IU Libraries Film Archive a treasure chest of educational, rare films

IU Libraries Film Archive a treasure chest of educational, rare films

inside IU Bloomington
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Lynn Schoch, Office of the Vice President for International Affairs

Many of a certain age—particularly those who were in elementary school in the ’50s and ’60s—will remember 16 mm films produced by the U.S. government, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., McGraw-Hill or National Educational Television.

They often provided the only glimpses of other worlds that U.S. school children had the opportunity to see.

By the 1970s, videotape and documentaries with large budgets and prime-time aspirations, like Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation,” began to replace the older formats.

From about 1940, IU’s Audio-Visual Center (then part of the Extension Division and later, Instructional Support Services) was the depository for U.S. government films. In time, it became the state’s most active lender of educational films to schools, museums, clubs, community centers, and churches in the state.

As the move to videotape made 16 mm films “obsolete,” the center became a repository for what other institutions and organizations no longer wanted.

In 2006 what was then a collection of 34,000 reels formed the core of the IU Libraries Film Archive. IU Libraries has supported the transition from lending library to historical archive with a dedicated film achivist in the Herman B. Wells Library, support for resources to digitize the collections and an off-site storage environment designed to minimize deterioration.

“We have the largest educational film collection in any university library,” said Rachael Stoeltje, film archivist with the IU Libraries Film Archive.

There are films available nowhere else in the world, and rarities such as 30 titles from the 1950s CBS series “You Are There” and the world’s most complete collection of Encyclopedia Britannica films…

Darlene Sadlier, director of the Portuguese Program and a professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, a program within the College of Arts and Sciences, has been using educational films from the collection for many years in her classes in Latin American cinema and culture.

“One film that is helpful in a discussion of the history of race relations in Brazil, for instance, is ‘Brazil: The Vanishing Negro,'” she said. The film is a 30-minute film produced for public television in the 1960s, showing Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies and the daily lives of Brazil’s black population.

“It was an informative resource when it was first produced, but it was also polemical because it discussed the benefits of racial mixing, or rather whitening, of the Brazilian African population, to the detriment of its heritage,” Sadlier said. “In recent years, Brazil has recognized its African heritage with affirmative action laws and a holiday dedicated to national race consciousness. With this film, we can look back and consider how far the country has moved to acknowledge its long-held myth of ‘racial democracy.’”

Sadlier has published extensively on the histories, languages and cultures of Brazil. Her latest book deals with the Good Neighbor policy adopted by the U.S. government during World War II to cultivate stronger alliances with countries in the Western Hemisphere…

Read the entire article here.

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