Presenting … Marching Band Fundamentals Parts 1 and 2

“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 member with tidy hair and clean uniform.

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.

These “bandsmen” are actually women!

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 Management which likely served as the textual counterpart to this film.

The Hobart City School Marching Band

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.

The drum major looks on with grave intensity.

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!

If you like this film there are plenty more Indiana University produced educational films streaming for your viewing pleasure. Check them out!

~Jason Evans Groth

A Day In the Life: DoDA 2012

In anticipation of the second annual Day of Digital Archives (DoDA) coming up on Friday October 12, 2012, we present a glimpse into the world of the digital film archive at Indiana University.

Day of Digital Archives

DoDA was first established by Gretchen Gueguen as a way to connect archivists, digital humanists, programmers, and anybody else using or managing a digital archive. It is an online platform to raise awareness and spread knowledge about digital archives. To be more specific, who are the users of digital archives? Who manages them? What other projects are happening in the vast domain of digital collections? What can we learn about our own work by catching a glimpse of what other professionals in the field are doing? This being the second year of DoDA, the coming years will hopefully provide many connections and insights to other projects happening around the world. Past contributors have shared posts about data management, digital forensics, university archives, natural disasters and the video collections at the Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center of San Francisco Public Library, just to mention a few.

Digitized Films and Loans

Chuckylou gets dolled up with the kids

Many of the contributors for DoDA 2011 deal primarily with born-digital objects, but for many institutions, and we at the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive are no exception, that is not requisite. Our online archive of digitized films were filmed between 1949-1978. These films were digitized over the course of the last 10 years by Scene Savers in Covington, KY. The Bradley Collection was the first collection to be digitized, however some of the items that are digitized cannot be streamed online due to copyright issues. The educational films that are online were all digitized in the past four years. Due to the fact that IU made these films and owns the copyright for them, we are able to stream them to the public. Issues of copyright are ever apparent with digital libraries given many materials people want access to are not yet in the public domain. Currently in the U.S., any work published before January 1, 1923 is considered to be in the public domain.

We receive many requests on an almost daily basis for digitized copies of particular films in our collection. Oftentimes requests come from libraries, universities and researchers. After licensing and copyright issues have been cleared, we are able to send away for a digital copy, which is then loaned to the patron. In the future we will hopefully be able to digitize a large portion of our collection in-house and provide our own digital copies for specific requests.

Currently, for titles already in our collection, item information may be retrieved from IUCAT. Because the majority of our holdings have yet to be digitized, metadata must be added to the catalog in order to locate an item. For collections that we have recently acquired, for example,the Oregon Collection, we are still processing, bar coding and adding metadata to each canister simultaneously as it is inserted into IUCAT. This is a time consuming but essential step in the process of digitizing these films down the road. Additionally, the Oregon Collection is still on the burner and we are continuing to plow through the remaining palettes at  a steady clip.

Palettes containing the Oregon Collection (most of these are now emptied and cleared away).

In managing this archival collection, our goal is to preserve what we have through a process of collecting, organizing and ultimately making public our holdings. By allowing for easier access we ensure that these items are usable, not simply left to collect cyber dust in an electronic box with no key.

Digital Archive Considerations

When considering a digital library, it is important to note the difference between a website and a digital library or archive. According to How To Build a Digital Library by Ian Witten, a digital library is defined as “a focused collection of digital objects, including text, video, and audio, along with methods for access and retrieval, and for selection, organization, and maintenance of the collection.” Digital archivists must consider how they will collect, preserve and dispense or allow access to their materials. In contrast to a website, which might have little or no organizational structure, a digital library or archive must meet the needs of its users and allow them to find materials of their choosing. By including extensive metadata, users are able to browse and search tags or other components to find a specific item. Compared to the typical library where a user might simply browse the shelves until the right book jumps out at them, how do users find materials in digital collections? Are they able to browse and search? What tools must be put into place to allow for browsing and then, once an item is selected what is the protocol for accessing and viewing an item?

There are many small things that must be taken into consideration when working with a digital collection and this is just a small slice of the pie. We will continue to provide quality materials and easily accessible finding aids as our online collection grows over the coming years. Have a great DoDA wherever you are!

~Asia Harman

David Bradley’s Dragstrip Riot

One of the prize collections at the IUL Film Archive is David Bradley’s personal collection of 16mm films. Judging from the range and variety of the films it is clear that Bradleywas an eclectic and impassioned cinephile. On the Indiana University campus

David Bradley: Writer, director, actor, and film collector.

