Bill Douglas Centre curator Phil Wickham with a copy of LIFE magazine featuring Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe exhibition uncovered at cinema museum

The 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe, one of the most enduring of film icons, is being commemorated in Exeter with an exhibition of memorabilia at the University of Exeter’s cinema museum.

The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture contains over 400 items connected with Marilyn Monroe.

Bill Douglas Centre Curator Phil Wickham said: “The sheer scale and range of the items we hold on Marilyn is staggering and reflects her importance in popular culture, even 50 years after her untimely death.  We have shelves of books, calendars, statuettes and branded household items. There is a small permanent display of Marilyn memorabilia on display but the anniversary demands a special exhibition to showcase the vast amount of other artefacts that we hold on her. Her popularity has, if anything, increased as the years have gone by”.

The Marilyn exhibition was curated by undergraduate English student Hannah Lamarque ,  a regular volunteer at the Bill Douglas Centre(BDC). Hannah, who is from Taunton, said: “After seeing her films as a teenager I became a firm fan, she is so charismatic on film and her life and image is endlessly fascinating. It has been great to put together the exhibition from all the fantastic Marilyn items, both old and new.  We have tried to show through the objects why she still retains so much power as an icon”.

Dr Fiona Handyside, Lecturer in Film at the University adds: “Marilyn is an enduring popular icon, and she continues to fascinate.  The recent film My Week with Marilyn demonstrates that her iconic status as a 'tragic blonde' (like Diana) is intriguing as she is so contradictory - sexy, powerful, disruptive to the establishment, but also childlike, vulnerable and innocent.

"Introducing students to Marilyn and using the range of artefacts in the BDC allows us to think about how stars' image shift with changing social circumstances.  These images help us to consider if Marilyn is really a feminist icon or sex object and forms questions about why we care so much about the private life of somebody we’ve never met.”

The exhibition will run until Christmas at The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus.

Date: 3 August 2012