Gatewood Dunston Research Notes

Gatewood Dunston Research Notes

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description (Brief)
Research notebooks of motion picture history scholar Gatewood Dunston, including letters, documents, photographs related to equipment and personalities associated with the history of the moving image.
Description
Gatewood W. Dunston (1908-October 18, 1956) was a motion picture projectionist and later, a collector and scholar of the history of motion picture technology who bequeathed his important collection to the National Museum of American History.
Dunston worked the projection booth at the Granby and Lowe’s Theaters in Norfolk, Virginia, where he lived until his death. He was a friend of the early Western star William S. Hart, and obtained a number of Hart films, posters and even a pistol used by the actor in his films. It appears that Dunston began seriously researching and collecting movie cameras, projectors and memorabilia in the early 1940s, through correspondence with film historians Merritt Crawford and Terry Ramsaye, early projectionist Francis Doublier and a number of movie personalities and machine manufacturers. He was disheartened by the deaths of many motion picture pioneers in the 1930s and 40s, and by his perception that the history of motion picture technology was fading into obscurity. Dunston collected 35mm and 16mm copies of notable silent films, old projectors and cameras, glass theater slides, a small number of mutoscope items and editing equipment as well as stereo views and optical toys. As his health deteriorated in the early 1950s, he was forced to sell off many of his films, which were on nitrate and posed a fire hazard, and he wrote a will that stipulated his collection be left to the Smithsonian National Museum’s Section of Photography, now NMAH’s Photographic History Collection.
The Dunston accession, number 212314, included 864 items, comprised primarily of 294 theater slides, 162 stereo views, 150 lantern slides, 157 films, 59 early projectors, 6 editing machines, 6 posters, over 100 photographs and a mutoscope reel. Additionally, Dunston left his correspondence relating to the collection, which offers a look at this formative period in the historiography of motion pictures. The films, many of which were on nitrate, were transferred to the Library of Congress in the 1960s, but the remainder of the material was cataloged and is found at numbers 4994-5099 in the Photographic History Collection. The Dunston collection at the National Museum of American History remains one of the most complete and important showing the evolution and history of the motion picture projector, as well as the motion picture industry and art.
This finding aid is one in a series documenting the PHC’s Early Cinema Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000018]. The cinema-related objects cover the range of technological innovation and popular appeal that defined the motion picture industry during a period in which it became the premier form of mass communication in American life, roughly 1885-1930. See also finding aids for Early Sound Cinema [COLL.PHOTOS.000040], Early Color Cinema [COLL.PHOTOS.000039], Early Cinema Film and Ephemera [COLL.PHOTOS.000038] and Early Cinema Equipment [COLL.PHOTOS.000037].
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
papers, Dunston notes
documents
maker
Dunston, G. W.
place made
United States: Virginia, Norfolk
Physical Description
handmade (overall production method/technique)
ID Number
PG.005099
accession number
212314
catalog number
5099
Credit Line
Gatewood W. Dunston
subject
Motion Pictures
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Popular Entertainment
Photo History Collection
Gatewood W. Dunston Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Note: Comment submission is temporarily unavailable while we make improvements to the site. We apologize for the interruption. If you have a question relating to the museum's collections, please first check our Collections FAQ. If you require a personal response, please use our Contact page.