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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
Materials arranged by material type. Collection is arranged in three series.
Scope and Contents
The Theodore Richards Conant Collection documents the life and film making career of Theodore Richards Conant, dating from 1949 to 2010. Materials in the collection consist of his papers and a substantial amount of documentary film created and/or collected by him during his work in Korea.
Using the Collection
C. V. Starr East Asian Library
Conditions Governing Access
The following boxes are located off-site: Series III: Audio Visual. You will need to request this material from the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at least 5 business days in advance to use the collection in Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The C.V. Starr East Asian Library maintains ownership of the physical material only, except for materials that were created by Theodore Richards Conant. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Theodore Richards Conant Collection; Box and Folder; C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Library.
Theodore R. Conant Collection, Center for Korean Studies Collections, University of Hawaii Mānoa campus. Link.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, C. V. Starr East Asian Library
Additional minimal processing in 2020, with the creation of the finding aid by Yingwen Huang and Rita Wang. Processed by Hee-sook Shin, with the assistance of several student workers prior to 2019.
Materials were rehoused and rearranged by material types and subject topic during processing. Duplicates of documents were rehoused in a separate box and remained in the collection and cataloged as duplicates. Some materials in the collection were moldy as a result of previous water damage.
The C.V. Starr East Asian Library has worked with the Korean Film Archive (KFA) on a cooperative processing and digitization project of film, sound, and visual materials from the collection since 2010, and continuing to be digitized with financial support from KFA and Korea University starting 2012.
Collection is part of Columbia University Libraries Audio Moving Image (AMI) project, 2020. Some of the items in the collection has been digitized and made available through the Columbia Digital Library Collection. Digitized items have been linked to the individual iLink to list of digitized items page.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Theodore Richards Conant was born on July 13, 1926 in Cambridge, Massachusetts as the younger son of James Bryant Conant and Grace Richards Conant. He attended local elementary schools, Shady Hill and Brown and Nichols, followed by a year at the Dublin School in Dublin, New Hampshire. His high school years were spent at the Putney School in Vermont, which he left shortly before graduation to join the U.S. Coast Guard training program in preparation to enter the Merchant Marine as a radio officer. After graduating in 1951 from Swarthmore College, with an honors degree in Economics, he was briefly working as a film technician in New York City when he was invited to participate in a United Nations funded film, which portrayed the plight of the South Koreans during its civil war. Eager to return to Asia where he had served as a radio officer in the merchant marines during the tail end of World War II, he remained in the Pacific area for a full year volunteering as a radio officer on weather flights.
He was always interested in film and sound recording and made his first film with the help of Robert J. Flaherty while he was a student at the Putney School. When he returned home after the war, he heard that Flaherty was filming "The Louisiana Story" and managed to secure a posting. He learned much from the remarkable staff he had assembled and only thereafter did he belatedly made his way to Swarthmore where he continued his cinematic interests by producing with his classmates an avant-garde film titled "The Crime".
Pat Frank's book "The Long Way Round" provides a sanitized account of our United Nations-Korean project but not the numerous slip-ups. During the final phase of the war, two United Nations photo-journalists accidentally met their death, and as a result Ted Conant was conveniently recruited to work with the BBC on their Christmas Empire program from Korea, as well as the exchange of wounded prisoners. He then elected to stay on to help record a UN and BBC radio program series on the Korean reconstruction narrated by Hollywood star, Frederick March. He subsequently became the acting head of the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) Film Unit and while in Korea privately produced and directed several documentaries on different aspects of Korean culture.
By then he had become so intrigued by the problems arising from the aftermath of the war including the subsequent political developments in Seoul, he accepted a position as a filmmaker and sound recording engineer at Syracuse University under the contract of the U. S. Aid Mission. Ted Conant worked hard to upgrade the technical capacity of the Korean Office of Public Information. He was working in the Capitol Compound when the student demonstrations broke out and hence was able to witness from close quarters the fall of Sygnman Rhee and the Korea's faltering efforts to create a new regime.
He was a married man with a family when he returned in 1960 to the United States where he was employed by the Ford Foundation to help develop educational broadcasting. He then went on to become a guest director at the National Film Board in Montreal, Canada for several years before joining the WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston with the mandate to set up new radio and television stations. While visiting Dr. Peter Goldmark, the Director of the CBS Research Laboratories in Stamford, Conn, Ted became engaged Ted as Dr. Goldmark's research associate and he had the good fortune of participating in the development of the first video disk.
Once again, a chance meeting with James Wolfensohn, the head of the New York branch of Schroders, a British merchant bank, led to Ted Conant being appointed the head of Schroder Technology, a new section of their venture capital department. He remained there until Wolfensohn resigned and for several years thereafter continued to service several of his Australian clients. During all this time, his interest in sound and film continued unabated and his preoccupation with developments in Korea never ceased. These core interests have greatly enriched his life both professionally and personally.
On October 14, 2015, Theodore Richards Conant passed away at the age of 89, in Hanover, New Hampshire.