The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR) is one of the world’s major archives of research materials relating to the entertainment industry. It maintains over three hundred collections from outstanding playwrights, television and motion picture writers, producers, actors, designers, directors, and production companies. Materials preserved include: historical records and personal papers, twenty thousand motion pictures, television shows, and videotapes; two million still photographs and promotional graphics; and several thousand sound recordings. It is richest in records of the American film industry between 1930 and 1960, American popular theater in the 1940s and 1950s, and American television from the 1940s to the 1970s.
One of the most important gateways into understanding American culture is the original records of its creators, particularly in the field of drama and audiovisual media. Each year, hundreds of scholars from around the world, as well as creative artists and the interested public, consult our archives and produce important works that draw on the information and visual materials contained in our collections. Our staff can assist researchers looking for materials.
The WCFTR actively collects the papers and audiovisual materials of individual producers, directors, writers, actors, and other key personnel in the production of U.S. audio/visual/state culture.
Collecting areas we are most interested in developing:
- Film and television production records
- Independent producers, directors, and writers
- Collections with social action significance
- Innovators in the media field
Housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Library-Archives Division, the WCFTR is one of the world’s most accessible archives and is regularly visited by researchers from around the world. Research undertaken in its collections has revolutionized the scholarship of American cinema, theater, and television.
The WCFTR is a participating member of FIAF, the International Federation of Film Archives, enabling us to borrow filmed material from major archives for UW Cinematheque screenings. The WCFTR, in turn, loans its prints for screenings at events organized or sponsored by other FIAF member archives. Both the UW Cinematheque and Communication Arts Department offer important outreach activities that draw on the Center’s collections and expertise. The WCFTR also partners with the UW School of Library and Information Studies to provide training opportunities for enrolled students in the Archives and Records Management for a Digital Age program.
For internship and volunteer opportunities, please contact staff.
UW Cinematheque + WCFTR
The Cinematheque represents UW-Madison academic departments and student film groups and is dedicated to showcasing the best in international cinema history and fine films which would otherwise never reach Madison screens. As the screening facility of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR) and a member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), the Cinematheque regularly showcases archival and other rare prints from around the world.
- April 21UW Cinematheque - 2X: John Carpenter, Billy Wilder, Michael Mann, Jackie ChanDrunken Master II (Jui Kuen II) | Hong Kong | 1994 | DCP | 102 min. | Cantonese with English subtitles Director: Liu Chia-Liang7:00 PM, 4070 Vilas Hall
- April 22UW Cinematheque - 2X: John Carpenter, Billy Wilder, Michael Mann, Jackie ChanA Foreign Affair | USA | 1948 | 35mm | 116 min. Director: Billy Wilder7:00 PM, 4070 Vilas Hall
- April 28UW Cinematheque - 2X: John Carpenter, Billy Wilder, Michael Mann, Jackie ChanPolice Story III: Supercop | Hong Kong | 1992 | DCP | 96 min. | Cantonese with English subtitles Director: Stanley Tong7:00 PM, 4070 Vilas Hall
Recent Blog Posts
Matt St. John The audiovisual holdings at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research span numerous formats and sizes, from 16mm film prints to 2-inch videotapes, and we recently welcomed laserdiscs into the fold! …September 18, 2023
The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research was honored to co-sponsor of the Radio Preservation Task Force Conference, held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. from April 27-30, 2023. One of the WCFTR’s co-sponsored sessions was a discussion with Dr. Doron Galili (a Research Fellow in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University) about his book Seeing by Electricity: The Emergence of Television, 1878–1939 (Duke University Press, 2020). The discussion was moderated by Dr. Michele Hilmes, emeritus professor in the Communication Arts Department and a former director of the WCFTR, and also featured Dr. Susan Murray (BA, UW-Madison) and Dr. Philip Sewell (PhD, UW-Madison). We invited Dr. Galili to contribute to the WCFTR blog and expand on some of the reflections he shared at the conference about archives and broadcasting history.June 29, 2023
Samantha Janes The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR) is excited to share a piece from the ongoing digitization project of the Alvin Boretz collection. The Alvin Boretz collection came to the WCFTR …June 6, 2023
Ben Pettis This past April, hundreds of researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners convened in Washington, DC for the 2023 conference of the Radio Preservation Task Force (RPTF). The RPTF is a group that promotes the curation …June 5, 2023
Matt St. John The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR) has received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for a project titled “Expanding Film Culture’s Field of Vision: …May 31, 2023
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