A round-up of library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in MCU’s Phase Four TV series (so far)

Phase four, round two, of our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians!

We are wrapping up our summer with our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians! I have written a lot about library scenes in various Marvel movies on this site, so this summer, I decided to go back through all the Marvel movies, this time in phase order, and make sure I watched, reviewed, and analyzed them all for any library, archives, and reel librarian scenes. Thank you for joining me as I finish cataloging all the library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in the MCU (so far):

Because Phase Four introduced TV series, and is therefore considerably larger than previous phases, I split Phase Four into two separate posts, a post for the Phase Four movies, and this final post (for now) for the Phase Four TV series.

There were a LOT more library, archives, and research-related scenes in the Phase Four TV series than I originally anticipated, so this is a super(hero)-sized post to finish out our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians summer. Feels appropriate, right? 😉

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*


WandaVision (Jan.-Mar. 2021)


WandaVision premiered as the first MCU TV series at the beginning of 2021 and has 9 episodes total. In this series, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are living in the suburbs, trying to act “normal” and conceal their powers. The series also features Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. Kat Dennings and Randall Park return as Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, respectively. WandaVision is a high-concept series, with each episode’s look and feel reflecting popular TV shows of different eras (i.e.g, the first episode looks like 1950s sitcoms, the second episode transitions into 1960s sitcoms, etc.). The series is set three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and its plot and ending directly lead into the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie, which also features Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch.

There is a squint-and-you’ll-miss-it reel librarian sighting in this series, as well as a few book-focused research scenes. The Westview Public Library is also the setting for a couple of key scenes.

Episode 2, “Don’t Touch That Dial”


At 6 minutes into this episode, which is all about wanting to fit in, Vision says, “There’s a gathering of the neighborhood watch at the public library.” Cut to 11:40 minutes, and we see Vision walking up the stairs to the library.

Vision: Pardon me, is this the neighborhood watch meeting?

Norm: Oh, hiya Vision, didn’t expect to see you here. This is sort of a “members only” type deal.

The neighborhood watch meeting is taking place in a central table in the middle of the library, and we see bookcases and a large card catalog along the walls, as well as microfiche readers. The interior of the library looks to be octagonal, with an open upper level supported by columns; this octagonal shape seems to be at (architectural) odds with the flat exterior of the library building.

Behind Norm’s head, there’s what looks to be a reference counter, and a woman with dark hair walks behind the counter, which indicates to me that she’s a reel librarian. This character goes unmentioned in the episode’s cast list but helps solidify the library setting, so she ends up a (nominal) Information Provider.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Vision sits down at the center table, saying he’ll “be as quiet as a church mouse.” It dawns on him, finally, that the “neighborhood watch” meeting is actually cover for guys to get together and gossip! Vision then tries a stick of gum — again, trying to fit in — but the gum gets stuck in his internal gears, which has hilarious consequences in the latter half of the episode.

The library scene ends at 14:34 minutes, lasting a total of 3 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 3, “Now in Color”


This episode is set in the 1970s, and at 2 minutes into the episode, Vision comes out of the Westview Public Library in an establishing shot in the episode’s intro titles. The very next frame is a closeup of Vision reading a book about pregnancy while he’s walking. This visual continuation seems to suggest that this is a book Vision just checked out of the library, but there’s also no call number on this book. (Also, the front and back covers of the book seem to be the same, which is odd, isn’t it? Could this be another, very subtle hint that Vision and Wanda don’t actually fit in with everyone else? Also, does this red book cover remind you of the red book cover for Rosemary’s Baby? An unsettling thought!)

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


At 5 minutes into the episode, Vision is reading another baby book in the nursery, a book entitled The Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book.

By the way, this is a real book which had many editions published from 1948 through 1977. Y’all knew I would look that up, right? 😉

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


Just 2 minutes later, Wanda experiences pregnancy pain, and asks Vision, “Do any of your books talk about this?”

Vision is ready with a new book from their home library, this time The New Complete Medical and Health Encyclopedia — remember when you kept encyclopedias at home?! — which is also a real book that went through many editions published by J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company. Vision looks up Braxton Hicks contractions.

Using a medical and health encyclopedia at home
Using a medical and health encyclopedia at home

Episode 9, “The Series Finale”


At 8 minutes into the finale, Wanda and Agatha have a showdown, and Agatha shares the prophecy in the Darkhold, revealing that there’s an entire chapter devoted to the Scarlet Witch: “Your power exceeds that of the sorcerer supreme. It’s your destiny to destroy the world.” (Put a pin in that for the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie!) Agatha describes the Darkhold as “the book of the damned.”

Closeup of the Darkhold book and the Scarlet Witch
Closeup of the Darkhold book and the Scarlet Witch

At 16 minutes into the episode, the townspeople confront Wanda in the town square, while The Vision (all in white) picks a fight with Vision and throws him through the public library’s windows.

The interior of the library looks to be the same octagonal set as seen in the previous episode, but we can see updates to the library, including a different card catalog along one wall (looks to be a boxier shape, like from the 1970s?), and a bulletin board to the right of the front door. This library bulletin board was my FAVORITE bit of this whole scene, as it’s SO cheesy — with a bee illustration and the phrase “The Library is the place to ‘bee'” — and SO true-to-life for a public library! I have created bulletin boards like this. In the gallery below, you can see the bulletin board and the library card catalog.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


While this new Vision states that “my mission is to destroy the Vision,” it really seems to be about destroying the public library!

After all the destruction, I enjoyed that the two Visions then engaged in a philosophical debate and thought experiment whilst in a library; it felt fitting that The Vision restored his knowledge while in a place of knowledge.

This library fight scene ends at 20:56, lasting for 5 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The final scene in the series features Wanda with the Darkhold — the “book of the damned” — and in her Scarlet Witch costume. This scene will get referenced again in the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie.


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Mar.-Apr. 2021)


In this TV series, which has 6 episodes, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) return and team up against the Flag Smashers and the Power Broker. Carl Lumbly has a memorable role as Isaiah Bradley, the first Black Captain America. Daniel Brühl returns as Helmut Zemo. This TV series is set six months after Steve Rogers handed the Captain America shield to Sam at the end of the Avengers: Endgame (2019) movie. This series delves into issues of racism in the U.S., and what it means and feels like to be both a Black man and Captain America.

