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Collectors share a passion for Southern California’s past

USC Libraries, Artbound present a documentary focusing on an obsession with Los Angeles history

director Joseph Hawkins is interviewed by filmmaker Joris Debeij
ONE Archives Director Joseph Hawkins is interviewed for "Monomania L.A." (Photo/Nathan Masters)

What happens when collecting becomes more than a hobby?

In an ongoing partnership among KCETLink, USC Libraries and the libraries’ LA as Subject partners, KCETLink’s Emmy Award-winning arts and culture series Artbound presents “Monomania L.A.”

The one-hour episode profiles five LA as Subject collectors and their monomaniacal obsession with a particular aspect of Los Angeles history. It premieres at 8 p.m. March 17 on KCET in Southern California and at 8 p.m. March 23 on Link TV nationally.

Collectors spotlighted in this episode have documented disparate subjects — Mexican history, African-American photographers, the California orange, sci-fi reading circles, political posters — but their stories share one thing in common: a passion for history that has enriched our understanding of Southern California’s past.

The diverse group of collectors featured includes:

    • David Boulé, whose collection documents the rise of the citrus industry and its role in defining the California dream through commercial boosterism
    • Carol Wells, executive director and founder of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, who has amassed the nation’s largest collection of post-World War II protest posters
    • Ernest Marquez, who has devoted decades to researching and collecting materials related to his family’s 244-year history in Mexico and California
    • Kent Kirkton, who directs the Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation at the California State University, Northridge, has amassed some 800,000 images by LA-area African-American photographers
    • Joseph Hawkins, director of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries, who discovered hidden harmonies between sci-fi fandom and the early LGBTQ rights movement in the personal collection of Jim Kepner.

Passionate, private collectors

The collectors are members of LA as Subject, a collaborative of 250 libraries, museums and private archives hosted by the USC Libraries. Currently, several “Monomania LA” videos and articles are featured on the Artbound website, with more to be added in the near future. The short films were produced with support from the Cal Humanities Community Stories Program.

“The significance of passionate, private collectors and collections to the understanding of a place is simply inestimable,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries. “These are the unheard family stories, the voices of marginalized communities, the hidden stories of what Los Angeles means and what it means to be part of Los Angeles. I’m proud to bring them to a tremendous new audience thanks to this partnership with Cal Humanities and KCETLink.”

Juan Devis, KCETLink’s senior vice president of content development and production, said: “We’re excited to showcase some of the rich, historical collections, many never before seen publicly, from some of Southern California’s most preeminent collectors. It is through our ongoing partnership with USC Libraries and the L.A. as Subject team that we are able to offer our viewers a fascinating journey into history, nostalgia and art.”


The “Monomania LA” production team includes Joris Debeij, the documentary filmmaker behind the acclaimed “I Am Los Angeles” series; David Kipen, proprietor of Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights and former director of literary projects for the National Endowment for the Arts as host and humanities adviser; and the libraries’ Nathan Masters and Liza Posas as producers. 

The project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in “Monomania LA” do not necessarily represent those of Cal Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Collectors share a passion for Southern California’s past

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