Though The Study of Government comes from an era that might seem distant to us today, the short film asks a question that lives on: How can the study of politics and government (aka political science) benefit our political process? Or, what role should political science and political scientists play outside of the academy?
The film starts out by mapping what political science looks like as an academic discipline. While political science departments continue to debate the merits and value of certain sub-fields, the structure of political science at the time this film was made still exists. The film identifies American politics, public administration/policy, political theory, comparative politics, and international relations as the major sub-fields.
The tone of the film and the way it describes the various sub-fields marks it as a clear product of the Cold War. It’s brief narration over political theory emphasize American political thinkers with concepts such as democracy, equality, and freedom while, inaccurately, linking figures such as Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Hitler as advocates of untrammeled state power (a strange and contradictory mix of people!).
The narrator, interestingly, notes the increased importance and complexity of international relations and comparative politics. This emphasis on individual rights and the increasing interest in world politics clearly come out of a Cold War mentality that ideas about state and economy are central in the new post-1945 geopolitical environment. The narrator emphasizes the necessity of understanding the political history and customs of other nations in order to have a successful foreign policy. It is very likely that comparative politics and international relations is highlighted due to Indiana University’s strong foreign language programs. Indiana University has retained this reputation, with 82 different languages having been taught within the last 10 years.
The Study of Government closes by stating that knowledge about government and politics alone will not produce ideal, engaged citizens. Our narrator defends the idea that an educated citizenry needs a well-rounded base of knowledge. Having a basic understanding of other subjects such as literature, history, physical and natural sciences, etc. is essential for engaged participation in the American system. The final bit of wisdom our narrator imparts us with is that the study of political science has real world consequences – from lofty theoretical debates to mundane policy details.
The question of what predictions one can make from political polls has been a hotly contested one this political campaign. Despite the appearance of scientific certainty, who’s ahead in a poll is reliant on the demographic make-up of the polling audience. For example, when Romney was behind in the polls before the first presidential debate his advocates suggested that pollers were under representing his supporters.
No one said making well-informed democratically-minded citizens was a blast. Though leaning towards the functionally pragmatic in terms of filmmaking – the film is mostly a staged version of a class discussing polls and what they might have revealed about demographics and political beliefs – Engle was working to transform social studies from a rote memorization of facts to a politically engaged subject built off of the concerns and experiences of students.
The film was part of a program to train social studies instructors in teaching the subject in this then new progressive manner. This particular module focuses on the limits of reading data. John Patrick, the director of the SSDC after Engle, leads a group of Bloomington -area high school students, all white, through data on how different demographics groups voted in recent elections. The students then attempt to infer whether these different groups were more likely to vote Republican or Democrat. Showing the strong brand continuity of these political parties the general conclusions more or less hold true in 2012. Older people tended to vote Republican while younger generations trended towards the Democrats. Republicans attracted white voters while the Democratic Party was more closely aligned with minority voters.
But what is revealing about this film is the degree to which Patrick attempts to place the students’ findings in dialogue with each other. It might seem like a minor detail, but while he leads the class from one topic to another, it is the students who present the conclusions. Patrick doesn’t tell them what to believe. They analyze the evidence and come to a consensus on the limits of reading into polls.
Engle was greatly concerned that what he termed the “authoritarian school climate” would prevent students from growing into politically active well-informed citizens. To counter that dictatorial pedagogy, this film models a classroom where students come to their own conclusions, but, importantly for Engle, they are conclusions based on a considered reading of empirical data and are tested through group dialogue.
While as a piece of filmmaking Making Inferences from Statistical Data might mirror Engle’s button-downed appearance, the film and its maker were advocating for a transformation in how educators helped students become politically aware. In reading his writings from the time of the film, Engle almost comes off as a political radical despite his moderate appearance of a flattop haircut and grey suit. This gap between the film, created to instruct as clearly as possible, and the more revolutionary approach to pedagogy that undergirds it, point to the necessity in placing these educational films in the theoretical contexts in which they were made.
This is the first blog post in a two-part look at how educational films addressed politics. Tune in next week for an examination of Study of Government.
