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Uncovering New Stories Through the NEH CARES Grant

Palazzolo Collection

In June 2020, CFA received generous support from a CARES grant, which was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and designed to help us delve into our collections and make more stories and films accessible to the public. During this exceptionally difficult time (on so many levels), we were tasked with finding new ways to work with our collections amidst lockdowns, staggered schedules, and Zoom meet-ups due to COVID-19. The grant supported our ability to focus on the labor-intensive work of stabilizing, digitizing, and cataloguing portions of our large audiovisual collections, which contain precious footage documenting Midwestern culture and history. With help from the NEH, we were able to dedicate much-needed time to the William Franklin Grisham Collection, which documents the history of the early film industry in Chicago; the Frank Koza Collection of mid-century newsreels; the Tom Palazzolo Collection, which captures the outermost fringes of life in Chicago; and the Rhodes Patterson Collection of design, architecture and industry films.

We found plenty of exciting and potentially groundbreaking narratives through our work. For example, the William Franklin Grisham Collection contains elements from The Very Last Laugh (1976), a documentary directed by Grisham that features the only known footage of Luther J. Pollard, the head of Ebony Film Co. and possibly the first African American film producer in history. Work is currently underway to further understand Pollard’s role in the establishment of Ebony Film Co., but for now, The Very Last Laugh presents a fascinating story that is under-acknowledged within film history. Also included in the collection are rare 16mm prints of several films made by Ebony in the 1910s, including The Comeback of Barnacle Bill and A Black Sherlock Holmes, now streaming.

We also found hidden gems within the Frank Koza Collection, which contains wonderful snippets of Midwestern life in the 1950s and ‘60s. CFA brought on contract archivist Jiayi Chen to work on inspecting and stabilizing the massive collection of 2100 reels of news footage shot by the professional cameraman. Jiayi was able to inspect nearly 400 elements over the course of the grant, and CFA staff digitized and catalogued 48 new titles from the collection. Highlights among these newly streaming films include never-before-seen footage of Elvis getting ready to enter the military in 1958, scenes of polio vaccinations being administered in 1960, and a look at Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1959. 

Collections Manager Yasmin Desouki was also able to dig into the vast Rhodes Patterson Collection, uncovering a surprisingly diverse body of work. Among the architecture and design films we were expecting, Yasmin also came across a film Rhodes made with his wife Norma, The Signal (ca. 1966), which features delightful stop-motion puppetry. Another charming find was The Dogs of Aspen, a humorous film about, you guessed it, the dogs that live in Aspen, CO.

Jiayi Chen

Archivist Jiayi Chen inspects a roll of film from the Frank Koza Collection


Digitization manager Olivia Babler and transfer technician Justin Dean were excited to work on the Tom Palazzolo Collection, which contains more than 1700 prints, trims, and elements from the filmmaker known as “Tommy Chicago.” The entire collection has now been inventoried, and this grant also enabled us to digitize and catalogue a number of Tom’s underground documentary films and home movies. We truly enjoyed getting to ask the insightful and goofy filmmaker more about his work over the last six months (and have delighted in the sometimes elaborate, costumed selfies he frequently attaches to his e-mail correspondence). You can now stream some of Tom’s earliest works, his first feature, and even his wedding film on our website.

A heartfelt thank you to the National Endowment for the Humanities for facilitating this work. We are delighted to have been given the capacity required to work on these wonderful collections in the past few months, and to have catalogued upwards of 80 films for our audience to research and enjoy. Below you will find links to view all of the films we have digitized and catalogued for this project.





Frank Koza Collection

Tom Palazzolo Collection

Rhodes Patterson Collection

William Franklin Grisham Collection

Collaborating with the Korean Film Archive

KOFA’s Sangam facility in Seoul, South Korea

In September of last year CFA was approached by Eric Choi from the Korean Film Archive (KOFA) with a proposition: Eric works in the acquisitions department of KOFA and was inquiring about collaborating with CFA to make any Korea-related material held by CFA accessible to researchers in South Korea through KOFA. We said yes.

KOFA, located in Seoul, South Korea, was first established in 1974 as the Korean Film Depository, a name it used until a restructuring in 1991 changed it to KOFA in 1991. The national film archive for South Korea, KOFA currently holds over 6,000 Korean films, along with thousands of items of film-related ephemera, and operates the archive, a museum, library, and cinematheque. For anyone not in South Korea, KOFA also runs the Korean Movie Database and a YouTube channel featuring full-length films for free (highly recommended).

Pamphlets and DVDs from KOFA

Eric’s project specifically was to seek out documentary footage of Korea held in foreign archives and obtain copies that could be brought back to South Korea and made available for viewing on-site at the KOFA library locations. Particularly footage of the country during and prior to the Korean War (1950-1953) is difficult to find within South Korea due to the poor economic state of the country at that time. Most of the documentary film shot was exported for international newsreels and travelogues.