There are no official libraries in this series, but there is an interesting example of a private library in a prison, as well as the related field of curation and museum exhibits that I felt was interesting to share.

Episode 1, “New World Order”


At 12 mins into this episode, Sam Wilson speaks at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum’s exhibit for Captain America.

Episode 3, “Power Broker”


At 7:15 minutes in to this episode, Sam and Bucky are going to see Zemo, who is in a private prison cell.

Bucky: What’s the book you’re reading?

Zemo: Machiavelli.

Zemo then picks up the book — which is laying beside a cluster of books in a private prison library of sorts — revealing a hidden key card, which helps him break out of prison.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 6, “One World, One People”


At the end of the finale, at 41 minutes, Sam takes Isiah Bradley to the Smithsonian Museum, where he reveals a new section of the Captain America exhibit that spotlights Bradley and the other Black American men who were in the Super Soldiers program.

Isiah Bradley exhibit at the Smithsonian
Isiah Bradley exhibit at the Smithsonian

Loki (Season 1, June-July 2021)


Tom Hiddleston returns to steal the small screen as Loki in this TV series, which has 6 episodes. After stealing the Tesseract during the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), an alternate version of Loki winds up in trouble with the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) recruits Loki to help him track down another Loki variant and help fix the “Sacred Timeline.” The series co-stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Sophia Di Martino, Richard E. Grant, and Jonathan Majors.

We see the TVA’s archives quite a few times in this series, as well as the archivist in one episode!

Episode 1, “Glorious Purpose”


The credits of the first episode feature closeups of case files from the archives, dictionaries and notes, as well as “Archive” labels on card catalog drawers. It just makes sense that we see evidence of the archives in the first episode, as the TVA is the ultimate bureaucracy, right? This means lots of paper and filing clerks and archives!

Episode 2, “The Variant”


At 17:56 minutes into this episode, Mobius engages Loki in a research project in the archives, to help figure out how to catch the Loki variant. Our first glimpse of the archives reveals seemingly endless rows and levels of archives and bookcases. (IMDb’s Filming & Production page for this episode lists the Atlanta Marriott Marquis as the filming location for the TVA Headquarters, and photos of this hotel look like the backdrop for the archives. My guess is that they CGI’d all the bookcases and files visible in the background. And the letter combinations visible in the signage (and elevator) clearly signify an advanced classification system.)

Mobius: I need you to go over each and every one of the variants case files, and then give me your… how do I put it? Your unique Loki perspective. And who knows? Maybe there’s something that we missed.

Loki: Well, you’re idiots. I suspect you probably missed a lot.

Mobius: That’s why I’m lucky I got ya for a little bit longer. Let me park ya at this desk, and don’t be afraid to really lean into this work.

Loki [looking at the mountain of documents]: Oh my goodness.

A person in the background, who is dressed in a suit and tie, then shushes Loki, and Loki turns around and shushes them back! The shusher is credited as “Archives Shusher” (Zele Avradopoulos) in the cast list.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Loki, tired of doing research, tries to trick the Archivist (Dayna Beilenson) into giving him classified files. Let’s see how that turned out for him!

The Archivist, a White woman, is seated at her own station, cocooned within a low wall of glass partitions. Looking very no-nonsense in a tie and cardigan with pulled-back hair and 1950s glasses, she is typing away as Loki approaches.

Loki: Hi. Hello?

Archivist: [No answer, keeps typing]

Loki: Hello? [finally dings the bell on her desk]

Archivist: Can I help you?

Loki: Yes, I’m on some important TVA business. Follow-up to a field mission. You know how it goes. We redlined near the Apez, and well, it’s never good.

Archivist: [No reaction.]

Loki: I’d like all files pertaining to the creation of the TVA, please.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. I’d like all files pertaining to the beginning of time then.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. The end of time.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. What files can I have?

Archivist [goes to the stacks and hands him a file]: Happy reading.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Lessons learned?

  1. Take archivists seriously when they say something is classified.
  2. The archivist’s glare is as chilling as a librarian’s.
  3. Don’t mess with archivists, y’all!

And lo and behold, by actually engaging in the research process and studying the archival files, Loki discovers the answer to how to find the variant Loki!

It’s also interesting to note that the closeup of a document reveals a file number and more evidence of an advanced classification system. I don’t know what this classification system is or what it signifies, but I can tell you it’s not Dewey or Library of Congress (LC). Wait… is this how non-librarians view library call numbers, as undecipherable combinations of letters and numbers?! Oh no! 😉

File number and archival classification system
File number and archival classification system

This archives scene ends at 21:26, so this scene lasts 4 1/2 minutes.

Loki takes his discovery to Mobius, and they test out the theory, that the Loki variant is hiding in apocalypses. After they prove the theory correct, at 27:43 minutes, Mobius says they need to figure out how many apocalypses there are. Cue a return to the archives!

Loki and Mobius review archives of apocalypses
Loki and Mobius review archives of apocalypses

And at 31:50 minutes into the episode, Mobius returns again to the archives, inspired by something Loki says. He pulls out a packet of Kablooie gum from an old case file, an anachronism in another timeline. This archival clue leads them to research the gum and cross-reference apocalyptic events. Ahhh, the research process! (What goes unsaid is how classification systems and keywords help make this kind of cross-referencing possible in the first place. Archivists, librarians, and catalogers worldwide say you’re welcome. 😉 )

Mobius: All we got to do is cross-reference that with every apocalyptic event.  I’m gonna a give you half, have a competition, see who wins.

Loki: Found it!

Mobius: You’re gonna take my job if I’m not careful.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene ends at 33:09, lasting just under a minute and a half. Altogether, archival research dominates the episode… although the word “archives” or “archivist” is never stated out loud.

The credits also replay the bell scene from the archives!

Episode 4, “The Nexus Event”


There’s a short scene in the archives in this episode.

At 30:50 minutes into the episode, Mobius becomes suspicious of his friend and mentor Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and steals her TemPad mobile device. He then goes to a quiet corner of the archives to search the device’s contents. Obviously, the archives is where you go when you don’t expect to see anyone else!

