Hollywood is synonymous with the movies, so it’s only fitting that it should have a place for fans to gather and marvel at the magic of cinema. After a few false starts due to the pandemic, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will officially open its doors on September 30.
It’s a day that Jacqueline Stewart, chief artistic and programming officer, has been working toward since she stepped into her new role last January. Her mission? To demystify filmmaking as a craft. “When people think of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, they often think of the Oscars, the world of stars and glamour,” says Stewart, a film scholar who previously served as a professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. “I’m very excited that the Academy Museum involves all branches of the Academy, including actors and directors, writers, production designers, costume designers, location managers, hair and makeup artists, and editors. When visitors walk through our galleries, they’ll see people who have all kinds of interests and expertise.”
Located in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles, the Academy Museum’s seven floors include spaces for exhibitions and education, plus a café, a gift shop and two theaters—named for legendary producer David Geffen and theater owner Ted Mann. Combined, the theaters seat 1,288 guests. With exhibits and year-round screenings, as well as workshops on filmmaking and film history, the museum is the largest of its kind dedicated to the medium. And while all are welcome, there’s one group in particular whose attention Stewart wants to capture. “We want to inspire young people and expose them to the artistic power of film and the many paths that lead into storytelling, beyond being a movie star.”
Featured among the galleries and exhibitions are the works and memorabilia of film pioneers and those who inspired them, from Paul Robeson and Oscar Micheaux to Spike Lee, Ruth E. Carter, Haile Gerima, Orson Welles and Evelyn Preer. There are also costumes from the classics, including the striped suit that Diana Ross wore in Lady Sings the Blues and the legendary beaded dress donned by Mabel King as Evillene, in The Wiz. An array of Oscar statues are on display, too, dating back to the first year of the Academy Awards and leading up to present day.
Beyond offering opportunities to explore, enjoy and learn, the Academy Museum is designed to be an inclusive environment. “My hope is to open up an understanding of the wide range of people who have contributed to, but not been included in, traditional film history—like women, people of color and queer people,” says Stewart. “We are committed to demonstrating the wide spectrum of perspectives that have cultivated the industry and independent filmmaking all over the world.