National Media Museum blog

We explore the science, technology and art of the still and moving image, and its impact on our lives.

Documenting the Collection of special effects titan Ray Harryhausen

Guest post by Phil Boot, Documentation Officer for the Ray Harryhausen Collection.

I’m Phil Boot and I have the pleasure of being the Documentation Officer for the Ray Harryhausen Collection, which means documenting, archiving and looking after Ray’s material on behalf on both the Museum and The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. My job gives me complete access to Ray Harryhausen’s personal collection of film material from the movies he worked on such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, and the objects that he’s collected over time.

An issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland #117 with a 7th Voyage of Sinbad cover © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

An issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland #117 with a 7th Voyage of Sinbad cover

Working closely with Ray, I slowly unravel the stories behind the key objects so that the documentation of the collection is accurately recorded on the database. I also have the honour to meet and talk with a number of individuals that have either worked with or have had some history with Ray, such as animators, filmmakers, actors and collectors, thus helping to ensure that their stories and knowledge are recorded for future reference.

A plaster prototype model of the Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

A plaster prototype model of the Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

I’m working my way through a multitude of objects including the original models from almost all of Ray’s films, all his original artworks, sketches and doodles, posters, test models, camera equipment, and much more. In fact, it is estimated that when the documentation process is finished, there will be around 75,000 objects in total!

A model of Ann Darrow from King Kong reclining on top of the Empire State Building, made and interpreted by Ray Harryhausen © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

A model of Ann Darrow from King Kong reclining on top of the Empire State Building, made and interpreted by Ray Harryhausen © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

Since my job is solely dedicated to all things Harryhausen, I am fortunate to be permanently surrounded by ‘Ray’. I have in my office a bronze skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts, fantastic posters from the films Clash of the Titans and Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan, and a fantastic sketch of Ray drawn by the animation artists at Disney, all serving as a constant reminder of why this project is so important.

An original model of a flying saucer from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

An original model of a flying saucer from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

My job as Documentation Officer is really one of the first steps to ensure that Ray’s work and legacy is secure, and accessible, for future generations of animation, film and art fans. Being part of a team that is upholding Ray’s legacy is a huge responsibility, but also a privilege.

An issue of Cinefantastique magazine vol.10 #3 with a Clash of the Titans cover © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

An issue of Cinefantastique magazine vol.10 #3 with a Clash of the Titans cover

Some highlights in the collection include the original Medusa model from the 1981 Clash of the Titans, an original 1935 poster from the movie She, storyboards from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, home movies, and an original animation cell from Disney’s The Jungle Book.


A small collection of Ray Harryhausen’s dinosaurs is now on display outside our Collections and Research centre.

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (PG), which we screened at Bradford Animation Festival in November 2011, is showing in our Cubby Broccoli cinema on Saturday 26th January at 3.40pm.

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About Emma Thom

As the Senior Web Content Coordinator, I help our online visitors to explore the science, technology and art of the still and moving image and its impact on our lives.

5 comments on “Documenting the Collection of special effects titan Ray Harryhausen

  1. Nick
    January 27, 2013

    Reblogged this on Captain Pigheart ~ Swashbuckling Pirate Stories and commented:
    The wonderful Ray Harryhausen’s enormous animation and film legacy is now in the hands of the National Media Museum. Great news for everyone who loved Jason and The Argonauts, Sinbad, Clash of the Titans and all the others.

  2. Darren briscoe
    May 7, 2013

    Saddened to hear of the passing of a legend today…Rest in peace Ray you have earned it. You frightened my childhood with your creations and held me spellbound in my teens….as an adult i have been in awe of your craft of which you were the Master!

    I hope the museum will hold a major exhibition of your work for the world to remember you by.

  3. Pingback: Rising Up Out of the Myths | Library of Congress Blog

  4. Paul Gruendler
    May 9, 2013

    Seventy five THOUSAND items: magnificent lifetime accumulation. This will be well worth a pilgrimage; it is now on many a fan’s bucket list!

  5. Arnold Kunert
    July 24, 2013

    Your responsibilities are both incredibly challenging and quite wonderful. When I spoke with Ray last year about his collection, he spoke very highly of your work with it and was delighted to have someone overseeing it with such obvious passion. I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Ray for more than 40 years. You are a lucky chap, indeed.

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