In 2005, UNESCO, in order to raise awareness of the wealth and significance of A/V materials and collections as documents of tradition, heritage, and culture, as well as to raise awareness of issues regarding preservation and access, declared October 27th as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. In the years since, institutions ranging from libraries and archives to cultural centers to A/V professional associations have used this day of consciousness-raising to share and showcase how audio visual media enriches our understanding of history and heritage.
Last year, for example, The Israel National Commission for UNESCO took October 27th as a day to publicly screen rare and special materials from the repositories of Israeli film archives in seven Cinematheques throughout the country. The Polish National Audiovisual Institute planned its yearly Culture 2.0 conference around World Day for Audiovisual heritage, with researchers and activists discussing ideas of heritage, media, and cultural literacy. And the Philippines, the last standing country without a national film archive, released new plans for the National Film Archive of the Philippines, in Manila which, as of this year, has just begun and, in fact, participated in the 2012 Home Movie Day.
The theme for this year, which is hosted by the International Association for Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) is “Audiovisual Heritage Memory? The Clock Is Ticking.” This statement highlights the belief among A/V professionals that the next couple of decades are of critical importance when it comes to preserving A/V materials. As Mike Casey and Bruce Gordon noted in “Sound Directions: Best Practices for Audio Preservation,” sound archives (and, it could surely be argued, film and video archives as well) “have reached a critical point in their history marked by the simultaneous rapid deterioration of unique original materials, the development of expensive and powerful new digital technologies, and the consequent decline of analog formats and media.” In other words – materials are getting older, more outdated, and are harder to fix.
Those interested in a sampling of some of the educational materials we have available that deal with the Midwest’s cultural and economic heritage in particular might want to take a look at the following films, digitized and made accessible on the IULFA website. These represent only a sliver of the Hoosier-centric materials we are currently accessioning, cataloging, preserving, and digitizing, and we plan to highlight some of this films in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned!
Tales of the Rails, 1990
Provides an anecdotal account of the history of the American railroad in the Midwest through personal interviews and historical photographs. Features stories fondly recounted by old-timers who grew up along the tracks in Iowa, and highlights the importance of trains to daily life while capturing their aura of mystery and excitement.
It is impossible to live in Indiana and not be aware of the cultural, historical, and economic significance of the limestone industry. This film, produced by Indiana University’s School of Education, explains and simulates the formation of sedimentary rock, focusing on the importance of limestone as a natural resource.
In The Rapture / The Rapture Family, 1976
“In The Rapture” documents a local production of a traditional black church musical drama portraying man’s struggle to resist the temptations of Satan and follow Jesus. The companion film features eight members of the “rapture family” discussing the drama’s significance with Dr. Herman Hudson, Dean for Afro-American Affairs, and Dr. William H. Wiggins, Jr., Professor of Afro-American Studies, Indiana University.
New Harmony: An Example and A Beacon, 1971
Traces the history and significance of New Harmony, Indiana, from its communal origins to its contemporary renaissance as an historic landmark. A must for anyone interested in vernacular architecture and local history.
“Everyone likes to watch and listen to a marching band as it goes swaying by in perfect rhythm. It looks easy, this marching and playing together. It may look easy, but many long hours of practice were necessary to turn these already accomplished musicians into a crack marching outfit.”
It is not often that, while standing on a corner waiting to cross a street, you hear a car blasting “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa. More often — especially at college football games or parades for any given given holiday (particularly patriotic ones) — you’re likely to hear Sousa being blasted by a marching band. Whether the average American thinks about marching bands very often may not be quantifiable. It is clear that those who are in or are an alumni of a marching band think about it a lot (if you Google “marching band sport” you’ll see plenty of passionate essays seeking to legitimize the activity to the mainstream and revealing just how difficult — and engrossing — it is). Major competitions happen often, and band members spend much of their free time rehearsing not just the music but the minutiae that a very long history of marching bands demand to create, as the narrator of the film says, a “crack marching outfit.”
Marching Band Fundamentals, one of the many educational films produced by the IU Audio-Visual Center which is now held by the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive (IULFA),explores this minutiae, yes, but more accurately serves as a live instruction guide for directors and “bandsmen.” For those of us who were never part of a marching band the details might be overwhelming. Notice the amount of military terms that occur before the six minute mark (“rank,” “file” “paces”, etc.). And, of course, the emphasis on shiny shoes and nice haircuts.
