Motion Picture Museum Acquires Vast Collection Of 'Pre-Cinematic' Objects


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures taking shape in the Miracle Mile area announced today the acquisition of what is considered the world's most expansive collection of “pre-cinematic'' optical toys and devices, offering a glimpse at the precursors to movies.

Gathered over the course of more than 40 years by the late Richard Balzer, the collection includes more than 9,000 objects, including “magic lanterns,'' prints, figurines, shadow puppets and theaters, some dating back to China's Ming Dynasty.

“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 in a statement. “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.''

The collection, donated by Balzer's widow, Patricia Bellinger, will be among the inaugural exhibits at the museum when it opens on April 30, 2021.Bellinger is a member of the museum's Board of Trustees.

“Gifting this collection to the Academy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,'' she said. “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.''

The collection includes various incarnations of magic lanterns, or early projection devices, some dating back to the early 1800s and one shaped like the Eiffel Tower. It also includes various praxinoscopes, which use strips of images around the inner surface of a manually spun cylinder to create the illusion of moving images.

The objects will be displayed in an exhibition titled “The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection,'' exploring the history of visual entertainment that ultimately evolved into motion pictures.

The museum is being constructed in the former May Co. building at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

Photo: Getty Images

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