstaking process. Some materials are unique, others fragile. "We do wear gloves for some things," Hilmes notes. The exhibits are, she says, an introduction to the riches at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, where some 250 film, TV, radio and theater collections - including a massive United Artists archive that amounts to some 2,000 boxes - are maintained.
"We are an archive center that is part of an academic program," says Hilmes, a UW professor of media and cultural studies. She estimates that the center logs visits by about 50 scholars per month in the reading room it shares with the Wisconsin Historical Society.
For researchers, these online samples can supplement the traditional "finding aids" compiled by Wisconsin Center archivists and librarians. Finding aids are not always the easiest tools to use, Hilmes observes. "You really need some experience," she says. The new online exhibits are an alternative "entryway to our collections for people who aren't experienced researchers."