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The information he discovers on the TemPad, that the TVA workers all used to be variants, directly impacts the rest of the series. This scene ends at 32:14.

Episode 5, “Journey into Mystery”


Miss Minutes, voiced by Tara Strong, is not an official archivist (she’s more like a marketing spokesperson or mascot?), but she does undertake archival research in this episode.

At 9:40 minutes into the episode, Renslayer and Sylvie (a Loki variant) interact with Miss Minutes.

Renslayer: Miss Minutes, I need you to remote access a series of restricted files from the archives.

Minutes: Oooh doggy! On what?

Renslayer: The beginning of time. The founding of the TVA.

Minutes: Right away.

The animated archives look like a wheel. I think it’s interesting to contrast this scene with the previous scene with the uncooperative archivist.

However helpful Miss Minutes seems, Sylvie becomes suspicious of how long the search is taking — and indeed, this archival quest is a ruse to capture Sylvie! The scene ends at 11:26 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Later in the episode, at 29:12 minutes, Renslayer asks Miss Minutes for the files from the beginning of time, this time for real.

Episode 6, “For All Time. Always.”


Once again, the archives is an important setting, including in the final shots of the finale.

At 39:01 minutes into the episode, Loki is back in the TVA after being betrayed by Sylvia, and he runs through the archives. Computer screens in the background show how the timeline is splintering. Mobius and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) are also standing in the archives, panicked by the splintering timelines.

Mobius: That’s what, 63 new branches in this unit alone?

Hunter B-15: Does he want us to just let them all branch?

Loki [running up to them]: We freed the timeline!

[…]

Mobius: What’s your name?

Hunter B-15: Boots on the ground now. Archives.

The final shot of the series pans over the archives, this time with a statue of Kang. All reality, as this Loki knows it, has changed.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

It’s also significant that the final word of the series is “Archives,” yet it’s the first time the word “archives” is spoken aloud in the series.

The final shot of the credits has a closeup of a stamp, and atop an archival document, the stamp reads: “Loki will return in Season 2.”

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

As Pop Archives summarizes:

Unfortunately, they don’t refer to the massive archive as an archives until the last minute of the last episode of season one. […]

That being said, records and files are everywhere in season one, including the closing credits of every episode. They are the bread and butter of the TVA, but they’re also a thematic tool. […]

Records and archival collections as the truth or a truth is entirely based on how you approach the postmodernist theory behind constructed narratives and the inherent power of the archives to facilitate those narratives.

Samantha Cross, “Archives on TV: Loki,” Pop Archives, 24 June 2022

What If…? (Season 1, Aug.-Oct. 2021)


This animated series, another first for the MCU, explores what would happen if pivotal moments from the MCU happened differently. This series, which has 9 episodes, is set after the multiverse concept is established in Loki‘s first season. Jeffrey Wright narrates the series as the Watcher. A few episodes feature libraries or archives.

Episode 2, “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?”


In this episode and alternate reality, T’Challa is Star-Lord, and he leads the Ravagers to Knowhere in order to challenge the Collector, who oversees a vast collection (a personal archive or library?) of valuable and dangerous objects. At 15:23 minutes into this episode, T’Challa asks Howard the Duck where the “Embers of Genesis” are located, and we learn about a mini-library of Elvish literature! (LOTR and MCU fans unite! 😉 )

T’Challa / Star-Lord: Do you know where I can find them?

Howard the Duck: Cosmic flora, down the hall, take a Louie at the first giants, a hard Ralph at the Kronans, you’re gonna see a sign for Elvish literature. Ignore that, total snooze.

I’m not counting this as an official library or archives, but I thought it was a funny aside!

Tell me again about the Elvish literature
Tell me again about the Elvish literature

Episode 3, “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”


In this episode, Natasha Romanoff (voiced by Lake Bell) is trying to figure out who or what is killing off the (potential) members of the Avengers.

At 18:29 minutes into the episode, Romanoff has broken into a public library in Manassas, Virginia, after the library has closed. (Note: There are several public library branches in Manassas, but the design of this animated library seems to most closely resemble the Manassas Park City Library branch.) All the lights are off as Natasha uses a library computer to try and log into the Avengers online system.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Agent Coulson [voice over the cell phone]: Why do you need my password?

Natasha: I need to get into the Avengers Initiative files, but I’m locked out of the system… and wanted for murder.

Natasha hears a noise and looks over her shoulder down an aisle of bookcases. An invisible foe attacks her, and they fight in the stacks. Natasha manages to call Nick Fury and calls out a clue, “It’s all about hope!”

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene in the public library ends at 20:18 minutes, so the scene lasts less than two minutes.

Episode 4, “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”

In this episode, Dr. Strange tries to prevent Christine’s death, which takes him on a journey to the Lost Library of Cagliostro.

At 4:17 minutes into the episode, we see a version of a scene in Doctor Strange (2016), in which reel librarian Wong (voiced by Benedict Wong) warns Strange (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) about the Eye of Agamotto, which was discovered by Cagliostro, and its power to manipulate time. In this version, we see the Ancient One (rather than Mordo) in the Kamar-Taj library!

An animated look at the Kamar-Taj Library!
An animated look at the Kamar-Taj Library!

At 5:20 minutes, we revisit Wong and Strange back in the New York sanctuary, as Strange mourns the second anniversary of Christine’s death. Again, Wong serves as a voice of reason, warning Strange not to “do something reckless.”

Almost 6 minutes later, at 11:04 minutes, the Ancient One echoes Wong’s warnings:

Ancient One: The greatest sorcerers of the past could not reverse an Absolute Point.

Strange: You don’t know that. Books have been lost. Libraries destroyed.

Strange doesn’t listen. Less than a minute later, at 11:57 minutes, we see that Strange’s journey has led him to a jungle, where he meets a stranger, a Black man. This character is voiced by Nigerian actor Ike Amadi.

Strange: I’m looking for the Lost Library of Cagliostro. Library? Hello? You know, books? Reading? Knowledge?

[No answer, as the stranger walks away, and Strange follows him.]

Strange: Where can I find Cagliostro?

Stranger: Maybe here, maybe there, maybe nowhere.

Strange: Please tell me you’re not Cagliostro.

