Besides Handing Out Oscars, What Does the Academy Do?

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Although the Academy Awards are far and away the most visible of all of the Academy's endeavors, the group is involved in numerous other missions in the field of film study. The 6,000-plus-member organization bills itself as "the world's preeminent movie-related organization," and it's hard to argue with the boast.

The Academy is devoted to preserving and studying film, and to meet these goals it maintains several educational facilities. The Margaret Herrick Library, which has been around since 1928, contains more movie-related paraphernalia than one could get through in a lifetime. The library's website says its holdings include over 10 million photos, 80,000 scripts, 35,000 movie posters, and countless pieces of correspondence, costume design sketches, and other movie relics. If you're ever in Beverly Hills, the library's on La Cienaga Boulevard.

Similarly, since 1929 the Academy has operated the Academy Film Archive in Hollywood for the "preservation, restoration, documentation, exhibition, and study of motion pictures." The archive contains over 150,000 pieces of film, including 60,000 individual movies. The archive's four climate-controlled vaults also contain some more unusual holdings, like home movies from stars like Steve McQueen.

The Academy is also working on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Hollywood, which might open as early as 2012. According to the museum's website, it will be a place to "celebrate and explore how film has reflected and shaped world culture." The privately funded museum will allegedly cost about $350 million to build, but it will provide a central location in Hollywood for visitors to really explore film history and production.

When you thank the Academy, who are you thanking?

So who's in the Academy? The 6,000 members are representatives of pretty much everyone involved in making movies, from executives to actors to technical staff. The group began in 1927 as the brainchild of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer and three friends, and although the Academy originally only had 36 members, it quickly grew, particularly after a 1928 idea to start giving out annual awards for film performances. Today, new members come into the organization by invitation only and represent a cross section of the filmmaking industry.

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January 23, 2009 - 8:06am
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