Academy Museum of Motion Pictures' Jacqueline Stewart On The Museum's Inclusivity

By Jasmin Rosemberg | November 29, 2022

This feature is in the October Style Issue. Click here to subscribe.

PHOTO BY: YE RIN MOK
PHOTO BY: YE RIN MOK

Meet Jacqueline Stewart, cinema scholar, educator, author, and the new director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (academymuseum.org). Here, Stewart discusses the museum’s inclusive portrayal of film history, its starry Oct. 15 gala and new fall programming.

Jacqueline Stewart is the new director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. PHOTO BY: JOSH WHITE, JWPICTURES/©ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION
Jacqueline Stewart is the new director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. PHOTO BY: JOSH WHITE, JWPICTURES/©ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION

“WE EXPOSE VISITORS TO A WIDE RANGE OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO—BUT ARE TRADITIONALLY LEFT OUT OF—FILM HISTORY, SUCH AS WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR, QUEER PEOPLE AND PEOPLE LIVING WITH DISABILITIES.” –JACQUELINE STEWART

When did you first develop an interest in cinema?

I first fell in love with classic cinema as a kid growing up in Chicago. My aunt would let me stay up past my bedtime to watch movies with her. My interest continued to grow and became the foundation of my studies and career.

How did your studies and prior experiences prepare you for your work at the Academy Museum?

Studying film history and bringing it to light for the public has been my life’s work. Among the experiences I call on each day in my role at the Academy Museum are teaching American film history at the University of Chicago; founding the South Side Home Movie Project; hosting Turner Classic Movies’ weekly series Silent Sunday Nights; and writing on film history, including my book Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARGARET HERRICK LIBRARY, © TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARGARET HERRICK LIBRARY, © TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

What attracted you to the Academy Museum initially?

The Academy Museum provided an opportunity to take all of the research, teaching, archival, social impact and publication work that I’ve done and three-dimensionalize it. I was really excited to have an opportunity to guide the intellectual agenda of the museum, helping to lead our strategy on interacting with the public and thinking about how the different platforms we represent relate to each other.

Which accomplishments from your time as chief artistic and programming officer are you most proud of?

I love that the museum’s content is committed to sharing the vast spectrum of perspectives that have cultivated filmmaking all over the world. Through our exhibitions, film programs, education programs, community events, publications and even our collecting strategy, we expose visitors to a wide range of people who have contributed to—but are traditionally left out of—film history, such as women, people of color, queer people and people living with disabilities. Not only does this expand understandings of history, it allows more people to see themselves reflected in films and filmmaking.

The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas (left) and Harold Nicholas, in a scene from 1943’s Stormy Weather (photographic print, gelatin silver) BY JOSHUA WHITE, JW PICTURES/©ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION
The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas (left) and Harold Nicholas, in a scene from 1943’s Stormy Weather (photographic print, gelatin silver) BY JOSHUA WHITE, JW PICTURES/©ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION

Which are some of your favorite film relics currently on display?

I absolutely love the dress worn by Mabel King as Evillene in The Wiz, which is on view in the museum’s Identity gallery. The dress is ornately covered with both jewels and detritus and weighs something like 30 pounds. It speaks to King’s tremendous talent that she was able to make singing, dancing and expressive moment look so effortless in her performance.

What can we look forward to this fall/winter at the museum?

I am deeply excited about the programs that will accompany our exhibition Regeneration: Black Cinema, 1898-1971. We’ll have a diverse series of film screenings, including world premieres of films newly restored by the Academy Film Archive, among them Reform School (1939), a title once thought to have been lost. This fall, I am also looking forward to our first rotation of the installations in our permanent exhibition, Stories of Cinema, with new galleries devoted to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972); French filmmaker Agnès Varda; and vignettes highlighting the classic film Casablanca, seminal L.A. movie Boyz N the Hood and documentarian Lourdes Portillo.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ Stars and Icons gallery from the Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 exhibit BY HUNTER ABRAMS
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ Stars and Icons gallery from the Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 exhibit BY HUNTER ABRAMS

What are some highlights of the Academy Museum’s Oct. 15 gala?

We are thrilled to honor the work of Julia Roberts, Steve McQueen, Tilda Swinton and Miky Lee, who will receive the Icon, Vantage, Visionary and Pillar awards, respectively. The honorees’ work reflects the museum’s mission to advance the understanding, celebration and preservation of cinema, and to expand knowledge and conversation about cinema as a global art form and cultural force. We hope and expect that this glamorous event will be just as successful this year as it was the last, raising millions of dollars to support the museum’s film, educational and access programs.

Cher and Lady Gaga, and Ava DuVernay and Regina King at the Academy Museum’s opening gala. BY HUNTER ABRAMS
Cher and Lady Gaga, and Ava DuVernay and Regina King at the Academy Museum’s opening gala. BY HUNTER ABRAMS

Photography by: YE RIN MOK; JOSH WHITE, JWPICTURES/©ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION; COURTESY OF MARGARET HERRICK LIBRARY, © TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX; HUNTER ABRAMS