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The Flaherty donates the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar audio collection to NYU Fales Library and Special Collections

October 1, 2012
N-48, 2012-13

Footage from The Louisiana Story Survey Film [(c)Flaherty Study Center], with audio from Flaherty Seminar discussions

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At the 2010 Flaherty Seminar, Programmer Dan Streible tapped Erik Pill to assemble a menagerie of Louisiana Story survey footage, shot by Ricky Leacock, and marry it with a soundtrack of Seminar discussions talking about Robert and Frances Flaherty and Leacock's process of making the film.  Footage from The Louisiana Story Survey Film [(c)Flaherty Study Center], with audio from Flaherty Seminar discussions.


Flaherty Contact: Mary Kerr | 212-448-0457 |

The Flaherty/International Film Seminars, Inc. announced today the donation of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar audio collection to New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections. Named in honor of the director of Nanook of the North, Louisiana Story, and other classic documentary films, the Seminar began in 1955, before the era of film schools, when Flaherty’s widow and filmmaking partner, Frances, convened a group of filmmakers, writers, and musicians at the Flaherty farm in Vermont. For more than 57 years the Flaherty Seminar has been firmly established as a one-of-a-kind institution that seeks to encourage filmmakers and other artists to explore the potential of the moving image.

The collection, titled “The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar Archives,” includes over 1200 recordings dating back to the 1958 Flaherty Seminar and features insight from well-known and culturally significant figures such as Charles Burnett, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Connor, Frances Flaherty, Hollis Frampton, William Greaves, Ken Jacobs, Pauline Kael, Barbara Kopple. Richard Leacock, David Maysles, and Agnes Varda. In addition to the Flaherty Seminar audio recordings, the collection also contains all paper records and photographs from The Flaherty organization.

Media scholars, students, teachers, critics, writers and cultural historians, among others, may find primary resources within the collection to study the evolution of filmmaking.  A wide range of topics are discussion including the filmmaker’s exploratory process, artistic concerns, the emergence of art forms, the influences of changing technical innovations, the flourishing of film schools and media centers, and evidence of the origins of such organizations as the American Film Institute, the Telluride Film Festival, and the distribution collective New Day Films.

“The collective memory contained in this collection can be matched by no other. For almost 60 years, world-renowned filmmakers have been gathering in a retreat-like setting to discuss the latest movements in film practice, often emerging with new ideas and new partnerships,” said Flaherty Executive Director Mary Kerr. “The audio archive represents an oral history of non-fiction film, not just of the past half-century, but since the first days when Robert Flaherty crafted the story of an Eskimo named Nanook.”

“The Flaherty Seminar recordings are an immensely valuable resource that will greatly benefit students, scholars, artists, and historians of documentary and experimental media,” said Fales’ Media Specialist Brent Phillips, “Virtually every tape in this collection is unique. Considering that these recordings date back to 1958 -- and document the world’s foremost film/video makers and academics engaging in intense and in-depth discussions about moving image works -- makes this one of the richest research collections of its kind in existence,” he said.

About The Flaherty/International Film Seminars, Inc.(IFS)

The Flaherty/International Film Seminars, Inc.(IFS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the proposition that independent media can illuminate the human spirit. Its mission is to foster exploration, dialogue, and introspection about the art and craft of all forms of the moving image. IFS was chartered in the state of Vermont but is based in New York City. It was established in 1960 to present the annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar which provides media makers, users, teachers, and students an unparalleled opportunity to confront the core of the creative process, reaffirm the freedom of the independent artist to explore beyond known limits, and renew the challenge to discover, reveal, and illuminate the ways of life of peoples and cultures throughout the world.

About Fales Library and Special Collections:

The Fales Library, comprising nearly 255,000 volumes, and over 12,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries. The Fales Collection was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1975 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Food and Cookery Collection is a vast, and rapidly expanding collection of books and manuscripts documenting food and foodways with particular emphasis on New York City. Other strengths of the collection include the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll Materials, the Robert Frost Library, the Kaplan and Rosenthal Collections of Judaica and Hebraica and the manuscript collections of Elizabeth Robins and Erich Maria Remarque. The Fales Library preserves manuscripts and original editions of books that are rare or important not only because of their texts, but also because of their value as artifacts.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Division of Libraries, Fales

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Christopher James | (212) 998-6876

The Flaherty donates the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar audio collection to NYU Fales Library and Special Collections

Frances Flaherty at a 1970 discussion

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