By Darrell Myers, Post Production and Quality Control Manager – Film, Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, Indiana University
IU Professor and Carmony Chair, Dr. Eric Sandweiss, recently partnered with the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive and the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative for his exhibit “800 Seasons: Change and Continuity in Bloomington, 1818-2018,” currently on display at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures on the IU-Bloomington campus.
“800 Seasons…” tells the story of Bloomington from the ground up. How do nature and history shape one another in the American Midwest—and how are Bloomington’s possibilities for tomorrow shaped by 200 years of community building in the southern Indiana hill country?
“We were looking for the widest variety of objects, images, and experiences possible to help people “feel” the ways in which Bloomington—and its environment–has persisted or changed over the last two centuries,” said Dr. Sandweiss. “It only made sense to consult IU’s great moving image archive.”
“Due to Moving Image Archive Director, Rachael Stoeltje, and Archivist Andy Uhrich’s deep knowledge of the Archive’s holdings, they were able to point Dr. Sandweiss towards a number of collections that fit in with his research needs,” said IULMIA Film Digitization Specialist Carmel Curtis.
Curtis coordinated access to digitized material, prioritizing others of interest for digitization through MDPI. Dr. Sandweiss then made several selections through IU Libraries’ Media Collections Online content management system.
“The staff of the Moving Image Archive were very helpful in listening to our goals and our interpretive needs,” said Sandweiss. “They suggested various clips from their collection and allowed me to browse the footage for ideas. From those selections, I narrowed down according to the specific places where I could imagine moving images enhancing our story. From the start, I knew I wanted some kind of montage of scenes of life in and around Bloomington, and many of the available clips went into this opening presentation.”
Curtis then enlisted the help of MDPI Post Production and Quality Control Manager Darrell Myers to pull the films from the digital archive, digitally restore them, and create new clips. Dr. Sandweiss sat in for an editing session with Curtis and Myers at the Innovation Center to review and make suggestions. Mathers’ Manager of Exhibitions Matthew Sieber also provided technical expertise on how the content could be displayed in the museum space. The four kept communicating, making revisions as the project continued to take shape.
“It was easygoing and creative,” said Sandweiss. “The staff had many good ideas of their own, which I was pleased to incorporate; for my part, I was able to let them know what was most important, what fit my goals, and what was needed for the particular demands of exhibiting film in a gallery space.”
“It’s a unique service we can provide through MDPI,” said Myers. “We are all “in-house.” Films can be prioritized by IULMIA for delivery, then by our film scanning vendor Memnon, then by our Quality Control Staff, and lastly by myself in post. I can restore/edit, upload clips to IU Box for feedback, and repeat. The whole time we are collaboratively making it better.”
Four edited films are included in the exhibition. A compilation film, which depicts life in Bloomington and IU in a seasonal time space of a year, is projected near the entrance of the exhibit. “Home Begun,” from IULMIA’s Holland Collection depicts the building of a typical Midwestern family home, with text from the writings of Phillip Holland himself. Two Indiana University produced films are also on display. An excerpt from “Your Daughter at I.U.” depicts the life of women attending college in the 1950s, and excerpts from “Food for Thought” depicts large-scale, industrial food production in the early 1980s.
Dr. Sandweiss kicked off the exhibit September 12th with a one hour curator’s talk, “Circling the Square: The Nature of History in an Indiana Town.” He discussed the exhibition and how nature and history shape one another in the American Midwest.