Stranger: The name’s O’Bengh, librarian for the books of Cagliostro.

O'Bengh introduces himself as a librarian
O’Bengh introduces himself as a librarian

They arrive at the Lost Library of Cagliostro, and what a sight this library is to behold! A cherry tree grows in the center, and a few books hang from chains along the ceiling (visually intriguing but very impractical). Strange refers to these as “the lost books.” (My spouse wondered if the Book of Vishanti was there, hah!) We also see bookcases lining the back walls of the large room.

O’Bengh: How long will you be staying here?

Strange: As long as it takes.

One of the books that Strange consults, a book on time manipulation, states that you can “gain the power through the absorption of other beings.” Strange ultimately rejects O’Bengh and the library, saying, “The library isn’t enough. Those beings have what I need.” Despite another librarian’s warnings (and first aid help), Strange continues on his destructive path of battling monsters and absorbing their powers.

Eventually, Strange returns to the library and finds O’Bengh on his deathbed.

Strange: O’Bengh, what happened to you?

O’Bengh: Time. Put that away [the Eye of Agamotto]. You used magic to remain frozen for centuries. I chose to live. Even in our world, death is part of the plan. Maybe the other Strange will [accept death].”

In this closeup, it’s clear that O’Bengh has one blue eye and one brown eye (this rare genetic phenomenon is called heterochromia).

O'Bengh on his deathbed
O’Bengh on his deathbed

This Lost Library of Cagliostro scene ends at 20 minutes into the episode, lasting 8 minutes total.

Strange’s actions have disastrous consequences back in the alternate reality’s New York sanctuary with Wong. At 22:17 minutes, Wong, as usual, gets straight to the point.

Wong: Ok, wait, so the fabric of reality is breaking, and only you can stop it because you are causing it.

Strange: Let’s be honest, we’ve been through weirder.

Wong: Do you want to stop him?

Strange: At the very least, to save you.

At this point, my spouse shouted out:

He’s not wrong. Without Wong, there is no MCU!

Both Wong and O’Bengh serve primarily as Information Providers, as they provide information (and warnings) to Strange and the viewers. I would also argue that both also serve as Comic Relief, as they both display senses of humor (Wong refers to the bathroom as “the little sorcerer’s room” while O’Bengh calls Strange “Sorcerer Armani.”)

Is O’Bengh indeed Cagliostro? Burkely Hermann, in this thoughtful analysis post of this episode, states that this is implied. Hermann also brings up some interesting points to reflect on with this reel librarian portrayal:

It is disconcerting the number of roles he [O’Bengh] takes on in the episode: an all-knowing person, a medic, and a sorcerer, to name the three most prominent. Archives in Fiction (AIF) makes a good point that while the space was beautifully rendered, it is “utterly impractical” and argued that the episode has the subtext that “librarians are magic” or that they are “expected to work miracles.” In response to AIF saying that they since when anyone calls “us” (archivists, librarians) miracle workers, even if it comes “from a good place,” saying that there is “really nothing miraculous about the work we put into making things findable,” I said that that perspective makes sense.

Burkely Hermann, “Doctor Strange’s quest for power and the Black sorcerer-librarian,” Pop Culture Library Review, 12 Oct. 2021.

Episode 5, “What If… Zombies?!”


Benedict Wong has no lines (other than grunts) in this episode, but I had to include a look at Zombie Wong!!!

Zombie Wong first shows up at 3:39 minutes into the episode, and (SPOILER), he gets his head chopped off by a portal at 4:11 minutes.

Zombie Wong
Zombie Wong

Episode 7, “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?”


Although there is no library in this episode, there is a running gag in this episode about Thor’s so-called study group and how “knowledge is magic.”

At the end of this episode, at 28:50 minutes, Captain Marvel flies down to Thor and hands him a tablet full of info about humans, in order to help Thor save face in front of his mother, Frigga. It’s interesting to note what resources made the cut!

Thor, here’s the information you requested on human civilizations, and I loaded a few documentaries, PBS specials, NPR podcasts.

Knowledge is magic, indeed. Marvel provides Thor a table full of info about human civilization.
Knowledge is magic, indeed. Marvel provides Thor a table full of info about human civilization.

Episode 8, “What If… Ultron Won?”


In this episode, Natasha Romanoff and Hawkeye team up to try and figure out a way to stop Ultron. This journey takes them to the KGB Archives, while the Watches watches them and agonizes about whether or not to intervene. The KGB Archives are housed in a vast warehouse of seemingly never-ending rows of bookshelves and file boxes. No archivist is ever seen, or even mentioned.

At 10:54 minutes into the episode, Natasha and Hawkeye arrive at the archives.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Watcher: One last hope.

Natasha: Welcome to the KGB archives.

Hawkeye: Your country ever heard of PDFs?

Natasha: Hard copies are harder to steal, easier to destroy. But code, code is slippery, and it never dies.

Hawkeye: So, where do we start?

Natasha: Just pick a box.

[Pause here to scream into the void while I go all capsy. NO!!! Any kind of library or archival material is organized according to a system, a classification system, and there would be finding aids or signs or SOMETHING to help explain that system and where things are generally located. This archives warehouse looks VERY organized, by the way, with every file labeled within each box, so there’s no reason to think that there wouldn’t be a system for these archives. “Just pick a box” is NOT a system, and the time these two waste going through random boxes makes me want to scream for an archivist!]

They also mention the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie as they’re walking down the shelves of archives. (Read here at Pop Archives about how annoying it is that Raiders of the Lost Ark has helped create everlasting public confusion between archaeologists and archivists).

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The Watcher spies the exact file they need and debates on whether or not to intervene. The scene also includes an archives ladder, plus an Easter egg where they find the Red Guardian’s shield (a connection back to Black Widow).

Hawkeye finally has had enough.

Sorry to break it to you, Natasha, but the Death Star plans are not in the main computer.

Star Wars and MCU crossover alert! This is referencing the archives adventure plot of Rogue One! 😀

Conveniently for reasons of PLOT, Natasha then immediately finds the Zola file. The Watcher is relieved, whilst archivists and librarians collectively roll our eyes at this purposefully (and needlessly) frustrating archives scene.

This archives scene ends at 14:06 and lasts 3 minutes total.