Bradley is primarily known for the 16mm collection that bears his name. However, Bradley was also an intriguing filmmaker who navigated through some of the wildest cinematic terrain of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The Bradley Collection runs the whole gamut: Short films, feature-length films, and home movies.

He made films professionally between 1938 and 1968. Almost all of his films were financed and distributed outside of the studio. After a series of experimental screen adaptations of plays (one providing Charlton Heston with his first on screen appearance!), David Bradley carved out a niche in low-budget, sensational genre pictures. Bradley’s genre cycle began with 1958’s Dragstrip Riot and was followed by the 1960 sci-fi movie, 12 to the Moon, and 1963’s infamous late-night cult classic Madmen of Mandoras (it was later re-edited with an extra 27 minutes of material for TV under the title They Saved Hitler’s Brain). This post will take a closer look at the first film in his genre cycle – Dragstrip Riot – and place it into a larger historical context and relate it to Bradley’s tastes and interests as a collector.

Dragstrip Riot fits firmly within two longstanding traditions of exploitation cinema: it handles something contemporary or topical with tabloid sensationalism and it attempts to cash in on successful mainstream films. While there has always been a youth market for studios and independent production companies to tap, it was never more pronounced than the 1950s. Films such as Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One led to an explosion of juvenile delinquent films. However, it would be a mistake to look at Dragstrip Riot and its cinematic siblings as a crude aping of popular studio pictures. A closer inspection shows that independent films and studio films had a mutual influence on one another. Though Hollywood would often try to distance itself from the hucksterism of b-movies and exploitation films, many of the generic innovations from films like Shake, Rattle, & Rock! found their way into more mainstream features. These films also shown a venue often associated with youth: the drive-in.

The popularity of rock n’ roll and the moral panic it caused became an integral element to so many juvenile delinquent films being released by independent companies (juvenile delinquency and rock n roll were often linked in the press). Dragstrip Riot bears some similarities to Rebel Without a Cause. Both protagonists are new arrivals in town, have a troubled past with the law, and come from a “dysfunctional” family by normal 1950s standards. That is where their similarities stop. Whereas Rebel sees itself as a serious character study on a group of alienated teenage misfits in a suffocating suburban milieu, Dragstrip Riot emphasizes drag races, malt-shops, and beach brawls with breaks in the narrative to stage rock n’ roll numbers (sung by a young and feisty Connie Stevens!).

Anyone with an interest in b-films, exploitation, and genre pictures would not be surprised to learn that Dragstrip Riot was distributed by American International Pictures. AIP saw itself as a youth-oriented production and distribution company. Indeed, they were a major force behind many juvenile delinquent and rock n’ roll films of the 1950s. Once a film cycle or sub-genre was exhausted they would latch on to the next big thing in youth culture. By the early 1960s they had created and perfected the beach party film, which proved to be their biggest success as a production company. By 1966 AIP began making films with counter-cultural themes and characters. It would be three years before a major studio had success with such themes and characters (the film is, of course, Easy Rider). AIP co-founder Sam Arkoff was known to use the ARKOFF formula to determine what kinds of projects to produce. It consisted of action, revolution (timely and sensational subject matter), killing (staged scenes of violence), oratory (at least one memorable speech), fantasy, and fornication. Dragstrip Riot fits this formula fairly well. The only thing it seems to lack is a notable oratory moment, though we as viewers are privy to a slew of 1950s teenage slang. Bradley’s film, like many AIP pictures, attempts to resolve the potential conflict between the timeliness of the subject matter and playing out youth fantasies.

Compared to glossy studio pictures which tend to dilute shocking subject matter, Dragstrip Riot feels like it achieves a greater verisimilitude because it does not hold back in the way studio pictures would (though it is still a long way from the wilder AIP juvenile delinquent films like Reform School Girl). James Dean‘s moody, existential tough guy persona in Rebel may have served as a model for young men to emulate and young women to swoon over, the iconic quality of Dean’s performance and the self-reflexivity of the characterization imbues Dean’s Jim Stark as a kind of mythical figure. Gary Clarke‘s Rick Martin is more of a banal everyman reflecting the world many teens may have felt they were growing up in. Like most teen pictures it also tries to fulfill teenage desire to see identifiable characters engaging in activities that disrupted the humdrum of daily life: car races, motorcycle chases, gang fights, or rock n roll performances in their favorite diner. And Dragstrip Riot gives us these in spades.

