Funding is Fundamental #2: Chicago Film Archives

01 May 2017 8:17 PM | Erin Matson (Administrator)

Many of Chicago’s cultural institutions have used grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to preserve, promote, and provide access to their collections. In response to the proposed elimination of funding for these federal agencies, CAA asked members to submit stories highlighting the projects that their institutions have undertaken with support from the NEH, NEA, and IMLS. As of Monday, May 1, the newly proposed budget would not cut funding to these organizations, and in fact would slightly increase these budgets. This will be need to be officially approved by lawmakers on May 5th. We will continue to post these stories in the hopes that they will inspire a dialog among Chicagoans about how we can continue to advocate for and protect our cultural heritage.

Today’s submission is from the Chicago Film Archives (CFA), who has depended upon the NEH and NEA funding for operational and special arts and preservation projects throughout its 13-year existence.

Each year CFA applies to the NEH for a $6,000 small preservation grant. All of CFA's archival shelving has been funded by this grant. NEH has also funded Operational Consultants for the organization. These grants have allowed CFA to operationally strengthen and grow over the past decade.

CFA has also gotten grants from the NEA to process, stabilize, digitize, describe and stream online the entire Ruth Page Collection, which consists of nearly 1,000 films. Currently, several hundred of those films are streaming from the Ruth Page Finding Aid on the CFA website. This site is used for dance reference on a routine basis by scholars, historians and dancers.

The NEA also funded a retrospective on the late Howard Alk, a filmmaker and editor who directed the documentaries JANIS and MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON.  Even to date, Alk is relatively unknown, in spite of these accomplishments.

To learn more about the Ruth Page Collection, please visit

To learn more about the 2009 retrospective Howard Alk: A Life on the Edge, please visit

Image: "Bolero" (1928) [Ruth Page Collection]

Do you have a story about your federally funded project and its significance to your community? Submit your stories to

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