Hawkeye (Nov.-Dec. 2021)


In this TV series, which is set post-Blip, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) reluctantly teams up with the young Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to confront enemies from his past. Will Hawkeye be able to make it back to his family in time for Christmas? The series, which has 6 episodes, co-stars Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova (the new Black Widow), Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (Kingpin), Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez (Echho), and Zahn McClarnon as William Lopez.

I could not see any library or archives scenes in this entire TV series. There are a few research scenes, but they all entail Kate utilizing Bishop Security’s private database of security and criminal intel.


Moon Knight (Mar.-May 2022)


In this series, which includes 6 episodes, Oscar Isaac plays three different men, who are all distinct identities, or alters, stemming from a dissociative identity disorder (DID): Marc Spector / Moon Knight, Steven Grant / Mr. Knight, and Jake Lockley. The TV series co-stars May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly (the first Arab superhero in the MCU!), F. Murray Abraham as the voice of Khonshu, Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, and Gaspard Ulliel as Anton Mogart. The mystery plot of the series involves Egyptian gods and their human avatars.

Similar to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series, there are no official libraries or archives in this series, but there ARE several interesting examples of private libraries, as well as related (but distinctly different) fields of archaeology and museums that I thought would be interesting to share.

Episode 1, “The Goldfish Problem”


As the series begins, Steven Grant wakes up in bed, and we can spy bookcase shelves behind him — and those bookcases are arranged haphazardly (perhaps also an external reflection of his splintered mind?).

We also learn that Steven works at the British Museum in London, in the gift shop, although he not-so-secretly wishes he were a tour guide at the museum. He clearly knows more about Egyptology than the tour guides, as evidenced when he chats with a little girl at the museum.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Note: The British Museum and the British Library used to be united, but the British Library separated from the Museum in 1973. However, the British Museum continued to host the Library in its iconic Reading Room (the architectural inspiration behind the Library of Congress Reading Room, as seen here) until 1997. Therefore, I’m NOT counting this location as a library, as the British Museum and the British Library are separate entities now.

Confused yet? Even more confusingly, the actual external location used in this series for the British Museum was actually the National Gallery. Staff members wear uniforms with “National Art Gallery” printed on them, but there is no such place. London has the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, but only the British Museum has Egyptian artifacts. WHEW. Y’all still with me? 😉

At 10 minutes into the episode, we witness how Steven uses reading as a tactic to stay awake. He listens to an app (“Welcome to staying awake! … Bored with puzzles? Try a book!”), and he reads about Egyptian gods, highlighting passages in books. That’s how he knows more than the tour guides at the museum! This reading and research montage lasts under a minute.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 2, “Summon the Suit”


At 12:30 minutes into this episode, Steven is walking through a storage unit facility (archives of personal lives?), and the automatic lights click off. My spouse remarked how these lights echoed the automatic lights coming on in the archives scene in Captain Marvel.

Dramatic lighting in the archives scenes in Captain Marvel (2019)
Click the arrows to slide and compare the automatic lights in the storage facility in Moon Knight (left) versus the archives in Captain Marvel (right)

At 15:44 minutes, Steven brings Layla back to his apartment. We see many more bookcases, with books stacked everywhere, even on the floor. Steven also has card catalog drawers along one back wall, as well as a library ladder!

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 3, “The Friendly Type”


In this episode, we learn more about Layla’s dad, who was an archaeologist. Again, just to be clear, archaeology and archives are NOT the same thing. (Sam @ Pop Archives delves more into this misconception here in this post.)

But I found this quote interesting. Less than 2 minutes into the episode, Layla’s forger friend, Lagaro (Barbara Rosenblat), quips:

Archaeology. One big mess of obsessive bookworms.

Also, later in the episode at 26:30 minutes, Layla has a brief exchange with Anton Mogart (Gaspard Ulliel, who tragically died in a ski accident this year) about the nature of private collections of cultural artifacts.

Anton: I hope you understand this is more than a collection to me. Preserving history is a responsibility I take very seriously.

Layla: A self-appointed responsibility that you alone are able to enjoy, no?

BINGO. I love that Layla is calling out his privilege here. Anton describes this kind of private collecting in a way that probably sounds similar to how an archivist could describe their work. But most archival collections are meant to be shared with the public — even if that public has to make appointments in order to view or use the collections — and not hidden away for just one person to enjoy. If you’re an archivist and reading this post, please leave a comment and share your perspective on this scene!

Episode 5, “Asylum”


At 3:53 minutes into this penultimate episode, Ethan Hawke is portraying a psychiatrist who is trying to explain trauma and its effects to Steven. And he mentions a library in this explanation!

Harrow: The struggling mind will often build places to seek shelter for different aspects of the self from our most traumatic memories. It’s called just an organizing principle, ok? Some people, they see a castle right? Somebody else will see a name, or a library.

Steven: Or…a psych ward?

Harrow also has a bookcase in his office, and most of the books are white or neutral-colored. Is it just my (biased) librarian perspective, or do you find it suspicious when people match their books with their decor? (Side note: PLEASE never go to a library and ask a librarian or staff member for “you know, the book with the blue cover.” We do NOT organize books by color, and we do not make note of the color of a cover in an item record in the library catalog. We do sometimes make funny book displays, like “Books with Blue Covers,” though, when we’re feeling snarky. 😉 ) In the screenshot below, you can also see colored stickers on some of the book spines, which makes me think these books props came from a real library.

A personal library in a doctor's office
A personal library in a doctor’s office

Ms. Marvel (June-July 2022)


In this TV series, which includes 6 episodes and occurs post-Blip, we get to know Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a 16-year-old fangirl of the Avengers — and specifically Captain Marvel — who navigates the complications of daily life as a Pakistani-American as well as her own superpowers that develop after she puts on a mysterious bangle that used to belong to her great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat). The series co-stars Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan, Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan, Matt Lintz as Bruno Carrelli, Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia Bahadir, Rish Shah as Kamran, Nimra Bucha as Najma, and Aramis Knight as Kareem / Red Dagger. This series is based on the graphic novel series by G. Willow Wilson, and the ending of this TV series directly sets up the plot of the upcoming movie, The Marvels.