How are we to understand Bradley’s collecting habits in light of his film-making career? Are the two necessarily related?  A look through the Bradley collection would suggest that they are related. There is a strong representation of the established canon of American and European cinema – works that a student in film history would expect to see on their syllabus. Yet the Bradley collection also exhibits some idiosyncratic takes on film history. Brian De Palma has also occupied a marginal space in the histories of New Hollywood (when he is mentioned at all). If we were to read Bradley’s collection as his personalized take on American film history, then Brian De Palma would be the most important figure to emerge during New Hollywood. In fact, there are more De Palma films in Bradley’s collection than the number of films by Martin ScorseseFrancis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, and Steven Spielberg combined. Whether Bradley’s collecting habits are calculated measures of his own reading of film history or iterations of a quirky taste (possibly both), it is undeniable that his eccentric taste had an impact on the kind of films he would make throughout his 30 year directing career. Bradley’s ability to move effortlessly through various cinematic registers (the avantgarde, Hollywood, exploitation films) as a director is reflected in his unique collection.

The films in the David Bradley collection can be searched by going to IUCAT, clicking “Advanced Keyword Search” and pasting Bradley, David, 1920-1997, former owner into the “keywords anywhere” box. Additional information such as film titles or directors can be searched to narrow results. The Lilly Library also holds the collected papers of David Bradley.

~ Sean Smalley

Shirley Thomas, Traveling Stars, and the world in Your Living Room

“Today’s travel has assumed a fourth dimension. We think not distance, but time” says Shirley Thomas, host of TV’s short-lived but fascinating series Traveling Stars, at the start of the show’s first episode in 1956. “By this equation, any place on Earth is only hours away” (you can watch this introduction below, but apologies for the quality; the video was shot with an iPhone pointed directly at the screen of a Steenbeck in the IU Libraries Film Archive). Thomas is speaking about plane travel, but the subtext transcends the literal here. For Thomas’s show brought many places on Earth to the home of the viewer, requiring them to not count the hours of a plane flight to an exotic location, but rather to assume the position in their living room at the appointed time tune their television sets.

Traveling at Home

The IU Libraries Film Archive (IULFA) holds the first — and perhaps only — episodes of Traveling Stars, including film elements. In fact, it is likely that IULFA is the only entity in the world that holds copies of this long-forgotten television show at all. An interesting fact, because Traveling Stars featured some very prominent Hollywood personalities over the course of its short run.

Shirley Thomas and Cecil B. DeMille
Shirley Thomas with Cecil B. Demille, discussing his then soon-to-be-released epic The Ten Commandments

The format is not unfamiliar to twenty-first century television viewers. Thomas, our host, introduces the subject of the show which, in every episode, is a city in a foreign country or a foreign country itself (save for Hawaii, a then fairly recent addition to the United States). Shirley then introduces her guests — the stars — who are familiar with the location and wish to share their stories about it. Generally the stars are promoting a film that was shot in the country in question. In each episode Thomas discusses architecture, the ways of the people, the food, and, often, the shopping associated with the location with the stars. She interviews them about their experiences in those places which are often illustrated by home movies or photographs shot by the stars themselves.

Hollywood Globetrotters

Television was still a very young and seemingly very exciting medium for some of these stars, and they were more than happy to share their personal experiences. In episode #2, “The French Alps”, makeup artist Frank Westmore, fresh off of the set of The Mountainprovides home

Yvonne De Carlo poses in front of the sphinx during a fashion shoot while filming The Ten Commandments

movies that go behind the scenes to show the crew’s hotel, some of the location shots, and even star Robert Wagner goofing off a bit. Westmore, Claire Trevor, and blacklisted director Edward Dmytryk eat fondue, discuss the villagers, and show what gifts they brought back from France. In episode #3, “Egypt,” we see home footage of Yvonne De Carlo on a fashion shoot in front of the pyramids and the sphinx while enjoying some time away from the set of The Ten Commandments.

Some guests do not seem as excited. In one of the more tense episodes, a seemingly very intoxicated Dean Martin, just “divorced” from Jerry Lewis, and his co-star from the then-recently finished film Ten Thousand Bedrooms, Anna Marie Alberghetti, go on a trip to Rome with Thomas. Martin is consistently inappropriate and somewhat embarrassing, complaining

Anna Marie Alberghetti shows off a beautiful 1956 Vespa while Dean Martin and Shirley Thomas do their best to make it through an episode of Traveling Stars

about “terrible” European coffee, expressing his disinterest in going anywhere but one restaurant in Italy, sweating, smoking, and seeming very distracted. Alberghetti looks worried about Martin’s behavior and their mutual concerned glances seem to indicate something deeper — a bad on-set relationship? A torrid affair? Mutual dislike? Inappropriate like? And all the while Thomas handles it with the grace of a Hollywood reporter.

