January 23, 2022

Lillian Michelson Built Hollywood’s Most Famous Research Library. Can Someone Give it a Home?

From the Los Angeles Times:

For more than half a century, the Michelson Library was a working resource for filmmakers, a place where directors, art directors, production designers and prop masters found inspiration, accuracy and ideas. Lillian’s research was used for films as varied as “The Birds,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Reds,” “Scarface,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Full Metal Jacket.”

It was a nomadic life — over the years, Lillian and her collection could be found at the American Film Institute, Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studio, Paramount and DreamWorks — but the library’s mandate never wavered.

Need to know what a 1940s Los Angeles gas station or the interior of a Cold War submarine looked like? What about different types of gladiator helmets? Hoping for some direction on what kind of undergarments women wore in a Russian shtetl or what a shtetl itself looked like?

Inevitably, Lillian had the answer in her library, and if she didn’t, she would find the information elsewhere and add it to her library.

Which, since her retirement five years ago, sits in a climate-controlled warehouse on the Westside of Los Angeles — 1,594 boxes filled with 5,000 books and just as many rare and historic periodicals; 30,000 photographs (architectural, set decoration, prop and set stills); and another 6,000 items including clip files, sketches, set drafts and production notebooks.

It’s a unique collection of visual resources but despite its starring role in the 2015 documentary “Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story” and continuous efforts by Lillian and her many friends, no museum, college or Hollywood institution will take it on.

Read the Complete Article (approx. 2200 words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.