Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive


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About this Project

I was given the task of creating an online exhibit for Herman B Wells' home movies as part of my internship at the IU Archives during the spring semester of the 2016-2017 academic year. Having never worked with moving images beforehand, I was a little nervous to take on this project. I had some previous experience in graphic design and photography, but those types of images are stationary! Thus, building this exhibit was a learning experience.

Working on a traditional research paper can be much easier. The sources describe events, places, and people with words and facts. They present a clearer picture of a history and provide more contextual information than films and videos often do. For example, there is one reel in which Wells filmed a grand cathedral, but never any other signs that would indicate where exactly in Mexico he was. In fact, for a while it was questionable whether or not he was even in Mexico! Luckily for me, I had studied quite a bit about Latin American cultures and peoples throughout my undergraduate career and was able to discern which country he was visiting. Once I finally got my hands on the original film boxes, I was able to make out four smudged letters in pencil: "T," "x," "c," and "o." So I resorted to using Google to try and figure out where he was, because there were no papers in his files that would tell me. I typed the letters into the search engine and it suggested "Taxco, Mexico" as a possible search phrase. I browsed through Google Images and sure enough, there was a postcard from the 1940s that showed the cathedral in the movie! Taxco was the place depicted in the film! This is the kind of detective work one must sometimes perform in order to work with moving images with scarecely any context.

Fortunately, there are people who, like I did this past semester, investigate and provide the necessary context that can serve as a viewing aid for the movies. I have found through my experiences that working with moving images is frustrating at times, but ultimately rewarding. Once the proper context is established, the images can be viewed as historical sources that enhance the written narrative.

The movies in this collection all reside in the IU Archives. They were shot on 8mm Kodak film. Some are in color, while others are in black and white. All have been digitalized by the lovely people at the the Indiana University Moving Image Archives, located on the ground floor of the Herman B Wells Library. 

About this Project