Inside one of Hollywood's largest archives of movie history

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has over 23 million items on display.

March 11, 2024, 4:04 PM

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is synonymous with the glamour and excitement of the Oscars, but the organization also has been at the forefront of preserving the tiniest bits of film history.

And they've been allowing the public to get up close and personal with some of those artifacts.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles is the largest in the country devoted to moviemaking, with more than 23 million items on display. The items on view include the typewriter Joseph Stefano used to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," a page from Gregory Peck's annotated working script for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and costumes from "The Godfather."

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has over 23 million items from movies across decades.
ABC News

"It covers the range of materials that tell us about the history of filmmaking," Jacqueline Stewart, the museum's director and president, told GMA3. "We collect posters, photographs, costume design drawings, costumes [and] cameras."

Stewart said that every prop tells a story about the meticulous work taken by film crews to get everything right, such as a special dental implant used by Marlon Brando in "The Godfather."

"Dick Smith, who was the master of makeup, he created this dental piece for Brando so that it would adjust his jaw to play Don Corleone," she explained.

The Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills also houses a large collection of classic movie items, from cells of Disney animated movies to the lion's mane worn by Bert Lahr in "The Wizard of Oz," which is kept in a private vault.

In addition to collecting, the Academy museum, which opened three years ago, is also at the forefront of preserving and restoring films. The film archives collection has over 240,000 items, including the prints of all the Oscar-winning films in the Best Picture category plus many other nominated movies.

An exterior view of The Academy Museum, April 15, 2021, in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"Over the course of cinema history, there are thousands and thousands of films that are lost. So, it's really important to take care of these physical things in order to not only preserve our cinematic history, but I find that every movie tells us a little something about the people who made it in the time when they made it," said Mike Pogorzelski, the director Academy Film Archive, told GMA 3.

The archive has been used by filmmakers and students on a regular basis to do research and to study the work of the masters, according to the museum's administrators.

"It's really important to have these exhibitions because it opens up like a window to the public. The ways that people get a vision of America has come through Hollywood filmmaking, so it's critical to have a place that helps people understand why they came to be," Stewart said.