The observant viewer will notice many “bandsmen” whose haircuts may not be as tidy as the others; that’s because they’re women, referred to over and over again as “bandsmen” and “he.” This is not uncommon for educational films of this era, but the camera’s focus on these members of the band while the narrator uses gendered terms might be disconcerting for the 21st-Century viewer or, at the very least, cause some confusion when curls spill out of members’ caps.
Perhaps an image that comes into the viewers mind as they watch the band go through their very specific motions is one of a stifling auditorium or gym filled with marching band members laboriously attempting to learn the commands from the film, as if they were dance instructions or a jazzercise video. Based on the very pedantic nature of the film it could have been used as such, so long as the projector was able to be stopped and the film rewound to repeat unclear commands. More than likely, however, it was for fledgling band directors in need of a refresher or for band director’s assistants who were in training. This assumption is made based on the work of the two men responsible for writing the film.
Daniel L. Martino came to Indiana University in 1948 from Ohio University where he quickly established four concert units in the Department of Bands. Famously, he was the director of the Indiana University Marching Hundred which was deemed by John Philip Sousa in 1925 to be “the snappiest marching and playing band in the country.” During Mr. Martino’s tenure as the director of the Marching Hundred the band made three consecutive appearances at the Indianapolis 500, the Kentucky Derby, and, in 1953, was part of Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. In 1952 Martino released a book entitled Effective School Band Managementwhich likely served as the textual counterpart to this film.
Richard A. Worthington, Martino’s co-writer, was band director for Hobart City Schools, an Indiana town just South of Chicago, and was working on his doctorate at the time of the film’s creation. Later he took a position at Northern Illinois Teachers College. Their embrace of film for marching band education makes sense; diagrams, commands, and marching figures are much clearer on film, can be shown again and again, and were likely much more understandable to the newest members of any given band.
An interesting feature of this otherwise very specific and somewhat pedantic film is the use of slow motion. High speed cameras would become indispensable to the field of biomechanics in the 1970s, but this simpler version — showing movement required of band members — was likely a remarkable achievement in marching band education. Again, combined with the ability to stop and rewind the film, those members in stifling gyms or auditoriums would, hopefully, learn their steps quicker, and get to the learning and practicing of music — which does not come until there is less than a minute left in the film — faster.
While perhaps not the most engrossing film for the casual viewer, Marching Band Fundamentals Parts 1 and 2 is a glimpse into the promise of group education through film. Its combination of live-action, animation, and slow-motion would have been a novel and very helpful tool for band directors used to relying on rote learning and militaristic methods alone. Imagine the sigh of relief the director might feel when given the opportunity to let the film do the talking for them, allowing them time to let their strained vocal cords heal enough to scream a little bit more at the drum majors as soon as the film had run its course. Additionally, the film sheds some light on the intensity of an activity that is often so well-rehearsed, it’s made to look easy. If you were a marching band member you already know all of this. Those of us — myself included — who never experienced it, can now understand a little bit more why committed marching band members were so intense about it. Come on, that looks pretty hard!
“This is like writing with light!” exclaims a young teacher in the 1956 instructional film Handmade Materials for Projection. What activity is she engaging in that was so exciting as to inspire her to reach for such an evocative metaphor? Well, if you chose scratching on a piece of carbon paper on an overhead projector for a lesson in how-to-write a business letter then you’d be right.
That this rather mundane activity could prompt an educator to such poetic musings might be attributed to the often over-blown rhetoric found in educational films in the 1950s. However, I submit that moments such as these, which might seem corny to us now, are actually rather revealing insights into the ways that teachers and students thought about and experienced educational films. Or, to be more accurate, how the filmmakers imagined teachers and students experienced educational films. Examining these now out-of-date classroom films gives us an insight into how producers and educators predicted that the films would be viewed and utilized. As such, this affords us a chance to study earlier cultural assumptions about the pedagogical role of media, which, ideally opens up a discussion of the forces guiding our current digital mediation and technologization of education.