This TV series has scenes set in and around the school library. Confusedly, the guidance counselor’s office seems to be INSIDE the school library (???), but I’m not counting the guidance counselor character as a reel librarian.

Episode 1, “Generation Why”


At 5 minutes into the first episode, we get a closeup of the school sign, which reads Coles Academic High School. The real-life inspiration behind this high school is the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School, located on Coles Street in Jersey City, NJ. The McNair HS even issued a press release about how proud they are to be connected with this series!

It has been a point of pride to be a real-life example of the various identities that this history-making character and story represents.

McNair Academic Brought to Life as ‘Coles Academic’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” press release, Jersey City Public Schools, 3 June 2022.
Coles Academic High School plaque
Coles Academic High School plaque

You can also see “G. Willow Wilson” included as the first name on the Coles Academic sign. Wilson wrote the original Ms. Marvel comics, and also has a cameo on the series!

Onto another Wilson reference… at 7 minutes, we get our first glimpse of the school library and the office for the guidance counselor, Mr. Wilson (Jordan Firstman). Mr. Wilson is trying to be super cool and chill, but the teens obviously view him as a lame poser. Through the blinds of the guidance counselor’s office, we can see library shelves, and what looks like a common room with other offices? This school library’s layout seems really confusing! Also, note the cheesy inspirational sign on the back of the office door (“You Can Totally Do This”), as you will see more inspirational posters in upcoming scenes in this office!

Is the guidance counselor's office inside the school library?
Is the guidance counselor’s office inside the school library?

The guidance counseling session lasts 2 minutes.

Episode 2, “Crushed”


At 20:30 minutes into this episode, Bruno has a session with the guidance counselor. This time, the blinds are up, so we can see more clearly the library bookcases along the back and side walls, along with tables in the open area. Several students are using the school library space and browsing books on the shelves. (Click on the first screenshot in the gallery below to view the inspirational poster in this scene, which has a cat hanging off a tree branch below the words “Hang in there!”)

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene lasts under 2 minutes.

Episode 4, “Seeing Red”


At 19:39 minutes into this episode, which is set in Pakistan, we enter the hideout of the Red Daggers, where we see their private library and collection of artifacts. I’m not counting this as an official library, but I thought it served as an interesting and different example of a private library.

We also see this private library again at 31:34 minutes, when Kamala is training with the Red Daggers.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 6, “No Normal”


In this finale episode, Kamala and her friends hide out at the high school and create a plan for how to deal with the law enforcement officers who are coming for them. (Fair warning, there is a “trigger warning” at the beginning of this episode, as it is EXTREMELY disturbing to view cops tracking down and shooting at kids in a school.)

At 15:42 minutes into the episode, Kamala’s brother, Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), grabs a fire extinguisher in the school library. Call numbers are visible on the book spines.

A closeup of school library call numbers and a fire extinguisher
A closeup of school library call numbers and a fire extinguisher

At 21:28 minutes, Kamala and Kamran run through the library and hide in the guidance counselor’s office. Kamala is able to calm Kamran down, and they almost kiss before Bruno interrupts them. Kamala and Kamran escape out the back of the counselor’s office, where we see more bookcases and books with call numbers in a back room. It’s unclear if this back room is a storage room or a browsable extension of the school library? (Also, note the corner of one more inspirational poster in the guidance counselor’s office, with the words “Get Ready for College!”). Bruno distracts the cops by dancing in the library. The scene ends at 23:15 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Because of the additional back room glimpse, the guidance counselor’s office seems to be located in the MIDDLE of the school library. Is he supposed to be both the school’s librarian and the guidance counselor? Mr. Wilson is never seen doing anything other than counseling, so I’m still not listing him as a reel librarian. I don’t understand this set design. My best guess is that if this is a real school location, that they used the actual school librarian’s office and just turned it into the guidance counselor’s office, in order to save money and space.

Phase Four TV series yet to come

These TV series have not yet been released, or fully released:

  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (the first episode aired Aug. 18 and is currently scheduled to run for 9 episodes through Oct. 13th — and I’m waiting to watch this series until I can binge-watch the entire series, and I’m crossing my fingers for some law library scenes!)
  • Untitled Halloween special (scheduled to premiere Oct. 2022)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (scheduled to premiere Dec. 2022)

Last month, Marvel provided updates about Phase Four and revealed more detailed plans for Phase Five and Phase Six.

These TV series are currently scheduled to be part of Phase Five:

  • What If… ?, season 2
  • Secret Invasion
  • Echo
  • Loki, season 2
  • Ironheart
  • Agatha: Coven of Chaos
  • Daredevil: Born Again
  • Note: No additional updates on Armor Wars or a follow-up Wakanda series

Since this post is going live before Phase Four officially finishes, I will revisit the completed Phase Four TV series at a later date. Until then… the Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians is a wrap! 😀

Keeping score

PHASE ONE:

  • 6 movies
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes
    • The Incredible Hulk – university library
    • Thor – public library
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE TWO:

  • 6 movies
  • 1/6 library or archives scenes
    • Thor: The Dark World – college library
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE THREE:

  • 11 movies
  • 3/11 library or archives scenes
    • Doctor Strange – Kamar-Taj library
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming – school library
    • Captain Marvel – U.S. Air Force archives
  • 3/11 reel librarian sightings – all Wong!
    • Doctor Strange
    • Avengers: Infinity War
    • Avengers: Endgame

Note: Except for Doctor Strange, the movies in this phase either included a library or archives but had no corresponding librarian or archivist — or vice versa, with a reel librarian never seen in a library.

PHASE FOUR (THUS FAR):

  • 6 movies + 7 TV series (thus far)
  • 6/13 library or archives scenes
    • Eternals – archives
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Kamar-Taj Library
    • WandaVision – public library in 3 episodes
    • Loki – archives in 3 episodes
    • What If…? – public library in 1 episode, Kamar-Taj Library and the Lost Library of Cagliostro in 1 episode, archives in 1 episode
    • Ms. Marvel – school library in 3 episodes
  • 6/13 reel librarian sightings
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Wong cameo
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home – Wong cameo
    • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Wong as a main character
    • Wanda Vision – public librarian in an uncredited cameo in 1 episode
    • Loki – archivist in 1 episode
    • What If… ? – Wong and O’Bengh

Half of the Phase Four movies and TV series included a library or archives scene and/or reel librarians. It definitely helps that Wong is such a fan favorite!

