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May. 14 2010 - 10:03 am | 200 views | 1 recommendation | 0 comments

Obit you missed: Callie Angell, professional memory guardian

Cover: Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne by Callie Angell

When we die, most of us are unremembered by the broad world. Few, the famous, are recalled by name alone. Others, the accomplished, come back to mind by mention of their work. Still others, the associates, are remembered for connections to the famous and accomplished. Where does Callie Angell fit? She was the step-granddaughter of E.B. White, a member of the famous, and the daughter of Roger Angell, a legendary writer and editor for The New Yorker. She was also a world-class archivist of the films by Andy Warhol.

Her work has changed the perception of not only Warhol’s films and video but every aspect of Warhol’s art,” said Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney. “It has helped people understand this material and this period, which forms the basis for so much contemporary work.”

via Callie Angell, Authority on Warhol Films, Dies at 62 – Biography – NYTimes.com.

Memory of the dead is a social phenomenon. It does not matter whatsoever to the integrity of a life. But Callie Angell’s name in death is especially profound because she spent her life working for the preservation of memory — perhaps the second most vulnerable kind of memory next to the human brain: film. Warhol’s movies are strange things, but they speak to something ultimately human — they are fascinated by the famous and obscure. Callie was, herself, both.

This is a post that need not have happened yet. Callie took her own life, a fact that her father shared with The New York Times. The limited conversation about her life is equally split between that fact and her work. I have no idea if she wished to be remembered by a broader world, and if she is going to be, I think it’s wise to do so through her work. But curators, archivists, our cultural memory guardians, are not the easiest people to memorialize. Fortunately, Laura Kern happened upon Callie’s work six years ago and wrote a very nice piece about it for New York. I suspect Callie would not mind if this is how she is remembered.


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    About 10 years ago, this lady in her 80s told me a childhood story about the day her mom tied her to a post on the porch. It was punishment for riding her tricycle past the curb at the end of their block. In the middle of the story she said to me, 'Wait, mom didn't tie me to the porch, she tied the tricycle to the porch. I just remembered that.' I've been fascinated by memory ever since.

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    To make a living during those 10 years, I wrote about religion, politics and people for The Kansas City Star and National Catholic Reporter. I also delved deep into memory by teaching over 2,000 retired Midwesterners how to write their life stories. Now I am putting those two things together -- I'm reporting on memory from science, social and personal perspectives. I am also earning my MA in Journalism at NYU.

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