BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — For 81 years, she has amassed movie memorabilia. Her collection now includes more than 10 million photographs, 80,000 screenplays and 35,000 movie posters dating back to when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927.
So it's fitting that the Margaret Herrick Library played host to the future of the film industry when it welcomed this year's crop of Oscar voters at a private reception honoring the newest members of the academy.
Surrounded by movie history, these new members celebrated becoming part of it.
"This organization first handed out awards in 1929 and I'm connected to that," said David Kaminow, who just joined the public relations branch. "It's having an attachment to the history of movies."
"We're part of the fabric of this industry," added fellow new member Sal Ladestro, who said his mother cried when he told her he was becoming an academy member "because it's that kind of important."
The library was the ideal setting for celebrating new members of the academy, said president Tom Sherak.
"The foundation for this organization is the history of movies, and when you become a member, you become part of that history," he said.
And that includes academy members influencing history by determining who will win Academy Awards — a process that began for the 82nd time on Monday when Oscar ballots went out to 5,777 academy members — including the 133 newest voters — who will collectively select the year's Oscar nominees and eventual winners.
Sherak gave the voting rookies some simple advice on how to handle the responsibility: Be conscientious.
"This is something we do that the whole world pays attention to and we need to take it very seriously," he said.
Each of the academy's 15 branches is responsible for nominating those in their field — so actors nominate actors and sound engineers nominate sound engineers — based on the year's eligible films. (There were 274 in 2009.) The entire voting membership submits their picks for best picture.
Sherak reminded them that the category is now twice the size it used to be: 10 nominees instead of five.
"You've joined in a tough year, because we've made it twice as hard to fill out the ballot," he said.
Ballots are due to PricewaterhouseCoopers on Jan. 23, 2010. Nominations will be announced Feb. 2 and the Academy Awards will be presented March 7.
Voting on the Oscars will be exciting, said Oscar-winning documentarian Megan Mylan. But being officially connected to the history of film as a member of the academy is even more profound.
"It's cool that they have all of this archival stuff because it does make you have an elevated level of respect for the work you're doing," she said. "I can see that there's something that I have in common with these grand storytellers... To sit here and read these names — and to think anything you do might have something to do with that — it's very heady to think about."