The Tony Stark of his era. That is perhaps the most concise description of Howard Robard Hughes (1905-1976), arguably one of America’s most significant visionaries. Intuitive, mercurial, and insistent upon continual out-of-the-box innovation in everything he did, Hughes pushed himself and everyone around him to shape the future by looking beyond the possibilities of the present.
He leveraged an initial inheritance from his parents to build one of the largest private fortunes in the world as he pursued an intense personal interest in motion picture production and aviation engineering.
Hughes established strong ties to Southern Nevada during the latter half of his life and donated his company records and photographs to UNLV for preservation and study. The Howard Hughes Motion Picture Papers were obtained for the institution in 1996 by the first chair of the film department, Hart Wegner, who had the foresight and determination to recognize their long-term research value.
The records span nearly a half century and focus on Hughes’ motion picture enterprises from the late 1920s through the mid-1970s, including an impressive range of materials related to the art, technology, economics, and social impact of American cinema.
This extensive collection contains the traces of a unique and perhaps unrivaled pattern of inventive energy that had a lasting impact on the evolution of Hollywood. This project is intended to provide access to that evidence, not just for current researchers, but for a bold new generation of inventors, scholars, and historians.
This project will preserve the items in the collection by relocating them from storage to the climate-controlled environment of the University Libraries and rehousing them in acid-neutral folders and boxes as they are carefully cataloged and organized.
Once the project is complete, the materials will be physically accessible in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room in Lied Library. The Libraries also will make the materials globally discoverable and facilitate their use by describing and arranging them in accordance with all applicable professional standards.
As a relatively young and rapidly growing urban public university, UNLV has devoted intense time and energy to cultivate its identity as a research institution capable of highly professional stewardship of specialized collections, and it has made great strides, as evidenced by the university’s recent R1 designation and UNLV Libraries’ management of other significant collections.
UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives adheres to national best practices and standards for accessioning and processing archival materials. The processing methodology requires a holistic evaluation of the collection that includes analysis of the collection’s research value, potential for use, and current physical and intellectual accessibility.
Once processed, the motion picture papers will complement other Howard Hughes materials already accessible for research in UNLV’s Special Collections and Archives, which include:
- The Howard Hughes Professional and Aeronautical Photographs (1916-1997)
- The Howard Hughes Public Relations Photographs (1930-1950)
- The Howard Hughes Public Relations Reference Files (1931 to 1997), which document Hughes’ attempts to understand and manage his public image
- The Hughes Electronics Corporation Records (1935-2003), which chronicle the growth of the company as it built experimental aircraft for Hughes, developed systems for the United States military and NATO forces, and manufactured communication satellites and space probes for NASA
University Libraries also has digitized more than 1,700 select items (primarily photographs) from these collections and made them available online.
Together, UNLV Libraries and the film department will usher in a new age of stewardship and accessibility for the Howard Hughes Motion Picture Papers, a project that will serve as an exciting testament to the evolution of UNLV as a premier research institution.
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.