OVERALL (THUS FAR):

  • 29 movies + 7 TV series (thus far)
  • 14/36 library or archives scenes (39%)
  • 12/36 reel librarian sightings (33%)

Ultimately, a third or more of the MCU movies and TV series included a library or archives scene and/or reel librarians.

Sources used

  • British Library.” Wikipedia, 20 July 2022. Accessed 21 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Cross, Samantha. “Archives on TV: Loki.” Pop Archives, 24 June 2022.
  • Cross, Samantha. “They’re Digging in the Wrong Place: The Influence of Indiana Jones on the Archives.” Pop Archives, 7 Jan. 2019.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Created by Malcolm Spellman. Perf. Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Erin Kellyman, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “New World Order” (1.1, 19 Mar. 2021), “Power Broker” (1.3, 2 Apr. 2021); “One World, One People” (1.6, 23 Apr. 2021).
  • Hawkeye. Perf. Jeremy Rinner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
  • Hermann, Burkely. “Doctor Strange’s Quest for Power and the Black Sorcerer-Librarian.” Pop Culture Library Review, 12 Oct. 2021.
  • Keane, Sean. “Marvel Cinematic Universe: All the Phase 5 and 6 Release Dates Revealed.” CNET, 31 July 2022.
  • Loki. Created by Michael Waldron. Perf. Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “Glorious Purpose” (1.1, 9 Jun. 2021); “The Variant” (1.2, 16 Jun. 2021); “The Nexus Event” (1.4, 30 Jun. 2021); “Journey into Mystery” (1.5, 7 Jul. 2021); “For All Time. Always” (1.6, 14 Jul. 2021).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Five.” Wikipedia, 21 Aug. 2022. Accessed 22 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Four.” Wikipedia, 7 Aug. 2022. Accessed 8 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • McNair Academic Brought to Life as ‘Coles Academic’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” (press release). Jersey City Public Schools, 3 June 2022.
  • Moon Knight. Created by Doug Moench. Perf. Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, F. Murray Abraham. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2022.
    • Episodes: “The Goldfish Problem” (1.1, 30 Mar. 2022); “Summon the Suit” (1.2, 6 Apr. 2022); “The Friendly Type” (1.3, 13 Apr. 2022); “Asylum” (1.5, 27 Apr. 2022).
  • Ms. Marvel. Created by Bisha K. Ali. Perf. Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Rish Shah. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2022.
    • Episodes: “Generation Why” (1.1, 8 Jun. 2022); “Crushed” (1.2, 15 Jun. 2022); “Seeing Red” (1.4, 29 Jun. 2022); “No Norma: (1.6, 13 Jul. 2022).
  • Simons, Roxy. “‘Moon Knight’ Filming Locations: Where in London was the Marvel Show Shot?Newsweek, 6 Apr. 2022.
  • WandaVision. Created by Jac Schaeffer. Perf. Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “Don’t Touch That Dial” (1.2, 15 Jan. 2021), “Now in Color” (1.3, 22 Jan. 2021), “The Series Finale” (1.9, 5 Mar. 2021).
  • What If…? Perf. Jeffrey Wright, Chadwick Boseman, Jeremy Renner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lake Bell, Benedict Wong. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” (1.2, 11 Aug. 2021); “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” (1.3, 25 Aug. 2021); “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” (1.4, 1 Sep. 2021); “What If… Zombies?!” (1.5, 8 Sep. 2021); “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?” (1.7, 22 Sep. 2021); “What If… Ultron Won?” (1.8, 6 Oct. 2021).

Positive portrayal of a reel librarian in ‘Curse of the Demon’

The librarian is the “normal” person who represents a rational point of view, undisturbed and unperturbed by any supernatural influence.

It’s October, which means it’s scary movie time! I recently rewatched the 1957 black-and-white minor cult classic, Curse of the Demon, directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Dana Andrews as psychologist John Holden. The film is based on the story “Casting the Runes,” written by Montague R. James. The film begins with Holden learning of a colleague’s sudden death, and he decides to continue his colleague’s research — and unwittingly becoming the next target of a satanic cult!

Opening title card of Curse of the Demon (1957)
Opening title card of Curse of the Demon (1957)

*SPOILER ALERT*

The film, which is more a psychological thriller, still holds up quite well. The special effects of the demon monster (which even made it onto some of the movie posters!), however, detract from an otherwise-good film. It came as no surprise to me when I learned that Tourneur didn’t want to show the monster at all; after all, it is a psychological film, and showing the monster undermines the whole point of the film. The studio insisted on including the monster and, allegedly, added the effects in post-production without Tourneur’s knowledge or consent. It’s the only clunker in the film.

What is NOT a clunker, thankfully, is the depiction of the reel librarian! 🙂

About 15 minutes into the 95-minute film, Holden goes to the British Museum to research books mentioned in his colleague’s research notes. The entire scene in the museum’s Reading Room lasts about 4 minutes, although the librarian appears in less than a minute total in the scene.

The Reading Room, also highlighted in Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail, served as the model for the Library of Congress Reading Room (but was, alas, relocated in 1997). The library is so well-known that at the beginning of this scene, the cabbie drops him off and directs to the library, which is “straight through.”

Outside the British Museum in Curse of the Demon (1957)
Outside the British Museum in Curse of the Demon (1957)
The iconic Reading Room of the British Museum, as filmed in Curse of the Demon (1957)
The iconic Reading Room of the British Museum, as filmed in Curse of the Demon (1957)
Researchers in the British Museum Reading Room in Curse of the Demon (1957)
Researchers in the British Museum Reading Room in Curse of the Demon (1957)

The scene cuts immediately to Holden at a library desk, books and notes scattered about, and an older white male brings him a stack of books. As he sets them down, the librarian tells him that one book he requested, The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons, is not available.

Side note:  I looked up that title in WorldCat, an online catalog of libraries worldwide — y’all knew that I would right?! — and there is no book by that title. There, is, however, a listing for a 2015 music CD of that same title, of instrumental chamber music by John Zorn and others. Interesting!

