Lights, Camera, Museum!

Slated to open in 2020, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will celebrate the art and science of movies to inspire, entertain and educate visitors.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is one of the most ambitious projects of its kind. Founded by the Los Angeles-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscar awards, the museum is set to open in 2020. From Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” and the doors of Rick’s Café Américain from “Casablanca” to the very first Steadicam ever used in film production and countless Oscar statuettes, the museum’s collection will cater to a range of interests.

The museum is being constructed in a historic Art Deco building—the now-defunct May Company department store site on Wilshire Boulevard. The building is part of the city’s Miracle Mile area, which includes cultural powerhouses like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.

Many organizations and individuals have made substantial donations to the Academy museum, including some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, has joined actors Tom Hanks and Annette Bening in working to secure funding for the museum.

“The Academy museum’s intention is to create a unique and unparalleled museum experience,” says a museum spokesperson. “Achieving this has required a highly complex construction effort—renovating a 1939 L.A. landmark, building a new spherical structure that includes a 1,500-panel glass dome, and joining them together to produce 300,000 square feet of spectacular public and exhibition space.”

There will be a permanent gallery as well as temporary exhibitions, two theaters for live performances and film screenings, an education studio and event space. Architect Renzo Piano, known for buildings like The Shard in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, created the spherical structure, which would house a theater.

The Academy museum is slated to become one of the world’s top institutions dedicated to the craft of moviemaking. In a press release, it stated that it aims “to convey the power of movies, to give viewers a look behind the scenes into how movies are made, and to explore movies’ impact on culture and our lives.” While it will trace the artistic and scientific history of cinema, specific galleries will focus on topics like early female directors, international silent films and Indian independent films. 

The museum has spent more than 10 years collecting a vast range of coveted objects related to the motion picture industry, from cameras and other industry technology to promotional materials, costumes, set elements and props. It will also draw from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ collections of more than 12 million photographs; 190,000 films and videos; 80,000 screenplays; 61,000 posters; and 104,000 pieces of production art.

Access for all is of utmost importance to the museum creators. Thanks to a “transformative grant” from the George Lucas Family Foundation, it announced earlier this year that all visitors ages 17 and under will be admitted free of charge.

“At the Academy museum, we are committed to helping educate our youngest visitors, the children and teens who will be the next generation of filmmakers, writers and visual artists,” said the museum director Kerry Brougher in a statement.

The museum will soon announce its opening date. “As we continue working through the permitting process and move closer to completion, we are weighing the overall schedule for major industry events in 2020,” says the museum spokesperson. “On this basis, we will choose the optimal moment for our official opening.”


Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.


Museums in the Making

America loves its museums. And a string of new and up-and-coming ones are set to highlight some of the country’s cultural and historical offerings. 

In Philadelphia, for instance, there are plans to build one of the nation’s largest museums dedicated to organized sports. The Museum of Sports would celebrate America’s greatest athletic teams and stars, in all major sports disciplines. It would showcase memorabilia and have digital and virtual reality activity zones, a theater, a sports restaurant, and shops for collectibles.

New York City will now have the National Museum of LGBT History & Culture. It seeks to identify, study and showcase the social, historical and cultural contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to U.S. society. It would offer exhibitions, research, publications and other public programs.

The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is under development in St. Petersburg, Florida. The five-story architectural achievement features more than 40,000 square feet of gallery space, a grand atrium, skylights, a spiral staircase, a library, a theater, a graphic studio and a park.

Located in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Fort Totten, The Hub will become the future home of Explore! Children’s Museum. In early 2017, Explore! and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery opened an interactive children’s museum experience inside the Portrait Gallery.

Opening this October, the New Burke museum will be a flagship facility for the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture. The New Burke turns the museum “inside-out,” breaking down traditional museum barriers and inviting visitors to be part of a working research facility. In other words, exhibit galleries will be side-by-side with 12 visible, state-of-the-art labs and workrooms, along with an artists’ workshop. —C.Y.