Since CFA’s mission is to collect and focus on Midwestern film, it might seem surprising that we had any material at first that would aid KOFA in this project. However, even before visiting us in Chicago, Eric was able to identify three films in our collections that do exactly that. Coming from the Frank Koza, Margaret Conneely, and Carl Godman Collections, the three films are a mix of newsreel segments and home movie footage from Godman, a Lieutenant in the Navy during the war. Once Eric was here, we were able to show him two more: another newsreel segment from Koza, and more home movie material from the Howard Prouty Collection, shot by a currently unknown soldier.

At the time, our only digital copies of these films were made in SD from our Tobin telecine machines, but KOFA was looking for the highest resolution possible to store in their archive. Therefore, over the next couple of months, we worked to scan each film on our Kinetta scanner and produce 2K masters to send to KOFA. Each file was also watermarked with CFA’s name to document its provenance. In turn, KOFA will direct any researcher viewing these materials in South Korea to CFA for more information.

Scene of Seoul during the war, from the Koza Collection

Featured in these films are primarily scenes of American troops at combat and leisure in various parts of Korea during the war. One produced by Frank Koza is particularly intimate for a newsreel and important to our understanding of Frank and his collection, as it features a shot of Frank himself, labeling his film cans and sending notes about his observations back to the U.S. The film then shows the occupying American troops exploring war-torn Seoul and encountering the residents.

The two home movies (from Godman and Prouty) are even more intimate, as they weren’t shot with an eye for distribution. Instead, the films show rare moments of soldiers at camp within the Korean wilderness, glimpses of U.S.O.-sponsored entertainment, travels aboard Naval ships, and scenes loading and unloading at places like Wonsan, North Korea—all in bright 8mm Kodachrome color.

American soldiers at camp in Korea, from the Prouty Collection.

American soldiers at camp in Korea, from the Prouty Collection.

The final files were delivered back to KOFA this weekend on a hard drive they had previously sent to us. Also included in their package with the hard drive were two copies of the KOFA-published magazine 영화천국 (Cinema Heaven) that include an article Eric wrote about CFA and his visit to our office. We’re glad to have had this chance to collaborate with KOFA and strengthen our ties internationally to give access to these films and get them seen more broadly!

CFA in the pages of 영화천국 (Cinema Heaven)


Processing the Frank Koza Collection and “A Space to Grow” (1968)

Earlier this summer we started the project of processing and digitizing our Frank Koza Collection, which has provided the exciting opportunity to dig into and share some of what the collection has to offer. There’s still a lot more to work through, but we’ve already found some incredible gems!

You can read a lot more about Frank’s exciting life on our Frank Koza collection finding aid (including tales of working with Frank Lloyd Wright and an adventurous trip to Cuba to acquire photography equipment from Fidel Castro), but in brief: Frank was a veteran newsreel photographer who lived and worked in Chicago for over 54 years, from the early 1950s to his death in 2013. Born and raised in Cleveland, Frank started working in theatrical presentations before moving into filming in the late 1940s, with his first big assignment as a war correspondent in Korea. Throughout his career he shot politicians (becoming good friends with President Harry S Truman and Mayor Richard J. Daley), war, sports, and any and everything in between, establishing an impressive reputation as one of the best.

CFA acquired the full collection of Frank’s negatives, trims, and prints in 2012, at which time they were meticulously inventoried by past CFA intern Amelia Anderson. Since then, a few prints have been digitized here and there, but now is the first time we’ve undertaken a proper processing of the entire collection.

We recently shared on social media the delightful “Opening Day of School,” which showcases the first classes in the (at the time) still-under-construction Queen of All Saints School in 1940. As children enter the building amid rubble and construction, the line-up of schoolteacher nuns is introduced, followed by the school’s Halloween parade and an appearance from Monsignor Dolan, the guiding light of the Queen of All Saints Basilica (and dear friend of Frank).



Plus, a cute dog.

Then, thanks to a fortuitous phone call from the University of Chicago, we pulled the 1968 documentary short “A Space to Grow,” which features Upward Bound programs at universities around Chicago. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first Upward Bound programs, making this the perfect time to share this film that Frank worked on.

Upward Bound is a federally funded program that today is part of a loose cluster of programs known as the TRIO Programs, all of which serve to provide programs and services to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Upward Bound in particular was established in the summer of 1965 following the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965. In that first year, Upward Bound served 2,061 participants at 17 different institutions. When the film premiered in 1968, this number had grown to 32,000 at 285 colleges. Today, there are about 76,000 students every year at more than 1,000 locations across the country. Wow!

Upward Bound’s main mission is to help students engage in learning and inspire them to complete high school and move on to graduate from a college or university. This was an integral part of the U.S. government’s “War on Poverty” in the 1960s and remains an important opportunity for students from a variety of backgrounds. Several notable alumni of Upward Bound programs include basketball star Patrick Ewing, political strategist Donna Brazile, and Queen of Chicago Oprah Winfrey. More about the Upward Bound program here.

