Visitors to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West during summer 2017 will be treated to an exhibition of rare western and Indian movie posters and related graphic arts, thanks to a newly announced partnership with Arizona State University.
The museum and university are the new stewards of The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History, the world’s premier collection of western and Indian movie posters. Valued at nearly six million dollars, the collection consists of approximately 5,000 items—primarily posters and lobby cards dating from the early 1900s to contemporary times. (When movies were released, theaters historically received a set of eight 11”x14” photos − known as lobby cards − showing different scenes from the film for display in theater lobbies.)
Many of the films depicted in the collection were produced on nitrate film and no longer exist, making the posters in the Strickland Collection the only existing representations of the films.
Professor Rennard Strickland, from whom the museum and ASU acquired the collection that they will share, is Senior Scholar in Residence at the University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman, Oklahoma. He is highly regarded as the preeminent collector of Indian movie posters in the world and an expert on Indian law. Strickland is of Osage and Cherokee heritage.
By entrusting his collection to Scottsdale’s Museum of the West and ASU, Strickland said he hopes that a multitude of people will be able to understand and value the collection on a variety of levels well into the future.
In addition to appreciating the movie posters out of a love of the movies themselves, Strickland said they are prized for their graphic art and pop culture aspects; as a teaching tool about stereotypes and misconceptions of American Indians; and for what they can teach us about the history of film, the western genre, and the musical aspect exemplified by singing cowboys and films like “Oklahoma,” “Paint Your Wagon,” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
“I’m just so delighted that ASU and Scottsdale’s Museum of the West have come together on this project,” Strickland said. “ASU represents a large amount of academic power. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is a marvelous western museum so I can think of no place that I would be happier giving my collection.”