Sayles' films include 1992's Academy Award-nominated "Passion Fish" and 1996's "Lone Star," with Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, Chris Cooper, Joe Morton and Elizabeth Pena in its ensemble cast.
University President Mary Sue Coleman announced the creation of the John Sayles Archive at her annual Leadership Breakfast, during which she also announced a personal $1 million gift to the school.
"The John Sayles Archive is a scholarly treasure trove for students, faculty and anyone interested in exploring the inner workings of this artist," Coleman said in a statement.
Sayles debuted as a director in 1979 with "Return of the Secaucus 7" and is about to release "Go for Sisters." His movies have been made outside the Hollywood system and explore themes such as race, class and gender identity.
Sayles and producing partner Maggie Renzi donated the items, including about 230 boxes of archival material.
The Sayles acquisition adds to University of Michigan collections documenting the careers of American filmmakers Orson Welles and Robert Altman.
"These are three independent thinkers and artists, not traditional filmmakers consistently supported by the studios," said Philip Hallman, film studies librarian at the University of Michigan Library. "They are all American mavericks with much to teach us not only about film but about our shared heritage, culture and society."
Sayles' films are housed at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The University of Michigan said its collection includes scripts, production documents, legal documents, photographs, storyboards, correspondence, personal journals, notebooks and business records.
Other notable Sayles films are "Matewan," "Brother from Another Planet" and "The Secret of Roan Inish."
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