For a film that rather programmatically trained educators in how to inexpensively make their own slides and transparencies for projection in the classroom, the film is filled with these moments of wonder, even if they are occasionally tempered by the rational voice of the teacher. In addition to the example above, another instructor demonstrates a technique that she calls the dry dusting method. This tool allows her to accurately, and almost magically, trace shapes into carbon paper in front of her students. The filmed presentation at the 12:14 mark in the video does indeed have more than just a little of the fantastic about it. The drawing seems to appear before our eyes. As she states, her drawing on the overhead projector is more than just a representation of the object she is lecturing on. Instead, it’s “a living, meaningful diagram which developed with my lecture … as a way of capturing and holding the attention of my audience.”
This quote gets at why teachers used, and continue to use, mass media in the classroom, an impulse that is essential to the creation of the films that are at the core of the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive. First, media, even something as unremarkable as an overhead projection, brings the lesson to life. Second, it’s not a frivolous animation but one that’s intimately yoked to the educational goal of the class. Third, and this is no small shakes here, the use of media in the classroom allows a teacher to keep the students focused on what she is saying. Classroom media was used to make a lecture exciting, had to have a clear pedagogical mission, and was deployed to regulate student behavior. (No students are actually seen in this film; the film presents no proof that these techniques actually interest schoolchildren which points to one of the great unknowns in educational film: what did the students sitting in the classroom actually think of these mediated instructions).
As this film and others like it such as Photographic Slides for Instruction (1956) and How to Make Homemade Lantern Slides (1947), both of which are embedded at the end of this post, suggest educational films were not just made for students, but also for teachers to instruct them in how to incorporate the then new media into their classroom. Further, educational films were part of a much larger infrastructure in media available for the classroom including filmstrips, records, slides, and overhead projectors – and eventually cassette tapes, videotape, and now Power Point. This is an important point to realize when watching old educational films. They rarely stood alone and were often part of a larger educational effort that might have included textbooks, suggested lesson plans, slides, etc. So while we will be mainly posting videos digitized from old educational films, please keep in mind that there was a larger media ecosystem in the classroom that these films are only one example of.
In fact, the educational author of this film, Harvey R. Frye, published a very similar article in the August 1957 issue of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers called “Slide-Projection Materials on Minimum Budgets.” In comparing the article and the film, the advantages in each medium for teaching becomes quickly apparent: each has more or less the same information, but the journal article allowed a teacher to easily go back over the techniques of making slides while the film includes dramatized examples of teachers in awe at the process.
In fact, what each medium allowed a teacher to do was at the core of Frye’s efforts in training educators to use media for pedagogical purposes. As he and his co-author Ed Minor assert in the introduction to their 1970 book, Techniques for Producing Visual Instructional Media, having a sense of the specificity of each medium was the key to knowing how to utilize mass media in the classroom. They state unequivocally that, “materials should be prepared only when they will do the job of communicating better and quicker than any other method of communication available”.
In the off chance that anyone reading this posting knew Harvey Frye or other filmmakers at the IU Audio-Visual Center please contact us. We are in the process of researching the production and exhibition of these films and any help would be much appreciated.
As has already been mentioned on this blog, the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive (IULFA) recently posted close to 200 films from its collection for streaming. This effort is an important part of the Archive’s, as well as the IU Libraries’, central mission of providing access to students, faculty, researchers, and the larger public to our collection of over 80,000 films. This monthly series of blog postings, which we’re calling “Presenting…”, will examine one of these streaming films in greater detail, look at its production and exhibition history, and connect them to the wider field of film scholarship, moving image archiving, and media pedagogy.
This first batch of films we’ve put online were made by the University’s Audio-Visual Center, or AVC for short.
The AVC was founded in 1912 (Happy 100th Birthday!) and it functioned until the beginning of our current millennium. During its existence the AVC worked to create and distribute educational materials in the new media formats of the day, be they magic lantern slides and photographs, motion picture film, videotape, or computer programs. Most relevant to our work as a film archive the AVC distributed over 35,000 titles from a variety of educational film producers, as well as making its own line of award-winning films that benefited greatly from the expertise of IU’s professors. In later postings we will look more closely at some of these classroom films that explored the functioning of biological lifeforms, the structural inequalities that held back lower income Americans, the ways to teach with electronic and photographic media, and other topics in the hard and soft sciences.
