University Libraries Digitize and Preserve History Captured in 16mm Films
Before cell phone cameras and YouTube, even before DVDs, historical events and everyday activities were captured on 16mm film. Ball State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections has almost 900 reels of this antiquated film format that have been sitting on shelves for decades and have started to deteriorate. Now students, faculty, researchers, and everyone will be able to easily access and view these pieces of history in two new digital collections available in the Ball State Digital Media Repository (DMR), a project of the University Libraries.
The Ball State University Historic Films and Videos collection contains films that document significant campus events, social activities, athletic events, lectures and notable campus visitors, and faculty research projects from the 1950s through the 1970s. You can see University presidential inaugurations, ground breakings and dedications for campus buildings, speeches and interviews of celebrities and other campus visitors, football games (including Ball State’s appearance in the 1965 Grantland Rice Bowl), Homecoming, promotional films for Ball State, and campus scenes depicting student activities and campus life.
The Muncie and Delaware County Films and Videos collection features rare historical film footage of Muncie and Delaware County from the 1910s through the 1970s. The collection documents local businesses and industry, family life, social activities, buildings, and events. For example the Indiana floods from 1913 and the 1930s, the groundbreaking for the Westinghouse plant (now Progress Rail) in 1959, the Delco Remy UAW strike in the 1970s, and a tour of Camp Chesterfield (spiritual camp) in the early 1970s are all documented in these newly digitized films.
The University Libraries’ efforts to digitize these historical films not only preserve the deteriorating films, but the project gives new life to resources that have been difficult, and sometimes impossible, for potential users to access. Outdated formats like these that reside in archives and attics contain valuable visual documentation of our past. By converting the films to digital format and making them available online in the DMR, the Libraries are providing revitalized resources for study and use by current and future generations of students and researchers.
A Collaborative Process
The creation of these digital film collections is the result of a highly collaborative effort that has included Archives and Special Collections, Library Information Technology Services (LITS), and Metadata and Digital Initiatives (MADI).
The films are first converted to digital format by Tom Barker Video, a film digitization company located in Greenfield, Indiana, and delivered on DV tapes. University Libraries’ student assistants Nicholas Ritenour and Derek Miller capture the content and create digital files that are placed in Djnco, an encoding server developed by Alexander Lemann, Emerging Technologies Analyst.
Once the digital files are encoded, they are reviewed in Djnco by Archives and Special Collections personnel Bethany Fiechter, Stephen Jones, and Michael Szajewski, who identify needed edits, verify time stamps, and select films to be made available in the DMR. The archivists conduct research regarding the events, people, places, and dates associated with the films to create a rich set of descriptive metadata.
Based on the archivists’ comments, student assistant Derek Miller edits the digital files using Final Cut Pro software. Metadata and Digital Initiatives personnel Blake Stiener and Amanda Hurford standardize descriptive metadata and create technical metadata for the individual video assets. The digital videos are loaded into MediaSite, a University-wide web-hosting platform for digital video and audio, and links to these assets are embedded into the DMR metadata records. The results of this collaborative effort are then made live in the DMR for viewing and research.
These new collections will continue to grow over the next few months as more 16mm films are digitized and added. Please visit the DMR often to see what’s new in these interesting and historically valuable collections. You might see someone you know, or even a younger version of yourself.
For more information, contact John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, or Michael G. Szajewski, Archivist for Digital Development and University Records.
Photo caption: The Ball State marching band participates in the 1952 Homecoming Parade. ◙