LIBRARY INSIDER: Romero’s legacy cast a long shadow


In case you hadn't heard, the University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh has acquired the archives of the late filmmaking pioneer George A. Romero. 

The collection is comprised of three separate archives belonging to his widow Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, daughter Tina Romero, and business partner and friend Peter Grunwald. Beginning in 1968 with “Night of the Living Dead,” Romero revolutionized the horror genre, infusing it with intelligence, humor, social consciousness, and, of course, unforgettable scares. His overall contributions will soon be accessible to allow scholars, students, filmmakers and fans worldwide to trace Romero’s projects from inception to completion.

"On behalf of the George Romero Estate and the George A. Romero Foundation, we are pleased that George's archive is where it belongs — at the esteemed University of Pittsburgh University Library System and the great city of Pittsburgh,” said Suzanne Desrocher-Romero: “We are excited to help contribute to the advancement of George’s legacy as an icon and a filmmaker.”

The collection of personal and professional materials from George Romero spans the past 50 years or more. It ranges from screenplays (both produced and unproduced) along with script notes, props, promotional materials and video (both test shots and produced footage). 

Highlights of the George A. Romero Collection include:

  • The original annotated script for the 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead”
  • Romero’s unproduced adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” The script describes one scene: “Psychedelic images flash all around. Another CHEMICAL ORGY is in progress.”
  • Photographs from the set of “Dawn of the Dead”
  • A foam latex zombie head

“When my dad came to Pittsburgh as a student at Carnegie Mellon, he never would have imagined that one day the city would be known as ‘The Zombie Capital of the World.’ I’m so excited for people to discover some of the treasures I grew up with,” Tina Romero said.

“George was a natural teacher,” Grunwald said. “He would have loved knowing that his collection would be used to educate and inspire future generations.”

Building a Horror Studies Archive

Using the George A. Romero Collection as a foundation, the ULS intends to establish an international scholarly resource for the research and study of horror and science fiction, which will build upon the existing strengths within Archives & Special Collections. A multimedia exhibit will be open to the public and located on Hillman Library’s third floor, which is now undergoing a modernization that is expected to be done in 2020.

The Romero Collection will be complemented by ULS’s growing treasure of full runs of the major science fiction pulp titles; thousands of science fiction paperbacks from the 1960s-80s; hundreds of comic books and fanzines; programs from stage performances of horror and science fiction plays; and film scripts from Romero’s contemporaries, including John Carpenter and Wes Craven, as well as authors Stephen King and Clive Barker. 

The department’s rare book collection contains a selection of fine press editions of seminal works, such as “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” as well as early hardcover editions of several important science fiction and horror titles. Mr. Romero will be among friends. Processing of the Romero collection is underway.

“George’s contributions to filmmaking in Pittsburgh, to horror as social and political cinema, as well as to the independent film tradition, are unmatched and transformative,” said Adam Lowenstein, professor of English and Film Studies at Pitt and a Romero Foundation board member. “This remarkable collection will allow his achievements to be seen through a revelatory lens that sheds light not only on an individual career, but on crucial issues in film and culture.”

For a first look at materials from the collection join the ULS from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 23 on the first floor of Hillman Library. In addition to never-before-seen items from the collection, there will be Romero trivia, games, food, staged readings from Romero scripts, and more. 

About George Romero

George Andrew Romero (Feb. 4, 1940 – July 16, 2017) was an American-Canadian filmmaker, writer and editor. He was born in the Bronx and eventually came to Pittsburgh in the late 1950s and attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) where he studied graphic arts.

Romero began his career making commercials and shorts, including some sequences for “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Then in 1967, he and some friends shot “Night of the Living Dead” on a shoestring budget of around $100,000. Released in 1968, it became a cult classic and revolutionized independent film and the zombie genre. 

He followed “Night” up with numerous other movies including two more zombie films, “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead”; a vampire film, “Martin”; and collaborations with Stephen King on “Creepshow” and “The Dark Half.” In the early 2000s, Romero moved to Toronto where he made another trilogy of Dead movies. 

Romero died in his sleep after a brief battle with lung cancer. His legacy on independent cinema and the horror genre are indelible. While starting out as a cult icon, his work eventually garnered critical acclaim. “Night of the Living Dead” was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1999 and a 4K restoration of the film was released in 2018, based on a print from the Museum of Modern Art.

Jeff Wisniewski is director of communications for the University Library System.