The Harvard Film Archive houses one of the most famous film discoveries at Harvard in recent history, Oidhche Sheanchais (A Night of Storytelling), made by pioneer documentarian Robert Flaherty in 1935. Filmed during the production of Flaherty's classic Man of Aran, the first "talkie" in Irish had been long presumed lost, until a member of the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard discovered a record for it in the library’s online catalog in 2012, which located it in Harvard's Houghton Library. The HFA oversaw its restoration and preservation and now holds all of the original and restored print elements.
As Harvard's largest repository of rare books and manuscripts with a focus on the literary and performing arts, Houghton Library has also collaborated with the Harvard Film Archive on filmmakers' paper material collections, including the papers and photographs of American photographer/filmmaker Jerry Schatzberg and those of the Mexican director Arturo Ripstein and his wife, screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego. Houghton also retains the papers and photographs of filmmaker/photographer Thomas Bouchard whose films are in the HFA collection. And, the HFA preserves the film posters from Houghton's Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library which also features lobby cards and film stills among its colorful, drug-related offerings.
Though Houghton's archives accommodate wonders such as a collection of early cinema devices—including magic lanterns, a zoetrope, a kinora, a praxiniscope and a kinetoscope—the bulk of their moving-image-related materials are in the form of numerous original screenplays in the general collection and even more in their Theatre Collection. The highlights in the general collection include the Gore Vidal Papers which feature the drafts and typescripts for most of his film and television screenplays; RKO Pictures' Little Women Collection; the Robert Fletcher Papers of costume designs for film and television; and the manuscript and research materials for William Friedkin's memoir The Friedkin Connection.
One of the oldest and largest performing arts collections in the world, the Harvard Theatre Collection at Houghton offers many treasures to researchers. The screenplay collections include those related to Tennessee Williams, Laurel and Hardy, Jean Renoir and Neil Simon, as well as individual documents, such as the typescript for the early all-Black-cast film The Green Pastures (1936), the first draft of the screenplay for Peter Ustinov's Billy Budd (1962), the 1975 script for Frank Saletri's unproduced Blaxploitation feature Black Frankenstein Meets the White Werewolf, and Sergei Eisenstein's 1930 treatment for a film adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. The Theatre Collection houses an assortment of papers that belonged to Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick, screenwriter Lesser Samuels, songwriter and film score composer Johnny Green, and actor John Lithgow, among others.
In addition to other film ephemera such as silent film music and cue sheets, their archive also maintains many film stills and promotional materials, including a collection on African American film, circa 1920-2000; movie souvenir programs from 1915-1978; and the Harry Rand collection of posters and promotional material for pornographic films of the 70s and 80s.
For additional information about research at Houghton Library, visit their website.