The AVC also made a number of films about Indiana University. It seems appropriate to start this blog series presenting the film work of Indiana University with a 1961 film, Presenting Indiana University, that presented the college to potential students.
As we are still in the process of researching the production and exhibition methods of the AVC, which we are doing with the help of PhD candidate Natasha Ritsma and the University Archives, we have not yet come across any specific documents that detail how this film was used. But other research has uncovered the work of the University’s Junior Division whose representatives traveled across Indiana with a spiel for high school students about what IU had to offer them. Promotional films such as Presenting Indiana University were an important part of their persuasive appeal. According to the 1967 edition of the IU yearbook, Arbutus, “Junior Division counselors go to the high schools for ‘College Day’ or ‘College Night’ programs to acquaint students with University policies and opportunities. Through films and discussions with Junior Division counselors, freshmen can learn what I.U. is like long before they arrive.”
Assuming Presenting Indiana University was used for this purpose, what would prospective students have learned about IU from watching the film? These individuals would have been exposed to the wide range of educational opportunities that the University had to offer them. A high school student who was deciding which college to attend would have seen a University that paid equal attention to the hard sciences – the film shows an experiment testing the human body’s reaction to painful sound frequencies, which you can see at the 1:40 mark in the video – and the creative arts and humanities, which is represented by footage of a composer working at the piano. By having two examples, each focused on sound and our physical and emotional response to it, the film explicitly notes how both the sciences and the humanities are working towards the same goal, which is to “know our selves better.”
Potential IU attendees would have also gained a sense of the social atmosphere of the campus by watching the film. They would have seen a student body integrated by gender and race, though the faculty was still, as seen in this film at least, entirely white men. High school students would have gained a sense of the respectful classroom environment at IU, where professors mixed lectures with probing questions to their class that seem designed to elicit engaging discussions. Though these in-class sections might seem a little staged now, the scenes show students grappling with heady intellectual material, such as the sequence in Dr. Henry Beech’s philosophy seminar where he and a young woman debate the freedom of choice available to a narcotized society, which can be viewed at the ten-minute mark.
Just as importantly, viewers would have learned that a University is much more than only the classroom. They would have seen the breadth of departments and facilities that supported their educational career at IU including the libraries (the film shows the new reading rooms and the priceless artifacts of the Lilly Library), the advising system offered by the Junior Division, the state-of-the-art computer center, and, of special interest to our archival work, the IU film library and audio-visual support center.
Further, by watching the film high schoolers would have seen all of the ways they could have gained practical experience while at IU including a number of student theater groups, teacher training programs, and the student newspaper. They would have received a sense of the world-class entertainment offered at IU including lectures by Nobel prizewinners, operas by the Music School, football games, art openings, and proms.
However, since this film no longer fulfills its intended purpose, what is the value of watching it today? Well, there are the always entertaining differences between then and now that one finds in old films, such as buildings that are no longer standing and changes in clothing worn by students – college men used to wear ties like nobody’s business! More importantly however, this film provides revealing insights into how a university justified its existence fifty years ago. It’s no secret that higher education is currently facing a myriad of challenges from declining state funding, rising tuitions, and the disruptive yet beneficial shockwaves of the digital transformation. Presenting Indiana University doesn’t directly address these concerns or provide us with any easy answers in 2012. But it does provide us with a clear sense of the central purpose of a university, which is to, as the film’s narrator states, “help each student probe the limitless frontiers of his own mind” in the goal of transforming them into “a contributing citizen in our modern society.” As the gendered use of the word “he” implies, we have to continuously update these goals for our current times, exegencies, and community. But as the film makes explicit throughout, the unfettered but directed pursuit of knowledge, however ridiculous it might appear – check out the sequence where they are bombarding a woman with painful sounds again – has a clear benefit to students as individuals and the society they enter when they graduate.
