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National Comedy Center
As the world marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of Lucille Ball, the new National Comedy Center — a state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, New York that embodies Ball’s vision for a destination for the celebration of comedy — has announced a new initiative to digitally preserve the extensive archives of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum.
The National Comedy Center, which last month was designated by the United States Congress as the official national cultural institution dedicated to comedy, will begin to digitize hundreds of documents, photographs and media in the archives, in order to preserve this material for future generations and make it accessible to comedy fans from around the world. These archives include behind-the-scenes production papers, rare family and studio photographs, handwritten notes, letters and telegrams from notable figures to Ball and Arnaz, and much more – most of which have never been exhibited previously. This archival material will be made available within the National Comedy Center and Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum exhibits in the coming years.
Part of the National Comedy Center complex, the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum explores the legacy of the “First Couple of Comedy” and the remarkable impact they had on comedy and popular culture. It features original artifacts and material from Ball and Arnaz’s life and career, and their revolutionary impact on entertainment as founders of Desilu Productions, which, by 1962, became the largest independent television production company in the United States, producing legendary series including “I Love Lucy,” “Star Trek,” “Mission Impossible” and “The Untouchables,” as well as serving as the studio home for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” The Andy Griffith Show, “The Jack Benny Program,” “The Danny Thomas Show,” “My Three Sons,” and many more.
A selection of rare photos and artifacts from the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum archives can be found here: https://comedycenter.org/lucille-ball-30th-anniversary-photos/
The new National Comedy Center visitor experience, which presents the vital story of the art form across all eras and genres, opened in August 2018 and honors comedy’s great minds and unique voices – from Charlie Chaplin to today’s rising artists. The Comedy Center embodies Ball’s wish for her hometown to preserve comedy’s great heritage so that it would educate, engage and inspire future generations.
“Lucille Ball was a true pioneer, an innovator, and an immense talent. It has been our tremendous honor to make her dream a reality, with the opening of the National Comedy Center last August – and to see the incredible response from our visitors,” said National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson. “Now, on this milestone anniversary, we look forward to digitally preserving our Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz archives in a way that makes their story forever-accessible and engaging for generations to come.”
With “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz created and starred in one of the most beloved series in television history. She was nominated for 13 Emmy awards, winning four times for her work in “I Love Lucy” and “The Lucy Show. Beyond her legacy as a comedic actress, Ball was the first female head of a major Hollywood production studio, and known to be a savvy business woman in an otherwise male-dominated industry. While she supported Jamestown’s early concepts to build a museum in her honor, she expressed the desire for it to be a much broader celebration and examination of comedy, which led to the development of the National Comedy Center, the first museum devoted to comedy as an art form.
The National Comedy Center has already welcomed visitors from all 50 states and 9 countries, and was named a “Best New Attraction” in the country by USA Today, voted 2nd out of 20 attractions. The visitor experience has received a rare 5 out of 5 rating on Trip Advisor, ranking among the highest in the attraction and tourism industry.
With innovative technology, interactivity and content personalization, the 37,000-square-foot National Comedy Center complex has pioneered 21st-century museum design, in much the same way that Ball, Arnaz, and their team at Desilu Productions pioneered the technology for the three-camera production system employed for “I Love Lucy” – a production technique still commonly used today.
For over 25 years, the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in Jamestown has showcased comedy’s rising young comedians and greatest stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin, Lewis Black, Trevor Noah, Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Paula Poundstone, Ray Romano, Bob Newhart and The Smothers Brothers, and over one hundred other comedic artists. The 28th annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, presented by the National Comedy Center this August, will be headlined by Sebastian Maniscalco and John Mulaney.