Two Kinds of Americans

In fact, Thomas was a red-carpet interviewer before her stint on Traveling Stars. Surely the origin of the show exists in someone’s papers (perhaps her own; she deposited both papers and films with the Lilly Library, yet her papers seem to be mostly notes about her later Men of Space project). It may be reasonable to assume that her experience as a red-carpet worker led her to this show, and also scored her her connections with these particular Hollywood elite. She is credited with “Readin’, Writin’, Research” so she was not simply the face of the program, she also provided all of the written content. And while the format of the show may seem a little old hat in 2012, I would argue that Shirley Thomas was actually ahead of her time.

Television watchers and film-goers in the post-war era were used to celebrity fetishism, and while the locations featured in the show were likely out of most Americans’ price-range as far as travel expenses go, Thomas never seems condescending when discussing these exotic places. Even the celebrities themselves are very humble about their travels, and very inclusive; at the end of the show one feels hopeful about going to these places rather than othered and excluded from them. In fact, Thomas ends the first episode by saying “There are two kinds of Americans: Those who are taking a trip, and those who are planning one.”

The Rise of Realism

Edward Dmytryk makes the case for realism on Traveling Stars

This post-war optimism typifies the era; anything was possible, even a trip to far-off Japan. Thomas succeeds in bringing not only Hollywood, but also the entire world, into the living rooms of those watching. It is likely that many of these television watchers had never seen such candid footage of these foreign places. Dmytryk points out that for years Hollywood had relied on “phony” sets to transport viewers, but that Hollywood could not “fool people anymore.” Traveling Stars, with it’s actors and directors as real people model and its amateur footage of far-off places was only helping in making realism an important Hollywood and television commodity.

Dean Martin, Anna Maria Alberghetti, and Shirley Thomas say “hello” to Rome from an “airplane cabin”

Woman of Space (and Time and Travel)

Shirley Thomas completed one season of Traveling Stars and, though she  remained somewhat active in show business, received her B.A. in 1960 and, subsequently, her PhD in Communications. Between 1960 and 1968 she authored an eight volume work about astronauts entitled Men of Space, the papers for which are now held at the Lilly Library.

The cover of Shirley Thomas’s Men of Space

This ambitious work shows that, for her, traveling was more than a mundane tourist activity; in fact, it was a way to understand the world, both on earth and off of it. Despite the show propagating some 1950s female stereotypes (it was sponsored by a “diet” cookie called Duets, meant to curb your appetite — see the link above for a complete ad), both it — and Shirley Thomas’s subsequent work — instead show the presence of a strong, independent citizen of the world, working within a media which was, at the time, largely run by white men. IULFA is proud to hold these works and we hope to make it more widely available as our preservation activities continue.

~Jason Evans Groth

 

Presenting … Handmade Materials for Projection (1956)

“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.

“This is like writing with light!”

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.

The film represents itself being screened in the classroom.

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.”

“…A living, meaningful diagram…”

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.

The film shows techniques for depicting 3-D objects with two-dimensional media.

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”.

“…Communicating better and quicker than any other method of communication…”

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.

~ Andy Uhrich

 

 

 

The Freezer Project: Film Decay and Media Collections

Over the months of July and August 2012, Indiana University Libraries Film Archive (IULFA) staff began (with only a small amount of foot-dragging!) the ominously-named Freezer Project. For a number of weeks, we’ve been leaving our comfortable desks at 9am each day, in teams of two, to work on inventorying the hundreds of deteriorating 16mm and 35mm films that have been quarantined from the “healthy” films in a large walk-in freezer at the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF). These films run the gamut in content and time period, but it is significant that certain items, such as 1950s regional football games, ethnographic anthropological research in 1970s South Africa, and film and television outtakes and production elements, are unique items that may only exist at the IULFA. Thus, it is all the more important to regain greater physical and intellectual control over these items, so that they may be available for and findable by interested parties.

Indeed, a significant challenge in moving image preservation programs is the storage and care of decayed and deteriorating cellulose film. Cellulose film base, also known as triacetate film base, was introduced in the early

A can of 16mm film exhibiting warping, rust, and other signs of decay.

20th century as an alternative for the highly-flammable nitrate film base (it was thus given the alternate moniker “safety film”). The benefits of this material meant that by the 1950s, cellulose had phase out nitrate in the 35mm format, and would go on to be the most widely used film base, used in gauges ranging from 16mm (for which triacetate has been almost exclusively used since the gauge’s introduction in 1923) to 8mm and Super 8mm.

