Previously unknown 16 mm film of Amelia Earhart donated to Purdue University Libraries

July 9, 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University Libraries’ Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center recently accepted the donation of an original 16 mm film showing Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra as they were being photographed by Albert Bresnik, Earhart’s official photographer. 

Earhart, who was a Purdue career counselor and adviser to the Department of Aeronautics from 1935 to 1937, was recruited by then-President Edward Elliott, who was impressed by her spirit of adventure and her message to women. In April 1936 an Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research was created with the Purdue Research Foundation. The fund purchased the $80,000 Lockheed Electra that became known as Earhart's flying laboratory. With navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart disappeared July 2, 1937, near the tiny Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean while attempting an around-the-world voyage.

The film was donated to Purdue by Douglas Westfall, owner and publisher at The Paragon Agency, which last month released a book, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Photo Shoot,” by Nicole Swinford. 

According to Westfall, who acquired the film from John Bresnik Jr., the family believes the film footage was taken by Albert’s brother, John Bresnik. The film is unique in that it captures Earhart posing for publicity photos and interacting with her photographer and others at the Union Air Terminal in Burbank, California (today known as the Bob Hope Airport). The film shows clear and close-up shots of Earhart’s plane before her departure on her world flight attempt.

Purdue University Libraries Archives and Special Collections faculty and staff will take steps to preserve the film and make it accessible to students and researchers interested in scholarship on the many facets of the legacy of Amelia Earhart. The film will join the Amelia Earhart Papers in the Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives within the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries.

To learn more about the collection visit

Contact: Tracy Grimm, Barron Hilton Archivist for Flight and Space Exploration, Purdue University Libraries, 765-496-2941, 

Related information: 

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