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Academy Museum And Margaret Herrick Library Receive Richard Balzer Collection


The world's foremost collection of pre-cinematic optical toys and devices.

Academy Museum And Margaret Herrick Library Receive Richard Balzer Collection

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures announced that it, along with the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, is the recipient of the Richard Balzer Collection, widely considered to be the world's foremost collection of pre-cinematic optical toys and devices. Comprising more than 9,000 objects-including magic lanterns, magic lantern glass slides, prints, praxinoscopes, figurines, paintings, peepshows, shadow puppets and theaters, and more, dating as far back as China's Ming Dynasty-the Balzer Collection provides the Academy Museum an unparalleled resource for telling the full story of the development of motion pictures.

"The magic of THE MOVIES began with a sense of wonder at seeing still images come to life," Jessica Niebel, Exhibitions Curator at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures said. "No one was more dedicated than the late Richard Balzer to the marvelous history of pre-cinema. No one did more to preserve these riches and make them available to the public. We are honored to steward the Richard Balzer Collection and present these extraordinary objects to the public."

Matt Severson, Director of the Margaret Herrick Library, said, "This extraordinary collection of pre-cinematic material, so carefully collected and preserved by Richard Balzer, will be studied and appreciated for generations to come at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the Margaret Herrick Library. Patricia S. Bellinger and the late Richard Balzer have my utmost gratitude for what they are gifting to the Academy, film scholarship, and movie lovers everywhere."

Richard Balzer (1944-2017) collected pre-cinematic devices for over 40 years. Fascinated by the history of visual entertainment, he amassed a large collection of pre-cinema objects from Europe, Asia, and America dating as far back as the 17th century. The collection was generously donated by Patricia S. Bellinger, the widow of Richard Balzer. Bellinger, business leader and philanthropist, currently serves as the Chief of Staff and Strategic Advisor to the President of Harvard University and joined the Academy Museum's Board of Trustees earlier this year.

Patricia Bellinger said, "Gifting this collection to the Academy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. My husband Dick's passion for collecting pre-cinematic objects was profound, but it was his passion for teaching, storytelling, and wonderment that brought him and the collection to life. With these objects permanently in the Academy Museum and Margaret Herrick Library collections, Dick's dedication to sharing pre-cinema's legacy and historical memory with the public will live on in perpetuity."

Objects from the collection will comprise one of the Academy Museum's inaugural exhibitions titled The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection, located in the Special Collections Gallery on the third floor of the museum's Saban Building. The exhibition will explore the long history of visual entertainment which led to the invention of cinema; from shadow play, peepshows, magic lanterns, zoetropes and praxinoscopes to the Cinématographe Lumière, the world's first successful film projector. Visitors to this exhibition will experience these marvelous inventions first-hand and take in the wonders of a magic lantern show especially created for this exhibition.

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