Archivists have found that this particular type of film base is especially susceptible to shrinking, warping, and brittleness, and at this deterioration process occurs, film becomes more and more difficult to play back, digitize, or even inspect. Due to the highly acidic odor that decayed cellulose film puts off, this particular variety of deterioration is widely known as “vinegar syndrome”. A report by Jean-Louis Bigourdan of the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology found that “freshly processed acetate base film can last for several centuries in cold storage.” But the author goes on to warn that “under adverse storage conditions … acetate base decay has been observed after only a few years.” And dealing with items that have lived under such conditions is certainly part of archival work.

The IUFLA, for instance, is home to one of the world’s largest academic film collections, housing over 55,000 items. Because all these films came to the IULFA from a variety of sources, some items are in better shape than others.  Oftentimes, collections were once stored in non-ideal facilities such as the attics or basements of owners, or non-climate controlled warehouses or storage facilities.

Because of this variety in previous storage conditions, all incoming films are checked for vinegar syndrome during accessioning. This is done with the use of A-D strips, small paper strips placed on the film reel which detect the acidity level in the film and demonstrate that level by changing color from dark blue (healthy) to green (decaying) to yellow (significantly decayed). Its a process reminiscent of a 1970s mood ring, something we retro-fetishists at the IULFA can certainly appreciate!

Staff member Asia Harman pulls decayed films from the IULFA’s walk-in freezer.

As mentioned previously, significantly decayed films are quarantined from the “healthy” items and kept in a walk-in freezer at ALF which is kept at a temperature below freezing, until funding is available for preservation reformatting. IULFA staff maintains the stability of the other films by keeping them in the optimal storage conditions of the vault at ALF, which is kept a consistent temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a stable relative humidity of 30 percent.

Since we began the Freezer Project, we’ve tackled the task of inventorying all of the films in the ALF freezer, bagging similar sizes together in order to create more space, and noting instances of duplicate copies. The process begins with taking films from the freezer (usually in disarray and not properly bagged for an additional level of climate stability) into the vault to slowly warm up to 50 degrees.

The IULFA’s Sean Smalley (left) and Andy Uhrich (right) inventory decayed films

After several hours in the vault, films can be brought into the warmer work area, where they are inspected for title, series, catalog number, barcode, and element (such as “A-roll” or “soundtrack”).  The amount of information on the can itself varies wildly – some cans contain all this information, while others are incomplete, or in a few instances, completely blank. Films are then bagged according to best practice guidelines (or set aside for disposal), and placed back in the freezer, where they will be easily accessible when it comes time to rehabilitate them. The Freezer Project is one of the less glamorous projects at the archives, as it involves handling rusty metal cans filled with foul-smelling acidic film, and wearing rubber gloves and butchers smocks in order to protect oneself from said rusty metal cans filled with foul-smelling acidic film! But this particular project is part of a larger goal of “unhiding collections”, as media collections consulting firm AV Preserve has put it. As they have said, “in order to unhide audiovisual collections they need to be transferred to a state where they can be described and accessed.”

IUFLA staff member Jason Evans Groth emerges from the freezer with films of various sizes.

Though the work is physically demanding and the number of films to inventory and bag was initially quite overwhelming, it’s a feeling of real accomplishment to know that this work will allow the public to find and view these films.

Read the National Film Preservation Foundation’s a PDF “Film Preservation Guide” for more information about film preservation practices and processes.

~Josephine McRobbie with Andy Uhrich

 

 

 

 

Presenting… Presenting Indiana University

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.

Indiana University Audio-Visual Center Logo

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.

 

Presenting IU title card.

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.”

The film shows an experiment testing the human body’s reaction to painful sound frequencies
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.

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.

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.

IU Extraordinary

Welcome Home

This is Your Epic Adventure

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfHFU0Vx_9A&feature=related

~Andy Uhrich

National Educational Television and the IU Libraries Film Archive

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).

The National Educational Television logo from 1969-1970.

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.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4521253840921599093

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’ Neighborhood and 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.

~Jason Evans Groth

Educational Films and Film Societies

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fssAHO0_mvE

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.

Original program guide for a Cinema 16 screening (click picture for a short essay on non-fiction film by Vogel)

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.

A documentary on Amos Vogel’s life and work:

Film as a Subversive Art from Paul Cronin on Vimeo.

~Sean Smalley

Oregon Collection Update

 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQhvgo62l74&t=15s

The Red Balloon joins the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive

Guernica is now part of the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive collection

~Asia Harman