The gift is a legacy from the late professor Martin B. Cohen.
The late Martin Cohen, who died in March 2019, was a professor of history at George Mason University, where he taught for over 35 years.
In addition to being a lifelong educator, Professor Cohen was a film and theatre enthusiast—attending movies and plays, collecting memorabilia, supporting the arts, and presenting lectures on related themes. Now, through a generous gift from his estate, his collection of posters, playbills, lobby cards, and other movie and theatre-related ephemera and artifacts now resides in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) of the University Libraries.
A large part of the collection represents classical Hollywood cinema, with posters from such classics as Spartacus, Quo Vadis, El Cid, the Charlie Chan series, and others. Also in the collection are a number of animated cells, including originals of well-known characters including Dopey (from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and Jerry (from Hanna and Barbera’s Tom and Jerry).
Bob Vay, SCRC archivist and Mason alumnus, recalls a film course taught by Professor Cohen with delight. “Dr. Cohen had a deep knowledge of film and theater history and was one of the more entertaining professors with whom I had taken a class,” Vay says. “I particularly enjoyed his ‘History through Film’ class. He would use clips from 1930s-era movies to illustrate then-current social mores, which often brought a chuckle out of our class of late-1980s college students. He had a wisecracking sense of humor and a deadpan delivery in class, which helped me tune in to his lectures. Dr. Cohen is one of the faculty members who I remember most fondly.”
In addition to his collection, Professor Cohen bequeathed funds to support the Special Collections Research Center in processing and preserving his collection. (Professor Cohen’s beloved history department, in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, also received a generous bequest from the estate.) These funds will facilitate the hiring of a graduate student assistant to help organize and describe the materials to make them ready to use, and purchase special housing for some of the more fragile items in the collection to ensure their availability for future use.
Jessica Clark / October 15, 2020. A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of The Libraries at Mason.