Ken Burns to help ‘raise roof’ for library
Documentary filmmaker will make presentation in Shelburne Falls in February
Shelburne Falls Arms Library in Pratt Memorial Library building needs a new roof.
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns walks through the museum at the Georgia home used by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nov. 2, 2013, in Warm Springs, Ga. Burns will be giving a talk in Shelburne Falls on Feb. 12 to help raise money for the library’s roof.
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns walks through the entrance of the Georgia home used by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a tour by site manager Robin Glass, right, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Warm Springs, Ga. Burns along with several members of the Roosevelt family toured the home known as the Little White House Saturday used by Roosevelt as Burns previewed parts of his 14-hour film on the Roosevelt's. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
SHELBURNE FALLS — The filmmaker who brought “The Civil War” and “Baseball” to American living rooms hopes to attract money to the local library’s restoration.
Ken Burns will be at Memorial Hall on Feb. 12 to help library supporters raise $650,000 for restoration of the Arms Library/Pratt Memorial Library building. Although program details are still being worked out, the country’s premier television documentary maker will most likely show scenes from an up-coming series that he is producing for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television. Burns will also discuss his work with the audience. The Memorial Hall theater seats about 360 people.
“From the library’s perspective, we’re thrilled,” said Whit Sanford, fundraising chairwoman for the library restoration.
Kim Klein, a Shelburne Falls resident who worked with Burns at Florentine Films, asked the filmmaker to come to Shelburne Falls for the fundraising program. “I knew the library is in a sad state,” said Klein, a former Cultural Council member who has worked with Arms Library Director Laurie Wheeler. “Also, it’s not that far out of the way for Ken,” she said, because Burns lives in southern New Hampshire. “I told him about it some time ago. I just thought it would be a nice connection.”
Klein is currently executive director of The Better Angel Society, a nonprofit organization established to fund and provide educational outreach for documentary films on American history. “Burns is obviously somebody we work with,” she said.
Klein said she thought the library fundraiser is going well, but could use some special events — especially during winter.
Burns, who lives in Walpole, N.H., was first nominated for an Academy Award in 1981 for the documentary feature, “Brooklyn Bridge.” Burns’ 1990, 11-hour television documentary, “The Civil War,” won two Emmys and has received more than 40 major film and television awards.
According to a 2002 poll by Real Screen Magazine, “The Civil War” ranked second only to Robert Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North” as the “most influential documentary of all time.” That same poll also names Burns and Flaherty as “the most influential documentary makers of all time.”
Burns has also won Emmys for his 1994 “Baseball,” and for “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2009). He also produced: “Lewis and Clark,” “Jazz,” “Mark Twain” and many others.
Future documentaries Burns is planning include a series on the Roosevelts, the Gettysburg Address, Jackie Robinson, the Vietnam War and country music.
In the 1970s, Burns attended Hampshire College in Amherst, earning a bachelor’s degree in film study and design.
“This is a significant donation that he’s giving to the library, by showing up here,” said Sanford, noting that Burns is usually well paid for his lectures . “He’s such a big draw,” she said.
“It’s a very wonderful thing,” she said. “It’s not likely we would have gotten anybody of such renown if we hadn’t known someone like Kim.”
Although firm estimates for renovation costs are not yet available, Sanford said the goal is to raise about $650,000 for the two-phase project. The first goal is to raise enough to replace the library roof and to repair the building foundation.
The library building turns 100 next year, and library officials hope to be able to start on these repairs during the 2014 construction season. The second phase will be to work on the building’s interior, which will include an electrical upgrade, adding an air-conditioner, and preserving murals in the library.
As of November, $197,374 had been raised for building improvements. Organizers hope to reach the $200,000 mark before year’s end.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277