Collections

The Howard E. Burr Collection

Howard BurrHoward E. “Doc” Burr was a lifelong film collector. He began as a child in the late 1920s and continued right up to his death in 2008 at the age of 89. He collected over 2,500 films, mostly American features and shorts.

Burr was a dentist by trade, and always a film lover. He had a cinema set up in his basement and watched at least a film a day, usually more. He put on shows for his family and their friends; in the summer they were shown outside on a sheet.   

Burr collected feature films and shorts, mostly Hollywood productions, mostly 16mm prints. The collection also includes over a hundred 35mm prints, reduction features on 16mm, super 8, 8mm and 9.5mm, trailers, television programs, cartoons, newsreels, westerns, travel films, Kodascopes, classic comedies from the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, Chaplin, Our Gang, and Charlie Chase.

Although film collecting was once quite common, Dr. Burr’s collection stands out because it is unusually large. The Harvard Film Archive is very pleased to be able to gather not only the films, but also all the ephemera that goes with them. It is both a great collection of film and a fascinating archive of the habits of a film collector as it includes not only the films and many of the projectors, but also and the paper ephemera Dr. Burr collected to complement his film cache. He amassed lobby cards and film posters, movie magazines and books, collector newsletters, and he saved all the correspondence and paperwork that was necessary to build his collection. Being a film collector meant trading through the mail, and he retained letters, receipts, lists, canceled checks and all kinds of notes regarding not only the selling and trading of films, but also everything related to his equipment. This collection provides a fascinating resource for anyone studying film collectors.

This collection is in the process of being accepted into the HFA collection and is not yet fully accessible.

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