Like all universities, IU has continued to make these sort of promotional films. If you’re interested, you can check some recent examples of this genre of film/video making out at the IU YouTube page. These current videos cover many of the same topics as Presenting Indiana University, but, not surprising considering the shorter duration of YouTube videos, are broken up into more discrete chunks. Comparing these newer videos such as IU Extraordinary, Welcome Home, and This is Your Epic Adventure (all below) to Presenting Indiana University shows the continuity and changes in how a university promotes itself. While many of the same issues are covered, the student’s individual experience, on an academic and emotional level, takes center stage in a way not found in the 1961 film. Part of this difference can be explained by changes in the technology and styles of filmmaking; video records live sound in a way that was more complicated to achieve in 1961 and we expect people to speak for themselves instead of only hearing from a voice-of-god narrator. However, the change suggests a greater emphasis on the student’s mental and physical wellbeing than just the intellectual aspects focused on in Presenting Indiana University. To conclude, looking at these old promotional films, especially in relation to current publicity campaigns, affords an understanding of what a university thinks is most important at that particular time. This can reveal whom they were trying to appeal to and which social, political, and economic forces they were responding to.
The Indiana University Libraries Film Archive (IULFA) contains more than 46,000 historic educational films, making it one of the most extensive collection of such items in existence. IU was one of the major university-based distributors of educational films from the 1930s to the 1990s, but unlike many of its contemporaries it maintained the majority of its collection, now preserved in the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF).
The collection spans much of the Twentieth Century, including a large of number of pre-World War II, career training, and U.S. Department of War films. A large chunk of the collection — more than 5,600 films — were produced by the National Educational Television (NET) network, the precursor to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
NET got its start in 1952 and functioned as an “exchange center” that collected the grassroots productions of local TV stations from across the country as sort of an aggregator for public programming. The programs were educational in nature, featuring children’s shows (Fignewton’s Newspaper and Sing Hi – Sing Lo) parenting advice (Children Growing), and artist spotlights (the Creative Person series) to name just a few.
Below are two episodes from the Creative Person series — one about animator Richard Williams and the other about Fred Rogers. Both of these titles are held in the IULFA collection.
Production values, intended audience, and popularity varied greatly from program to program, which led the Ford Foundation, who had invested over $130 million between 1952 and 1966, to begin to withdraw funding, sending NET looking for funding from the federal government. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was created in 1967, which served to manage the content created by stations and, eventually, the creation of PBS.
NET was the original home of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhoodand Sesame Street, which became staples for PBS. Stations like KQED in San Francisco and, WQED in Pittsburgh, and KETC in St. Louis were among the stations which provided the content for NET between 1952 and the early 1970s, when the NET distinction gave way to PBS.
The IU Libraries Film Archive not only holds prints of the completed programs but also a number of film elements that went into the production of them. By preserving the fully edited productions as well as the components which became the final product, these historic films — the ancestors of today’s public broadcasting system — stand a much better chance at surviving for several generations of researchers and the public interested in a glimpse at the roots of America’s television programming system.
When we speak of educational films, what exactly do we mean? For many people, memories of high school science classes come to mind. Or people recall the amusingly awkward acting, dated music and fashion, and cheap production value of instructional films.
Above: BBC parody on science films called “Look Around You” tackles sulphur.
However, the recently acquired Oregon Collection challenges and broadens our understanding of what constitutes an educational film and how their meanings change when placed in various contexts and settings.
Most people today tend to separate educational films from other kinds of film production, notably fiction features and documentaries. Yet, there is a semi-hidden history of film societies placing educational films as a major part of their programming. The most famous example was the New York-based film society, Cinema 16 (which operated from 1947-1963). Amos and Marcia Vogel founded Cinema 16 with the hopes of exploring and screening alternative types of cinema, ranging from documentaries to educational films to experimental films. Amos Vogel’s programming sensibility, by juxtaposing many different types of films, showed how thin the line was between documentary and educational films (ethnographic films) or the avant-garde and educational films (the work of Jean Painleve comes to mind). Also, the Vogels hoped that bringing these seemingly disparate groups of films into a single program would transform the way their audience saw the art of cinema. One could, they believed, approach educational films from an aesthetic perspective, as well as approach narrative fiction cinema from an educational perspective.
Many of the films in the Oregon collection would have been perfect for a program at Cinema 16. A majority of the films in the Oregon collection were produced after Cinema 16’s demise, but the collection as a whole suggests a rich hidden history of the life of educational films outside of the traditional classroom setting.