A Space to Grow” premiered at a special event in September 1968 to commemorate four of the first college graduates from the program. For more about this event and to read some of the remarks from Senator Edward S. Muskie, see this series of articles from Setpember 6, 7, and 10, 1968. The film then went on to be shown around the country and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Narrated by Henry Fonda, the film starts out sensationalist in its approach, establishing a world of impoverished students whose talents become lost to society. Luckily, it drops this and dives into a program in-progress at a “university campus in the Midwest,” where we see students discussing literature in a class outside. The students’ lives are revealed, showing where they live during the program, how they spend their time, and what kind of classes they take (including an excerpt from a Northwestern student film by Peter Kuttner that we have here at CFA!). From student-produced plays and sculpture to conflict resolution classes and deep philosophical discussion, the Upward Bound programs are presented as rich and engaging opportunities.


One highlight of the film is a sequence in which the students role-play as significant orators discussing issues such as class and race relations. These speeches, impressive for their performativity, are also opportunities for the students to grapple with the issues themselves. To increase the challenge, several students are assigned characters that represent very different perspectives from their own. The resulting discussions are thought provoking and exceptionally captured on screen.




The credits identify the Chicago universities as Barat College, Loyola University, Mundelein College, Roosevelt University, University of Illinois, and Northwestern University. Although the film doesn’t make explicit which scenes occur where, keen eyes can spot at least one of each Northwestern and Loyola sweatshirts.

On display is Frank’s careful attention to composition and ability to record a unique take on a scene. Even across this short film, so much of the personalities of the students are conveyed in Frank’s images. For more information, check out the film’s full page in our catalog.



Giving Thanks

CFA has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. This week we learned that CFA was awarded three grants – one from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), one from the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and another from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The NEH grant ($6000) will go towards purchasing steel archival shelves for two massive collections – the Frank Koza Newsreel Collection and the Robert & Terry Davis Travelogue Collection. Combined, these two collections have over 2,700 film & audio elements. We are delighted (and thankful!) to give these collections a nice and stable home within our temperature controlled vault.

A treat from CFA’s Robert & Terry Davis Collection, OBEY YOUR AIR RAID WARDEN (1942, Robert Davis & Harry Hilfinger):

We are also excited to announce that the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation matched our recent NEA grant of $20,000 with $34,500 to digitize the remainder of the Ruth Page Dance Collection. This collection contains dance rehearsals and performances that date back to 1922 including footage of Rudolph Nureyev soon after his defection from the Soviet Union, Balinese dances filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour, and performances of The Merry Widow on the Ed Sullivan Show. It also contains the original and master tapes of numerous interviews with dance critics such as Clive Barnes and John Martin, dancers such as Larry Long, Delores Lipinski, Anne Kisselgoff and Maria Tallchief, and a comprehensive series of interviews and oral histories with Page herself that date from 1957 through 1987.

A portion of the inspected 16mm films in CFA’s Ruth Page Collection

Combined, the NEA & Donnelley grants will help fund the digitization of over 900 unique moving image and audio items, including 16mm films, rare video formats (including 2″!), Betacam SP tapes and a handful of 1/4″ audio reels. This Donnelley Foundation grant also allows CFA to strengthen our digital storage and digitization workflows, making it easier for us to get these digitized materials streaming on our website and therefore accessible to you.

And speaking of access…also in the works is a Midwest dance program, featuring the work of Ms. Page alongside the provocative work of the talented dancer-choreographer Sybil Shearer (1912-2005). (More on this 2014 screening soon!)  In the mean time, though, you can view 63 freshly digitized Ruth Page films & videos on our site, including two recently restored 1928 Ravinia performances (here and here), a handful of television appearances by Ruth Page & Co (view one here), home movies filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour (view one here) as well as a sprinkling of rare 1″ and 1/2″ video tapes digitized by Bay Area Video Coalition.

And! last night we learned that the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation awarded CFA an $8000 grant for 2014 General Operations. SO SO THANKFUL! Chicago Film Archives is a 501(c)(3) non profit and depends on grants like these AND the support from our followers to thrive. Please consider donating to CFA here. Each contribution both large and small is critical to our continuing work.

Frank Koza (1920-2013)

Two canisters filled with newsreel trims found in CFA’s Frank Koza Collection

We are sad to have to once again announce the death of another Midwest filmmaker and cinematographer – Frank Koza.  Frank had a long history of shooting news, first based out of the east coast and then Chicago.  He was a member of the International Cinematographer’s Guild Local 600 and he was good.  He was a consummate professional.

CFA acquired his negatives, prints and trims last year.  We know how much of a professional he was, just by the labeling he attached to his film materials.  To date, no collection we have received is so well organized and described as is the materials in Frank’s collection of films. Although we have yet to fully process this massive collection (it was meticulously inventoried by past CFA intern, Amelia Anderson), we have digitized a couple of his prints with subjects ranging from GOP political conventions and Apollo 11 blast-offs to leisurely scenes of suburban Chicago. Frank knew how to shoot.


more on Frank Koza’s exciting life here