On the last day of 2021, Betty White passed away at the age of 99. She was recently honored at the most recent Emmy Awards during the “In Memoriam” tribute. It was a heartfelt remembrance of a beloved actress and comedian with a career spanning over 80 years.
But it was not the only way that White’s legacy is being preserved this week. On September 13th, the National Comedy Center announced that it had received numerous artifacts and pieces of memorabilia relating to White from her estate. Pieces included famous articles of clothing, important manuscripts and much more.
The announcement coincides with the 37th anniversary of Golden Girls, one of many comedy projects featuring White’s talents. In their press release, the National Comedy Center stated that “Much of the collection, which includes pieces from White’s award-winning work in acclaimed TV comedies The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, is now on display at the National Comedy Center’s state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, New York.”
The National Comedy Center grew out of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, which was opened in 1996 to showcase the life and work of comedians Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Ball was born in the museum’s city, Jamestown New York.
In 2018, the National Comedy Center was created and the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum was relocated to nearby. In 2019, it was recognized by the United States federal government as the official comedy museum of the country.
Throughout her long life, White’s fame grew to encompass more than her role as a longstanding actress and comedian. White was an icon of American life, and a steady symbol for the entertainment industry of the past. White was a pioneer in the entertainment field, having been an important part of early television comedy.
She also was an important historical figure for women in comedy and entertainment. White was notable as one of the American public’s first example of a powerful independent female entertainer. She broke ceilings by becoming the first woman to produce a television sitcom, Life With Elizabeth. In doing so, she also helped to shape the way television comedies were made and viewed, a legacy that lasts to this day.
She was given many honorary titles by the press and the public. First it was “The First Lady of Game Shows,” then later “The First Lady of Television.” While now much of the world is focused on the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth, White represented a similar, if smaller, role in American culture. She was widely beloved, partially because she was a connection deep into part of America’s past. Through her, the golden age of television lived on.
White was also a dedicated activist and spoke out throughout her life on a variety of social injustices. As we begin to see her legacy being preserved for future generations, we can look forward to the continued impact that Betty White will have on comedians and comedy in general.