UCB Libraries

Stan Brakhage (photographer unknown)

News: Stan Brakhage materials discovered at the NY Museum of Modern Art to be returned to University Libraries Archives

Bruce Montgomery, October 27, 2010


The Archives has successuflly located and negotiated the return of highly significant materials that have gone missing from the collection of Stan Brakhage, the internationally renowned experimental film maker. This material that is now being turned over to us from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York comprises the heart and soul of this high value collection.

The Libraries initially purchased and received the Brakhage papers in 2002/03 with a generous gift from the Willim H. Donner Foundation. Starting in 2007, the Archives took control of the collection and began a multi-year analysis of their contents to discern whether all the papers had been transferred to CU as provided for in the purchase agreement.

This involved a painstaking document by document examination against the inventory that accompanied the bill of sale. Our analysis determined that numerous items were missing from the collection, most from the leading artists of the 20th century--correspondence, manuscripts, and many other documents detailing Brakhage's interactions with major artists, musicians, painters, poets, and many other notable film makers. In other words, these missing materials comprised the most vital part of the collection.

Following this discovery, we put together an inventory of the missing items. The next step involved determining the provenance of the collection, who controlled the papers and when, as well as who used them and when. We were able to uncover both an article and dissertation that were issued in the late 1990s and early 2000s that cited many of the missing correspondence. This meant that the missing material was used and  researched while in the possession of the Museum of Modern Art.

Following this evidence, I wrote the president of the Museum of Modern Art, included our inventory of missing items, sited the evidence that the missing papers were researched at MOMA, and asked for their diligence and help in locating the material in order to restore the collection's integrity.

A happy ending. The Museum located some 27 boxes of missing Brakhage papers and they are now being retrieved. When they arrive, we will, of course, conduct another detailed analysis to ensure that we have everything and that the papers have been restored in whole.

Much credit must be given to Brad Arnold who conducted the detailed analysis of the contents of the collection. If we had not undertaken this process, these materials would likely have gone missing for many years.