Perry Miller Adato papers and films, ca. 1968-1982 | Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Cassatt, Mary, 1844-1926
Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-2011
Neel, Alice, 1900-1984
Nevelson, Louise, 1899-1988
O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986
O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973
Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967
Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946
Thomas, Dylan, 1914-1953
Work of Charles and Ray Eames (Library of Congress)
Perry Miller Adato (1920-2018, b. Yonkers, New York) was a prolific documentarian, whose work as a film researcher, distributor, producer, and director spanned roughly seven decades, beginning in the 1940s through the 2010s. Best known for her WNET/Thirteen documentaries exploring the interior lives of influential artists, poets, and writers of the 20th century, Adato's accomplishments have earned her numerous accolades. Notable achievements include an Emmy award for her directorial debut, Dylan Thomas - The World I Breathe in 1968 and a Most Outstanding Achievement in Documentary award in 1978 from the Director's Guild of America for Georgia O'Keeffe (1977). Adato was also the first woman in the history of the Director's Guild to win this prestigious designation. She has also been cited as a major influence on the stylistic development of American documentary cinema. Her unique style choices to use narration and reenactment to propel the film narrative would go on to define contemporary documentary filmmaking practices that are canonized today by documentarians such as Kens Burns, who cites Adato as one of the major influences of his work.
Adato's tireless career as a producer and director continued into her 90s, leaving behind dynamic artifacts that give us an intimate look at 20th-century legends such as Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Carl Sandburg, Georgia O'Keeffe, and the Eames among many others. The Perry Miller Adato collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was acquired in 1985 by the Illinois History and Lincolns Collection curator, John Hoffman, at a time when the repository was merged with the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The IHLC had collaborated with Adato extensively on her documentary, Carl Sandburg: Echoes and Silences (1982), assisting her with locating source material and research advisors. In the early 1980s, Hoffman and Adato agreed to transfer her documentary production assets to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library from New York City. The collection (457.5 cubic feet) covers her work as a director and producer from 1970 to 1982. The collection contains original film production elements such as 16mm and 35mm film, production-related documents such as story boards, 35mm slides, stills, extensive research material, NEH grant proposals, scripts, broadcast master tapes, and correspondence with documentary subjects such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Paloma Picasso.