The Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) has been preserving and digitizing, restoring, archiving, acquiring material, and working with researchers for years now. At the beginning of last summer, IULMIA moved to its new space in Wells Library; alongside the library’s Media Services and the Black Film Center/Archive there are now spaces (through the Moving Image Archive and Collections space) for archival work and on-site research, as well as a brand new Screening Room, all meant to expand the possibilities for studying media at IU. From its beginnings in an old bowling alley to its new space on the library’s Ground Floor, this incredible IU and international resource has grown into what Rachael Stoeltje, the IULMIA Director, calls “a proper archive.”
My own knowledge of the IULMIA has been incredibly limited for the past three or so years that I have been at IU. In that time I have heard about it as a source for research and an organization working in association with the IU Cinema as well as other departments, but that was all. This semester I wanted to get behind the scenes a bit to explore the new space and talk with some of the people in charge to see what their goals were for this amazing resource; so I sat down with Stoeltje and Andy Uhrich, the IULMIA Film Archivist (see this great piece on Uhrich from IU’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering), and learned that the Archive is so much more than a space for researchers—it is also a place for those who want to experience film in all kinds of different ways.
KJ: You do a lot of stuff here at the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive. In what ways do you work with other IU departments or units?
RS: Sometimes we are more like an assistance service/preservation unit…
AU: …like a consultant almost.
RS: Yeah, and we help many of the units on campus—between processing their stuff and working on film preservation projects for like, the John Ford home movies at the Lilly Library; also the Archives of Traditional Music (we archived, processed, and identified their films); we did the same with the Hoagy Carmichael home movies, and I’ve worked a great deal with the Lilly processing and archiving their collections (like the David Bradley collection) and the Kinsey Institute a little bit.
So, we’re starting to do more and more of that, but we also hold our own collections. Our collection is made up of roughly 110,000 items and of those, about 70,000 are film reels. The rest is video, and some digital now, audio too; and we have a lot of paper coming in with new filmmaker collections. We have a lot of exciting acquisitions happening—more than just film.
And a lot of our time is spent on the Mass Digitization of Film project.
KJ: Can you tell me about this project?
RS: A couple years ago there was a survey across campus of all audio, video, and film holdings. There was a charge to try to figure out how to preserve them, especially the audio and visual because it’s more fragile and deteriorating. The collections across this campus are pretty significant; they’re pretty unique for any campus, really. At that time there was a $15 million+ project to digitize 266,000 audio/videotapes.
We continued to work on a plan for film digitization—it’s more costly, the file sizes are bigger if you’re doing preservation transfers. What got funded is a three-year project to do 12,500 hours of campus holdings of films—so it’s not everything. The audio/video was everything.
Our unit has been involved in planning many parts of this project, and we’ve hired a number of people to work on this—to inspect and prep the films, to manage the transporting and tracking of the films, to inventory, to catalog, etc. There are a great many people across campus involved in a project at this scale to make it a success.
AU: So there’s the library side of this (with both rounds—the video and audio, and now film); there’s the vendor, which is Memnon; then there’s the department called the MDPI department or unit (they’re handling the quality control and postproduction work on the digitized files and working closely with the vendor); and there’s also the IT side (UITS). There’s a lot of different players on campus that are making this mass digitization possible.
RS: We’ve been digitizing here for a long time, so you can look at a lot of the things we’ve been putting up—at Media Collections Online. That’s a big part of our work right now, and has been for a while; but then we also do regular archive management, acquisitions, collection development, digitization and making things accessible, processing, identification, re-canning, working with researchers, and mentoring.
KJ: That’s a really cool project [blog visitors can read more about it here], and it seems as if you really do have a lot going on here. The Screening Room is also a new feature as of last year. What was the intention behind creating this particular resource?
RS: A couple of things happened: we were able to actually think through what we needed as a film archive and the combination of faculty requesting certain kinds of things (that they couldn’t get from the Cinema or from classrooms), the need to screen our own material, the need to be able to work with faculty members and students in a different kind of way, and overflow from the Cinema Advisory Board proposals.
AU: Thinking about the fact that there was the Cinema and there were the classrooms—there was a niche need for something in between, with the same high-quality projection and sound as the Cinema, but in a smaller space that was more flexible in terms of how it could be used. Obviously, having a place to show our stuff is fantastic, but it was clear there was a need across campus.
There was also the need for some kind of tech-check room, a preview room, for people who are making their own productions on campus, so they can come in and say: “I did my sound mix, but I did it on headphones and a computer. I want to hear it in a room.”
So, the idea that this space is multi-purpose, can be used for all these things, is important. It’s called a Screening Room, but it’s not just for screening. I think that was the way it justified itself—meeting multiple needs while still being part of this larger push for film on campus, for media on campus. It was a kind of way of expanding and growing film culture and the arts on campus, of being a part of that larger move.
RS: There’s lots and lots of ways that we’re finding to use the Screening Room, and more and more people are discovering it. The space enables a lot of versatility.
KJ: How can the Screening Room be used?
AU: Because the Screening Room is not fixed seating, you can show a film, and then break into small groups or have a kind of discussion with a filmmaker. I think part of the technology and the space itself was designed by thinking about complementing and adding to what was already here with the Cinema.
RS: It’s like the Cinema, but smaller. We’ve held series like Directed by Women, had faculty visitors and filmmakers who come partially with the Cinema. We can program, but we can also offer this service for faculty. It’s a cinematheque—a little cinema.
We’ve also been able to do receptions; so if there’s a filmmaker who’s here—like last semester we were able to host the reception for the Cinema’s guest filmmaker Frederick Wiseman and we did some screenings—we can turn this whole space into a nice reception space. This is a nice way in which we can partner with the Cinema for something like that.
KJ: I think there are a lot of people in the Bloomington community who love film and media as well, and now they too have another resource for interacting directly with it. And that’s an incredible thing in Indiana.
AU: I’m not going to brag, but I’m trying to think…if we’re talking about a 200-square mile radius, Bloomington’s the place to be.
RS: I think the concentration and investment in film and media here (with the Media School and this) shows a campus-wide interest—not only from the libraries, but the campus, the Provost, the President. Just across the board there’s so much to be seen.
For more information about the IU Moving Image Archive, such as contact information and business hours, check out their website here.
A PhD Candidate in Communication and Culture, Katherine studies film and media, genre (particularly the Western), gender, and performance. She has a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has been fascinated with film since she could remember.