The largest component of the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive is the educational collection which consists of approximately 48,000 films and 7,000 videos. Educational films have recently emerged as a major focus for researchers from a number of disciplines who are exploring the historical and sociopolitical implications of the films that brought the world into classrooms for more than 50 years.
The films date from 1911 to the 1980s. Historically one of the largest university film libraries in the country, the collection began acquiring 16mm silent films in 1931 and 16mm sound films in 1935. IU Bloomington began its own film production in the mid-1940s and had produced 65 educational titles by 1954, often using scores composed by faculty. By this time, the university was home to a formal Audio-Visual Center (AVC) under the directorship L.C. Larson with a 130-person staff.
The circulating film library had reportedly grown to over 100,000 reels by 1953 and earned a national reputation as one of the biggest and best of its kind. They were distributed by rental to educational facilities across the U.S by the AVC which was also the distributor for NET (National Educational Television, the predecessor to PBS).
The collection includes international news, historical reenactment, cultural heritage, social adjustment, hygiene, music, and career training films from the 1940s-60s; Stephen Spielberg’s first film Amblin (1968); and Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, and Jack Palance in programming that explores the Trail of Tears. Additionally, there are many WWII propaganda films produced by the Department of War (now, Department of Defense) including Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire which encouraged citizens to keep leftover meat fat so that it could be recycled into ammunition.
The films and their accompanying guides are rich in material relevant to the study of gender, globalization, environmentalism, regionalism, and race, offering important information about how these topics were visualized and taught in different contexts over different historical periods.
Over half of the films and videos in this collection are available for searching in the university’s catalog and many are becoming available as streaming media on the film archive’s streaming page. From there you can view “Indiana University Goes to War” or experience what it might have been like to send your daughter to attend IU in the mid-century.
// Mike Lee, Rachael Stoeltje, and Mike Casey