In October of 2011, the IU Libraries Film Archive acquired 12,000 educational films from the Lane Education Service District in Eugene, Oregon. The collection consists primarily of educational films made for elementary through university level students that were produced between the 1920s and 1980s. Genres of the films include science, the arts, physical education, biographies, world history, and instructional films along with some feature films including, The Red Balloon (video below), City Lights, and Paper Moon. Some of the educational films include Guernica (video below), Food Chains in the Ocean, Rise of English Socialism and Bicycle Safety. There are multiple copies of many titles and some that have upwards of ten copies.
In April the process of adding these films to the collection at the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF) began. The process involves bar-coding each title, testing the films for vinegar syndrome with A-D strips, and then sending them to their final destination in the ALF vault where they are kept at a steady temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 30%. Over 95% of the films that have been tested are in great condition and with the climate controlled storage facilities their conditions will be stabilized for decades. The few films which have tested poorly are bagged in plastic and kept in a film freezer which maintains a constant temperature of -2 degrees Fahrenheit. Presently over a third of the new collection has been tested and cataloged and will available through IUCAT after processing has been completed. IU Libraries Film Archive already houses a large variety of educational films and the new films will only add to the diversity of this immense collection.
The Red Balloon joins the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive
Guernica is now part of the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive collection
The author and interviewer for this post is Natasha Ritsma. Natasha is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University. She is working on her dissertation on the art of educational films which includes research in the history of the Audio-Visual Center at IU.
After 42 years of working for Indiana University, Martha Harsanyi, the Media Collections Manager for Media and Reserve Services at the Wells library retired in May, 2012. My discussions with Martha have not only been vital for my academic research but have also inspired a series of future blog entries that will include topics such as: the most frequently censored educational film ever produced, a look into the history of Teaching Film Custodians, and Indiana University’s unique 16mm film productions. Martha began her career at IU working at the Kinsey Institute in 1970. In 1975 she transferred to the IU Audio-Visual Center (one of the first and largest university run film/video rental centers) which eventually became Instructional Support Services. Throughout the span of her career, she witnessed dramatic shifts in audio-visual technology beginning with 16mm films in the 1970s, to video in the 1980s, and digital media starting in the 1990s. Martha’s wealth of experience and knowledge about the IU media collections is astounding and has served as an invaluable resource for students, instructors and researchers for decades.
NR: What would you say is the most significant contribution the IU audio-visual center made to the American media landscape in the 50s, 60s, 70s?
MH: The IU Audio-Visual was a leader in the field of 16mm production and distribution. IU faculty member Nona Hengen called the Audio-Visual center the “Mother Church of Media.” The IU Audio-Visual center functioned as a model that was to become a national standard. IU developed an excellent structure for how to set up an audio-visual center. I think every other university audio-visual center modeled itself more or less after our audio-visual center, from building the storage racks (so they could store the film canisters on edge) to their catalogs. IU was a leader in the production, distribution, cataloguing, selection, and promotion of 16 mm films.
NR: What were the cultural values and ideologies that influenced the mission of the IU Audio-Visual Center?
MH: There was a strong desire to use new technology to enhance public school education. The Audio-Visual center started in tandem with the baby boom and there was a real need to educate a growing population. Classrooms were stuffed to their gills with little kids. 16mm films were first used for training purposes during WWII and they saw that they really worked. It was an easy transition to go from military training to teaching the public in general. There was a desire to bring the world to the hinterlands and provide educational opportunities to kids in little rural schools that they would never otherwise get.
NR: Who rented films from the IU Audio-Visual Center?
MH: Schools, museums, clubs, community centers, and churches. The school systems wanted to use the latest technology and film was the latest technology. The whole idea of a rental library based at a university was to remedy the fact that 16 mm films were very expensive and there was no way smaller schools could afford them. The university rental collection functioned as a pooled resource. It was a service of the university to the state of Indiana. It was intentionally not a money making operation, and indeed they did not make money. What money the Audio-Visual Center made was plowed back into buying more films.
NR: What is your favorite 16mm film?
MH: Powers of Ten by Ray and Charles Eames. It is my favorite film because it used the visual medium to demonstrate something you couldn’t demonstrate in any other way. I’ve watched it many times.
The 1977 short film, Powers of Ten explores the relative size of things from the microscopic to the cosmic. The aerial view of a man enjoying a picnic in a Chicago park pans away to the outer limits of the universe.