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NYU Fales Library Releases Flaherty Seminar Recordings, Unveiling Fifty Years of Cinematic History


New York University’s Division of Libraries today announced the public release of more than 700 audio recordings from the Flaherty Seminar, the longest continuously running film event in North America.

New York University’s Division of Libraries today announced the public release of more than 700 audio recordings from the Flaherty Seminar, the longest continuously running film event in North America, named in honor of seminal filmmaker and ‘father of documentary film’ Robert Flaherty. The annual event’s fifty-year history is captured through recordings of various activities and discussions, joining collections in the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives and the University Archives chronicling the evolution of the moving image in the 20th century. The Flaherty Seminar recordings are held within the special collections of NYU’s Fales Library.

This release marks the first time a major audio collection will be accessible to the public online through a Fales Library finding aid. The digitization of the Seminar recordings—which include reel-to-reel tapes and audio cassettes—has been underway since 2012, with recordings previously made available on CD, and only to researchers on site in Fales Library.  

Founded in 1955, the Flaherty Seminar began before the era of film schools and has since been established as a one-of-a-kind institution that seeks to encourage filmmakers and other artists to explore the potential of the moving image through new cinematic techniques and approaches. The recordings provide scholars and students with unabridged access to candid discourse that championed unique and diverse voices and helped to shape the film industry.

The recordings captured in-depth discussions with the cinematic firebrands of the time, including Satyajit Ray, Agnès Varda, Mira Nair, John Cassavetes, and Yasujiro Ozu. These were boundary-breaking filmmakers who shed light into the corners of humanity, revealing and documenting global communities and culture.

“The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar has been one of the most important places for critical dialogue about the state of documentary film and independent media. The discussions that take place annually among filmmakers, scholars, curators, and activists are renowned, but they have been ephemeral -- until now. Listening to this collection will be revelatory,” said Daniel Streible, associate professor in Cinema Studies and director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservations program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

The release of the Flaherty Seminar recordings is a coordinated effort by NYU Special Collections, which include Fales Library, Archival Collections Management, Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department, and Digital Library Technology Services. The content can be accessed by navigating Series I of the The Flaherty Film Seminar finding aid. For more information about these materials, please contact the Audiovisual Archivist, Kelly Haydon at kelly.haydon@nyu.edu.

About Fales Library and Special Collections:
The Fales Library, comprising more than 365,000 volumes, and over 12,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses The Fales Collection of British and American Literature, the Downtown Collection, and the Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection. 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 1974 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Marion Nestle Food Studies 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 Fales Library include the Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll, 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.