First glimpse of the librarian in Curse of the Demon (1957)
First glimpse of the librarian in Curse of the Demon (1957)

Holden:  What does ‘not available’ mean?

Librarian:  It should be in our restricted section. The only known existing copy. Over 400 years old, you know. It seems to be missing. Most peculiar. I’m having it checked.

The librarian promises that he’ll do his best to trace it, writing down information on a card, which he puts in his pocket before turning and walking away.

A positive portrayal of a librarian in Curse of the Demon (1957)
A positive portrayal of a librarian in Curse of the Demon (1957)

I included a clip of this scene in my Reel Librarians conference presentation this past spring, as an example of a positive onscreen depiction of a reference librarian! The librarian is polite, very knowledgeable, and efficient.

The library scene continues after the librarian walks away and Holden turns back to his notes. The film’s antagonist, Dr. Julian Karswell, has been watching Holden in the library and takes the opportunity to introduce himself.

Karswell:  I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with the librarian. You’re interested in seeing The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons, is that it? I have a copy I’ll gladly put at your disposal.

Holden:  Then the British Museum didn’t have the only copy?

Karswell:  Apparently not, Dr. Holden. I have what is perhaps the finest library in the world on witchcraft and the black arts.

At this point, another patron shushes them!

Getting shushed in Curse of the Demon (1957)
Getting shushed in Curse of the Demon (1957)

Karswell then takes the opportunity to invite Holden to his place in the country, saying, “The book’s there.” He then purposely pushes a folder off the table (planting a piece of paper that will be a crucial plot point later on!) and then hands Holden his card.

When Holden examines the card, he sees shiny writing on it, including the name of his colleague. He rubs his eyes, and that’s when the same librarian comes up and asks if he can help him. (Such a conscientious librarian!) Holden asks the librarian about the handwriting on the card, but he doesn’t see any writing. He walks away, holding two thick books in his arms, and that’s the last we see of the librarian or British Museum Reading Room library.

The librarian inspects a card in Curse of the Demon (1957)
The librarian inspects a card in Curse of the Demon (1957)

John Salew plays the role of Librarian in this Class III film, and he fulfills the role of Information Provider. This library scene serves many purposes: it helps start off the film’s plot, provides means to introduce the protagonist and antagonist to each other, and propels the plot forward with the card and the paper Karswell secretly put into Holden’s folder of research notes. The librarian also serves as a kind of control group amongst the group of scientists and psychologists; he is the “normal” person who represents a rational point of view, undisturbed and unperturbed by any supernatural influence.

One last note:  The original short story, “Casting the Runes” by Montague R. James, is available to read in full online. The story was first published in 1911 in James’s second collection of ghost stories, entitled More Ghost Stories. The story does include several mentions of the British Museum, its Manuscript Room, and “the British Museum people” (those would be, ahem, librarians).

End credits of Curse of the Demon (1957)
End credits of Curse of the Demon (1957)

Thank goodness the role in the film is correctly listed as “Librarian” — instead of “British Museum person” — and we get to enjoy a positive, although brief, portrayal of a reel librarian in Curse of the Demon.


Sources used:


‘Blackmail’ and the British Museum

The final chase scene takes place in the British Museum, culminating in the Round Reading Room.

My Irish counterpart, Colin @ Libraries at the Movies, posted some thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail a little over a year ago — and I’m just now getting around to rewatching this early Hitchcock film. Admittedly not his best film, it was a big commercial hit and was the first British sound film as well as the first example of sound dubbing. Blackmail also includes quite a few experimental touches and echoes of what would become Hitchcock trademarks, and the film features the Round Reading Room of the British Museum. The Round Reading Room — which, alas, was relocated in 1997 — was also the model for the Library of Congress Reading Room.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The final chase scene takes place in the British Museum, culminating in the Round Reading Room.

British Museum sign in Blackmail
British Museum sign in Blackmail

Although no librarian is featured, landing this film in the Class V category, there are several shots of the library. These shots include a birds-eye view overlooking the famous vista, as well as some behind-the-bookcase chase scenes.

Round reading room in the British Museum Library
Round reading room in the British Museum Library
Chase in the British Museum
Chase in the British Museum

The finale is atop the library dome, and Hitchcock gets to show off his amazing visual style, silhouetting the blackmailer and the policemen scurrying across the dome. Finally, in his panic, the blackmailer falls through the dome. The policemen rush up and look over the shattered glass, where one can make out shapes of the round bookshelves far below.

Chase atop the Round Reading Room dome in Blackmail
Chase atop the Round Reading Room dome in Blackmail

As a librarian, I did gasp out loud and shout at the screen, “No! He’s ruined the library!” Perhaps only a librarian would be so horrified at the thought of a body crashing through a library ceiling. I mean, imagine the gore and mess below with the library resources and furniture!

But that’s the genius of a good director. At his best, Hitchcock created suspense and horror by what he didn’t show.

Bird's-eye view of the Round Reading Room in Blackmail
Bird’s-eye view of the Round Reading Room in Blackmail

So why did Hitchcock feature the British Museum and the Round Reading Room? Colin makes a good case that:

“The library is significant because of where it is — the only way out is up, and up is where Hitchcock characters go to fall or jump off things. The director cares nothing for the library qua library.”

I agree, Hitchcock chose the library because of its visual impact — but what an impact! It’s a pretty powerful statement that the British audience watching this film would have felt immediately connected to the Round Reading Room — and even those American audience members who would have recognized the design behind the Library of Congress. It’s also a study in contrasts; the library’s history of tradition and conservatism is emphasized even more by being tainted by the blackmailer and the indignity of a police chase.

Although based on a play of the same title by Charles Bennett — who also penned some of Hitchcock’s best British films, including 1934’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1935’s The 39 Steps, and 1936’s Secret Agent — I have not been able to locate a full-text version of the original play to doublecheck the setting of the final act. The play, which apparently was based on real life events, was a commercial flop in 1928 and starred Tallulah Bankhead. If you’re able to locate a copy of the original play, please let me know!


Sources used:


  • Blackmail. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Anny Ondra, John Longden, Cyril Ritchard. British International Pictures, 1929.
  • British Library” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license
  • Higgins, Colin. “Blackmail (1929).” Libraries at the Movies, 14 March 2012.
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