WSM Mission

to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American film

Wharton Studio Museum’s mission to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American filmmaking drives the organization to broaden awareness — locally, regionally and nationally —  of this unique history through programming of all kinds. Also central to our mission is WSM's plan to develop the Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center in the historic Wharton Studio building in Stewart Park, one of a handful of silent film studios still standing in the country.

In 2009, Ithaca Motion Picture Project (as the organization was then called) incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit.  Four years later, wanting to include the word "museum" in its name, IMPP applied for and was granted a Provisional Museum Charter from the NYC Education Department’s Board of Regents and officially became Wharton Studio Museum (WSM).  Annually WSM produces Silent Movie Under the Stars; Silent Movie Month; a film festival for youth called Silents Roar! and collaborates on screenings, exhibits, presentations, workshops and educational outreach with Cornell Cinema, The History Center, Ithaca College’s Park School, Cornell Costume and textile Collections,Tompkins County Public Library, Cinemapolis and a host of other cultural and educational entities..  The Provisional Museum Charter will be renewed in this year -- 2018. 

Wharton Studio Museum is a founding partner in the new Tompkins Center for History and Culture (TCHC), slated to open in early 2019 on the Ithaca Commons in the historic Tompkins Trust Co. Building.  The opening of the TCHC marks the first time that WSM has its own dedicated exhibit space. WSM’s joins The History Center, Dorothy Cotton Institute and Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation and others in this history and culture-based destination, which will also be home to the Tompkins County Visitors Bureau. 

Additionally, WSM is working to develop the Wharton Studio building and has just completed Re-envisioning the Wharton Studio Building: Transforming an Ithaca Landmark, a planning and design study that proposes an exciting vision to develop the historic building, scenically located by the shores of Cayuga Lake, into the Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center.  Renovations and improvements to the building’s exterior, the creation of galleries with exhibits on film history and park history in its north-facing interior and a landscaped seating and gathering area by the lake and Cayuga Waterfront Trail will transform the building and surrounding landscape into the park’s cultural and recreational hub.  The Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center — a centerpiece of the park’s original “historic core” --  will enhance and improve the park for the benefit of the community and also help promote heritage tourism in the region.

WSM is excited to be partnering with Friends of Stewart Park  and the City of Ithaca (the park’s landowner) to realize our shared goal of revitalizing historic Stewart Park.  The work to revitalize and enhance the park has already begun, with a number of exciting improvement projects already completed.  Other revitalization projects, such as a new and inclusive playground set to be built in fall of 2018, are in the works or in planning stages. FSP and WSM’s shared vision is to steward the revitalization of historic Stewart Park, in partnership with the City, by 2021, its centennial as a public park.

WSM Timeline

Since 2009 WSM has produced dozens of community-based programs and exhibits while working toward establishing a bricks & mortar museum within the former Wharton Studio building.


  • Ithaca Motion Picture Project (IMPP) incorporates as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit in New York State.
  • IMPP's first fundraiser is held at Greystone, former home of film star Irene Castle and now home to Sigma Chi fraternity.
  • Cirque du Soleil's documentary All Together Now (about the making of Cirque's show Love) is featured at an IMPP fundraiser with the film's director and producer in attendance. Panel discussion is held at Park School of Communication at Ithaca College.


  • IMPP collaborates with Sprocket, Cornell's Cognitive Science Film Series to screen The Woodmans, a documentary directed by C. Scott Willis, who attends the event.


  • Debut of Silent Movie Under the Stars, WSM's outdoor screening (now in its 8th year) of a silent film with live music at Taughannock Falls State Park, produced in collaboration with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation. Original score composed and performed Cloud Chamber Orchestra.
  • Romance, Exploits & Peril: When Movies WereMade in Ithaca made in Ithaca, a multimedia exhibit in eight locations throughout Tompkins County focused on the history of early filmmaking and the Wharton Studio’s role in this emerging art form and industry.
  • In collaboration with Friends of Stewart Park, volunteer-led beautification of the exterior of the Wharton Studio/Dept. of Public Works building in Stewart Park, which included cleaning, painting, and window repair of the building exterior.


  • October is proclaimed Silent Movie Month in the City of Ithaca by Mayor Svante Myrick.  The month-long event (now in its 7th year) featured exhibits, screenings, presentations and a Buster Keaton matinee.


  • IMPP changes its name to Wharton Studio Museum after the organization applies for and is granted a Provisional Museum Charter from the New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents.


  • WSM’s first website is launched:
  • Leads project to design, produce, and install exterior interpretive signs for each of the three main buildings in Stewart Park: the Picnic (Large) Pavilion, the Wharton Studio building and the Cascadilla Boathouse.


  • Co-sponsors silent film screenings with live music at Ithaca College’s at FLEFF ( Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.)
  • WSM designs, produces and installs an interpretive sign for newly restored Tea (Small) Pavilion in Stewart Park.
  • Partners with Friends of Stewart Park in a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study for the comprehensive revitalization of Stewart Park.
  • WSM fundraiser is held at the Treman Center and features screening of Wharton, Inc. Studio's Beatrice Fairfax episodes with commentary by writer Amy Dickinson.


  • Collaborates with Cornell’s Costume & Textile Collection on Biggest Little City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style, a multimedia exhibit about fashion during the silent film era, with a focus on screen star Irene Castle
  • Co-sponsors silent film with live music events at Cornell Cinema
  • Presents closing night lecture at Cornell’s Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image Conference
  • Receives a Tompkins County Tourism Program Capital Grant to develop a planning & design Study for the Wharton Studio building in Stewart Park. Study is produced by architect Todd Zwigard, TZA Architects in Beacon, NY and Diana Riesman, WSM’s Executive Director and Co-Founder.
  • Co-sponsors silent film with live music events at Cornell Cinema


  • Becomes partner in Tompkins Center for History and Culture, a new exhibit-based destination slated to open on the Ithaca Commons in early 2019.
  • Co-sponsors films with live music at Cornell Cinema
  • WSM is invited to contribute an exhibit on Ithaca’s silent movie history for the "Artifacts Wall" in the newly refurbished Southern Tier Welcome on Interstate 81 in Kirkwood, NY.
  • Completes Re-Envisioning the Wharton Studio Building: Transforming an Ithaca Landmark,a planning and design study to develop the film studio building in Stewart Park.


  • WSM Executive Director Diana Riesman receives an award recognizing her work on local silent film history from The History Center at its annual awards gala.
  • National Arts Club's Film Committee in NYC invites WSM to make an illustrated presentation about Ithaca's silent film history to members and the public.
  • A first draft proposal for a Central New York Film Trail including Eastman Museum, Wharton Studio Museum and Case Research Lab is completed.
  • Biggest Little Fashion City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style, produced in collaboration with the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection wins Richard Martin Award from Costume Society of America.
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