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BYU ready to expand its Stewart collection

Published: Friday, July 4 1997 12:00 a.m. MDT

Librarians at Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library are preparing to add to their already significant Jimmy Stewart collection.

The Stewart collection, housed in the library's special collections department on the fourth floor, includes 19 original 16mm prints of Stewart's films. Among the films that Stewart personally donated to the Lee Library in 1985 are "The Philadelphia Story," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Rear Window."Stewart died Wednesday at age 89 at his Beverly Hills home from a blood clot in his lung.

Among the other items in the Stewart collection are letters, film scripts, phonographs of early radio programs, plaques, awards, scrapbooks Stewart compiled of his own life and two of Stewart's accordions. In all, the Stewart collection consists of eight boxes of material besides the films, said Scott Duvall, assistant university librarian for Special Collections.

"(The collection) is not fully processed yet, so it's not really open to the general public for use," Duvall said. "Our general policy is that collections are not used until they are fully processed."

Documenting all of the Stewart material in the collection has been on hold because curators expect to receive more items once Stewart died, Duvall said. Jim D'Arc, curator of arts and communication archives, will begin to negotiate with the actor's estate to bring more of Stewart's materials to the Lee Library.

It was D'Arc who, in the early 1980s, sent a letter to Stewart asking if the actor would be interested in housing film-related memorabilia at the Lee Library.

"Jim had already put together a good program here of preserving film manuscripts," Duvall said. "After that initial letter, (D'Arc and Stewart) met and developed a very close relationship."

D'Arc's contacts with Stewart led to a visit by the actor to Utah on Feb. 1, 1985. Stewart spoke at BYU's de Jong Concert Hall and was present for a special screening of "It's a Wonderful Life." BYU then staged a four-day Jimmy Stewart film festival.

BYU and Stewart were a good match. The All-American actor known for integrity was a great fit for the LDS Church-owned university. In fact, Duvall said, the library was particularly interested in procuring a Stewart collection specifically because of the actor's high morals.

"We go after those that would be compatible with the standards of BYU," Duvall said. "The epitome of motion picture actors is Jimmy Stewart."

Stewart was attracted by the fact that the Lee Library already housed a mammoth Cecil B. De Mille collection as well as other significant collections of film-related materials, Duvall said.

The library consistently gets requests from researchers - both local and national - to access the Stewart collection, Duvall said. The death of the well-liked actor will likely spur an increased interest in studying and writing about his life, he said.

Soon, researchers, students and others will be able to view Stewart's personal copies of movies in which he starred. Under construction in a new wing of the Lee Library is a 200-seat auditorium that will be equipped to show 16mm films such as those donated by Stewart.

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